I saw the news about Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini yesterday. To make a long story short- they were a Christian couple in ministry. He was arrested for sharing the Gospel and held (and tortured) in Iran for 4 years. His wife, Naghmeh, campaigned tirelessly for his release. It was a big deal to the Christian evangelical community. So he finally gets released and…she gets a restraining order against him basically as soon as he steps off the plane. Turns out, there had been years of abuse behind the scenes. A lot of the tireless work she had done for him had been under emotional coercion.
It is sad and disappointing, but not really all that shocking to me.
I’ve been stewing on this post for a long time. A post about how we can’t put our trust in people. Seeing this story really motivated me to write it.
I have my own story to share. It’s a tale of a crazy ex step-dad. We’ll call him C.P.
C.P. came into our lives when we really needed him. My mom was losing her battle with alcoholism. He was a recovering addict, bursting at the seems with charisma and passion for Jesus. He shared his testimony with any and everyone and couldn’t talk about Jesus without tears.
He was instrumental in helping my mom get sober. He took a real interest in my life. We had great talks about God and he spoke some great things into my life. I thought he was the mentor I had been hoping and praying for.
Sometime after they got married in a very rushed fashion, C.P. quit his good paying job to focus on writing a book about recovery. Things started to get weird. We found out he had been married like 5 times and that one wife had died under mysterious circumstances.
At this time I know God was really preparing my heart for the disappointment and chaos that was about to be unleashed. God was whispering to my heart that I couldn’t put my trust in man, I could only ultimately look to him.
C.P. (ironically while writing his book about freedom from addiction) was abusing pills and became increasingly erratic. A lot of horrible things happened but we’ll just say that it ended in divorce because my mom’s life was in danger.
C.P. released his book (which was really as garbled and erratic as his life) and started a new life at break neck speed. Videos of him sharing his testimony at his new church surfaced within a couple months.
I want to make it clear that I have forgiven this man. He was charging forward into life, leaving complete chaos and destruction in his wake- because he refused to look inward. When things got hard he would blame everyone else and look for the next wife, the next church. He couldn’t stop. So instead of being still long enough to do an honest inventory and get the deep healing he needed, he just kept running. He was running from the pain of his past and trying to numb the pain inside, but pain has a way of demanding to be dealt with. We tend to continue to perpetuate that which we don’t face.
We tried to confront him at one point and he was pacing and sweating and ultimately took off because he couldn’t (wouldn’t) face the truth. It was his life, in a nutshell.
It could have shipwrecked my faith but it didn’t. It was such an important lesson to me.
“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.” Psalm 146:4
People can provide so much to us- love, encouragement, companionship…all that. But people are going to fail. People are going to let us down. Churches and organizations too, because they are run by people. Even the best of us still struggle daily with our fallen sin nature. You show me someone living victoriously in Christ, and I can guarantee that person has struggles in the dark that they need to overcome (every.single.day.) to live that outwardly victorious life.
The danger in hitching our faith wagon to a person or organization is in that they could possibly go off the rails and take us with them into a ditch.
We can (and should!) go to church and look up to people further along in the faith than us. But we need to be so careful to know that our faith is in God. Not our church. Not our Pastor. Not our mentor. Because God is the only one capable of being perfectly what we need him to be. He is the only one who will never fail.
Not only that but when we put these ‘super-Christians’ on a pedestal we absolve ourselves of the call on our lives. Like, “they have it goin’ on because there is special favor on their lives. I could never be like that.” The truth is that God does not show favoritism. Acts 10:34 If that person is rocking it in the faith department it’s because they have taken the steps to get there. The invitation goes out to all. It’s up to us to answer, and to what extant.
We can have it to. You can be as close to God as you want to be. You don’t have to settle for a second hand faith. God wants to be real to you too, he wants to move as powerfully in your life as say a Beth Moore or John Bevere. There are no favorites. And that means when people we admire screw up royally, it doesn’t have to wreck out faith.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14
People change. Circumstances change. Our churches may change. But…
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”