Today I would like to comment on some of my rather complicated and intense personal thoughts about a matter discussed in Psalm 19:8-10, the issue of the judgments of the Eternal: “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, tea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” When we think about the ways of God in our lives, we are not always of an optimistic mindset. Indeed, those of us who have lived difficult and often traumatic lives look at the judgments and ways of God often in a way that is deeply dark and serious, reflecting the seriousness of the evils that we have had to deal with. Yet the intimate personal experience with horrible evils need not destroy our faith, but can rather strengthen it, even if it leaves us broken. I think it necessary at this point to warn that I am going to discuss this aspect of the judgments of God, and that my discussion will not be pleasant. For those who quail at reading about the dark evils which people can endure in life, now would be a good time to stop reading. For those who continue, caveat lector.
As I have commented on from time to time , I am the survivor of early childhood sexual abuse, rape, and incest, which occurred during the first three years of my life. After this, until today, the scars of that abuse and the horrors that I have experienced have deeply shaped me in ways that have tended to make me deeply vulnerable to the cruelty of those around me, who most often viewed my sensitivity and high levels of nervousness and anxiety as an opportunity to tease and torment me throughout my life. Sleep has long fled from my eyelids, and even when I finally achieve unconsciousness I have been subject to an alarmingly large number of nightmares over the course of my troubled life. I say this not to arouse pity, but rather to say that the problem of evil is not a matter of armchair theorizing, but rather a problem I have to face as I wrestle with the darkness of my own memories, and the intensity of my own compulsions and complications, and grieve over the sufferings of others that I see when I recollect the extent of my own suffering.
God promises that the sufferings that we endure in this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that we will enjoy in the world to come. This passage was written by a man who suffered intensely, and so he was not writing Hallmark cards with mere platitudes, but had an intimate experience with intense suffering. It is possible that this comes from a variety of sources. For one, knowing the bigger picture when we are able to handle it and recognize it will put the horrors of our lives into some sort of context, when we know the reasons and see the good that has come out of the evil we have suffered. Additionally, the suffering of our lives is but for a moment, a brief flicker of the candle when compared with the expanse of eternity. It is possible, even likely, that both of these are true, that our suffering is related to our perspective and is part of a grand plan that we can only glimpse fitfully and partially as human beings, through a glass darkly, and that the limited duration of our suffering compared with the blessing of eternal life is a major aspect of what makes our present sufferings not even worthy to be compared with our future glory in the Kingdom of God.
I often wonder, even if such pondering is rather dark, what sort of grand plan would make the sufferings of my life worthwhile. Surely, there must be a glorious fate in store for me if it means being a survivor of ghastly sins by a close male relative and being rather seriously scarred for life would not even be worthy of comparing to that glory. If to achieve that glory it was necessary that I not be whole with my talents and abilities so that I would be entirely aware that I was not self-sufficient and that I was in need of a Savior, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. If it was necessary for me to be broken and deeply scarred to be sensitive to the horrors that others have suffered, to be understanding to the weak and vulnerable, and to be a tender and gentle soul in dealing with others, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. If it was necessary for me to stare into the heart of evil and to wrestle with it from my earliest days so that I would have an unquenchable longing for God’s kingdom and an equally intense hostility to the hold of wickedness and evil on this world, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. If it was necessary that I should be gripped by inconvenient compulsions and wracked by fears and anxieties that I might have compassion on other souls in torment under compulsion, and that I might be understanding to those whose lives are filled with fears and anxieties, the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. That is not to say that they are easy to deal with, only that they are worth it in the end.
I do not say this to imply that God was Himself responsible for that evil, or that He coerced or forced anyone to sin, whether to me or to anyone else. Rather, God allows evil, sometimes horrible evil, in large part because freedom is so precious that He does not wish to coerce love or obedience but will give mankind every opportunity to seek Him and His ways in their own hearts. The fact that human freedom, as limited as it is, is worth such a price ought to make us appreciate that freedom, and take responsibility for it, and to seek that as best as possible we may not use that freedom to hurt others. For knowing the suffering that human beings have to endure in this life, it is a terrible thing to be the person who causes others to suffer, who leads others to grieve and to wonder why God has allowed such things. God does not view highly those who cause His little ones to stumble, even if He allows them to act for a time according to their compulsions and according to their will. And for all that we do, we will be held responsible, even if God promises that all will end up working to a good end.
Ultimately, it is to that end that we must look. For we must not let the suffering of our lives be wasted. Our deep weaknesses do not remove us from the love and concern of God. Rather, they allow God to make his work of restoration even more glorious by taking that which is the most broken and the most shattered and turning it into a work of the greatest beauty . If we see deeply into ourselves, we know that we are deeply broken. We know that without His blessings and His sometimes incomprehensible grace, we would be deeply dark and twisted souls, even more than we already are. Much of our fire for justice comes from an intimate knowledge of injustice. Much of our tenderness and gentleness comes from the painful experience of abuse and harshness. Much of our dignity and self-command comes from our walks in deep shame. God is a master of the curious alchemy that transmutes the ugly into the beautiful, the bruises and cuts of our lives into wholeness and soundness, the darkness into light, the evil into good. We are but the clay in His hands being shaped according to His will even as we work out our own salvation choice by agonizing choice. In light of all this, who can but say that the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether, even when they are not especially enjoyable at the time.
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