Friday, 3 June 2016

How the Absence of God's Light Always Leads to Hopelessness

I went to the local library this week to see if I was missing out on some good Christian books. Unfortunately the "Religious" section (there was no Christian section) consisted of two small shelves largely containing "self-help" books and a few about Buddhism. Then it seemed to have been merged with the "Politics" I turned to the extensive "Biography" area and chose a number of books on subjects that interested me to see what other people are reading. Knowing that these were not Christian books I was prepared for the bad language and decided that I wouldn't on this occasion be implementing my ruthless "three strikes" rule. That was just as well as the first two books had swear/curse words on virtually every page.....

I began with "Tango 190: Raoul Moat, the Gateshead Shootings & Life Without My Eyes" by PC David Rathband UK Readers will remember this story as Rathband was the tragic policeman blinded after being shot in the face by a wanted criminal in East Denton in 2010. A few years later he killed himself after separating from his wife. To read his story that describes events before, during and after the shooting was fascinating but I was also left with a sense of hopelessness, knowing that just a few short months after concluding his auto-biography things had taken a dramatic turn culminating in his eventual suicide in 2012.

Rathband obviously loved his job as a police officer and saw it as a fulfillment of his dream to have a noteworthy career, probably to prove himself to his family with whom he had a difficult relationship. It seems that he chose his girlfriend Kath despite opposition from his family and ended up marrying her some years later. The family feud/rift had come to a head several times during his initial hospitalisation and recovery as various family members were uncomfortably forced together at his bedside. Indeed Rathband believed that some of these people only came out of the woodwork to get attention for themselves via the media interest in his case or to do their "duty" without any sincere affection.

Rathband alludes to having had a wandering eye and admits that earlier in his relationship with Kath he began having doubts about them, and with her "permission," spent a night with one of his ex-girlfriends, just to "check" whether or not things were right with Kath. He then called Kath who picked him up the next day....My research indicates that according to Kath, the primary reason for their marriage failure was repeated infidelity on the part of Rathband even after losing his site. In his book, he makes it very clear that Kath stood by him through the trauma of the events which were played out in the public arena and that she provided that stabling influence in his life that he could trust....

After Rathband's death his family continued fighting about a compensation case that he had launched against the police force he had been serving with at the time of the shooting. His claim was for negligence. It appears that the force had received a call from the shooter indicating that he was "hunting police." Rathband felt that officers on the ground should have been warned about this as it may have changed the sequence of events. Having read his account, I cannot see that it would've made much difference. In the end the compensation claim was dismissed.

I was saddened to read Rathband's story knowing what had happened after its publication. I felt the desperation of a man always striving to prove himself in life; first to his family as a child and later to his colleagues as a policeman. Having his eye-sight stripped away made him vulnerable and insecure and he revealed these deep feelings in his account. The constant turmoil in his family due to the broken relationships and the refusal of any parties to reconcile/forgive also placed a burden on him. He focused on winning the court case against others involved in helping the shooter as if justice would help him find the happiness that eluded him but he continued to be plagued by nightmares. His widow's allegations of infidelity do not surprise me as I had picked up that this was likely from reading his account.

Rathband made it clear in his book that he didn't believe in God and had no faith. As a Christian reading an account like this I was struck by the familiar fingerprints of the enemy on this tragic tale. The sin of violent crime which damaged the body physically, the greed/jealousy and unforgiveness that divided a family over money, the repeated infidelity resulting in a broken marriage, hurt children and the eventual suicide of the author. The striving for happiness in worldly things. The meaninglessness of lives lived without hope in God.

Secondly I read "Hackney Child" (the language here was even worse.) Hope Daniels (not her real name) became a parent to her two younger brothers at the age of 5 as their own parents were alcoholics and seemingly incapable of looking after them. Her mother worked at home as a prostitute, encouraged by her father who repeatedly stole to fund his addictions. The family moved frequently and hid the neglect and poverty from social services and other authority figures. It seems that there were many around who were aware but no one who was willing to make a real difference/step in to really help these suffering children. This may have been due to the abuse those who did try to help received from the mother.

The most shocking incident occurred when the three children were alone in the house. The mother had somehow been officially "outed" as a prostitute and some of her clients were also in relationships with women who lived nearby. An angry mob descended on the house and basically trashed it; smashing the windows with bricks and writing abuse on the door. The children cowered upstairs thinking that they were at fault and that everyone hated them as they were "bad." A short time after this they presented themselves at a local police station requesting that they be taken into care. This was what happened and after that day they only returned home for short visits.

Once in care Hope struggled to trust authority figures and found herself running away from those she didn't trust. She battled a number of vices. She made it clear that her one desire was to be placed in a long term foster home but this was never realised. She remained in the system until she was 18 by which time she was pregnant and addicted to alcohol....

Obviously this is a story told from the perspective of Hope but I was struck by the failure of the authorities to grasp what she was dealing with. It seemed that whenever she began to settle down and trust those taking care of her resulting in improved behaviour, she was suddenly moved and had to go through the whole process again. I do not know why this happened but Hope herself stated that she was crying out for a stable environment with boundaries and people she could trust. Hope has gone on to write two further books and is now married with two children. Her experiences did cause professionals to re-examine things and Hope now travels widely as a consultant for the care system in the UK.

The futility of this situation also jumped out of the pages but for different reasons than the first book. Here we have a care system that prevented Hope being placed in foster care. Initially it was because they wanted to keep her with her siblings but later just because she was a difficult child. Yet all Hope longed for was to be part of a real family, as God had originally intended. Promises were made and broken by professionals who couldn't/wouldn't tell her the truth resulting in frequent breaches of trust and a spiraling pattern of disruptive behaviour as Hope became convinced that she was doomed to follow her mothers path. Her own sin compounded her situation but where was the spiritual help and guidance she really needed; not within the care system which didn't/doesn't recognise the God of the Bible.

Reading these two books made me sad as they are representative of thousands of people in Britain and millions around the world. The sins documented at length in these books; family breakdown, abuse, neglect, crime, unforgiveness, jealousy, greed.....etc etc. They are also unfortunately representative of many of us as Christians in our ongoing battle for holiness. As I was reading both books I kept waiting for the Christian to appear and bring Gospel light into these desperate situations. For that kindly friend or neighbour to invite this policeman or this young girl to church or even to pass a book/scripture verse along. But if that happened, it wasn't mentioned, in fact the absence of any type of Christian light or hope was the most tragic factor for me. We don't know what God would have done through someone willing to be used by Him as a witness to either of these people, but we do know that there were many people around both of these families at all times during their difficult circumstances.

Let us really SEE those around us and not avoid "difficult people," that might be an emotional drain. Let's seek opportunities to bring meaning into the lives of people caught up in sin and the painful toils of lifes troubles with the hope that Jesus alone offers. My prayer is that in every biography, whether or not it has been authored by a Christian, there will be a mention of at least one person who sought to reach out to the author with Christ's forgiveness of sin and with hope for the future.

There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil. (Romans 2:9)

"There is no peace," says my God, "for the wicked." (Isaiah 57:21)

He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. ( Psalm 7:15-16)

The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. (Proverbs 5:22)

The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires. (Proverbs 11:6)

The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. (I Timothy 5:24)

One sinner destroys much good. (Ecclesiastes 9:18)

The LORD laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming. (Psalm 37:13)

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. (Psalm 1:6)

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)

God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (Hebrews 10:26-27)

But because of your stubbornness and you unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:5)

The evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out. (Proverbs 24:20)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men. (Romans 1:18)

On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. (Psalm 11:6)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our LORD.  (Romans 6:23)

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