One of the worst feelings in the world is that of being scammed or robbed. It's a sickening feeling of violation, betrayal, and helplessness, especially when the robbery is beyond the capability to recover. You fight to make things right, but your efforts are futile. The thief is never found. There's no proof. The item is gone. The person refuses to make things right.
I've recently had a few experiences of this nature, the frustration and futility of it reminding me that there is evil in the world, that people can't always be trusted, that despite your best efforts others don't always play by the rules and that there are some losses that can't be recovered. The best you can do is pick yourself up and move on, learning a lesson for another day, and being thankful the loss wasn't worse.
In Mexico last summer, I had my wallet stolen the first day I was there on a mission trip. The gullible, trusting Canadian, I left my bag unattended as I would here in Canada. Except it wasn't Canada. One of the poor, desperate, addicted men I had gone there to serve took the opportunity and filched it.
I was deeply thrown, extremely upset. For a few days I struggled to regain equilibrium. It felt like I'd been robbed of life itself. I'd gone trustingly into a situation many people had warned me was dangerous, and their predictions had been right. I was extremely angry at myself for being so careless, and even questioned whether I had made a mistake in going. I had come to serve and to be a blessing, and instead I had become a liability, the naive Canadian tripping thoughtlessly into a situation she knew nothing about.
Thank God he enabled me to recover; I remembered Jesus' words about our life not consisting of our possessions and his commands to forgive those who rob us. I came to a point where I was able to pray for the man who had robbed me. I was able to carry out the rest of my time in Mexico joyfully, and to continue to serve the men, including the one I suspected of being the thief. Faith in the Gospel buoyed me up in a dark situation.
More recently, I was scammed on Ebay. A kind friend gifted me his old DSLR camera, a newer and better model than the one I had. I rejoiced at this gift and immediately put the old camera on Ebay. I was especially thankful as it came during a time of unemployment; the sale of the old camera would provide a nice little boost to my personal finances. And then, I was expertly scammed by some of the typical tricks people use, which I was naive to. The buyer claimed not to have received the item, there was no proof either way, and I was forced to refund the price of the camera and the shipping. I lost my camera, and the money for it, effectively paying to gift some anonymous Vietnamese scammer with my beloved camera.
As I was thinking about it, I realized that this feeling is much the same as falling into a bad romantic relationship. You trustingly gift the person with your time, energy, affection, and love, believing that they are a good, trustworthy individual who will treat you honourably. Then the relationship ends and they do their best to wound you to the maximum extent possible. Then they decide to give up and run off with another person, with no more thought or care for you or the pain they've inflicted on you, completely reneging the promises they made to you. The pain is the same, except deeper, involving a loss far more precious than material possessions: your heart. You trusted them with your deepest feelings, your commitment, your body, your love, your time. When they leave, you're left with nothing, and worse than nothing: a nuclear-explosion-sized hole that can take months or years to heal and always leaves a scar.
This world is an evil place. There are people out there whose highest goal and motivation is their own gain, and who don't have scruples about lying, stealing, cheating, and violence to get what they want. We may assume that because we are committed to playing by the rules and being honest that others are the same; however, that's not a safe assumption to make. We sometimes learn that lesson at great cost. Often being honest, generous, and kind-hearted simply marks us out as an easy target.
What's the answer? I suppose one response would be to become hard-hearted and cynical. Certainly we need to be aware of the dangers and take appropriate measures to protect ourselves. But faced with a loss we didn't foresee and can't recover, what can we do?
If I didn't believe in a God of justice who sees, marks, and will punish injustice, I would despair, grow angry and bitter, and perhaps even stoop to the same sort of underhanded techniques to get what I want. There's no answer to the tears that fall in response to the evil of this world, except a God who cares. A God who will repay in kind, and from whom no evil ever finally escapes.
That's my hope, and why I can let these things go, forgive, and move on. That may take time and come at great cost, but it's the only way to freedom. It's also my hope for the greater injustices of the world, like a friend's sister who was murdered this week in Central America after wandering off her resort. The world weeps and groans under evil and violence. But there is a God who sees and does not forget, and according to my gospel there is a day coming when everyone will give account to him. That doesn't negate our efforts to fight injustice: instead, it ought to animate them. But it reminds us of where our ultimate hope lies.