At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He proclaimed what was written about Himself in Isaiah:
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. (Isaiah 61:1 KJV)
When people hear about trouble youths, runaways, teen drug users, and victims of physical and sexual abuse, they commonly assume that it is the government’s responsibility to take care of them and restore their lives. Even Christians sometimes overlook their biblical responsibility, leaving it up to the government.
The state cannot bring restoration to broken lives – it is not equipped for the task. The reason is simple: God has not anointed the government to “bind up the brokenhearted” or to “proclaim liberty to the captives.” He has anointed the church. We are to set them free.
Though my five years at the correctional facility gave me invaluable experience, they were also extremely frustrating years for me. One of the most significant lessons I learned was what not to do to help troubled girls.
Many of these girls thought God did not love them because of all the horrible things they had experienced. They needed to know that Satan, the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), was at work. He was the one bringing death and destruction to them, but Jesus came so we could have real life, abundant life. First John 3:8 says: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
Only by Jesus, the name that is above every name, can the works of the devil be destroyed in the lives of people.
The system wasn’t working. I did not feel I was contributing to any real improvement in the girls’ lives. I had had a heavy dose of the government’s way of dealing with all these problems – the results were disappointing.
I thought I might make a greater impact and see better results if I worked with a younger age group. Thus, I asked for and received a transfer out of Corrections and into the State Department of Human Services, working with children suffering from neglect and abuse. I felt that it might be possible to intervene in the lives of these children before they reached the point of being committed to a correctional facility. I hoped to become involved and see lives restored, but I was headed for even more frustration.
For the first year, I supervised foster care placements in the Nashville area. Then I had an opportunity for more challenging work with the Emergency Child Protective Services Unit. I was on call twenty-four hours a day, investigating charges of child abuse and neglect. Often my work would take me on a case with an investigative unit to a dangerous part of the city at any hour of the night.
I had many experiences with degraded and broken lives. Such incidents caused me to feel the same frustration I had felt at the girls’ correctional facility. I deeply desired to see the broken lives of those I was dealing with restored to wholeness. Instead, I saw children being brought up in horrible situations with no hope of a new start in life. I saw cases of four-and-five-year-olds who were sexually molested by adults. It was heart wrenching.
The first five years of my state work, I was given an in-depth look at the teenage products of abuse, abandonment, neglect, and broken homes. The following three years, I was given an inside look at what small children experience growing up in abuse situations. God was showing me the whole picture – a sad picture – one that I will never forget.
As I reflected on the course my life had taken and my eight years of service with the State of Tennessee, I realized that God had purposely shown me the futility of trying to bring restoration to hurting humanity apart from the delivering power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Looking back on it all, I now see that it was part of God’s plan for me to know and understand that secular programs and secular treatment centres cannot produce lasting changes in the lives of people. They cannot forgive sin. They cannot heal broken hearts. They cannot restore shattered lives.
It was necessary for me to live out those eight years, regardless of the frustration, so that I would not be tempted to look to the wisdom of the world when I came up against difficult cases.
First Corinthians 1:19-20 states:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (NIV)
No matter how many academic degrees a person may have, the real power to change a life is in the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Although I was one of those people with degrees, I longed for the freedom to teach what I had learned in God’s school. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, God was listening to the cry of my heart.