North Dakotans received some startling and for most people welcome news this week when an arrest was made in the 15-year-old murder investigation of the death of Anita Knutson. While a trial won’t likely occur for some time, and it may be many months from now before a verdict is reached, this long-awaited breakthrough gives Knutson’s family and friends some hope of justice and perhaps even a measure of vindication after all this time.
Entirely by coincidence, I happened to be thinking about vindication earlier this week, though on a much more commonplace and less astonishing level.
Most of us naturally long to be vindicated in our daily lives. We especially long for justice to be carried out on a grand scale such as in a murder case; if someone we know or love was wrongfully accused, we long for them to be vindicated, to be cleared of all accusations.
But even on a more mundane level, we long for people to see and know when we have been wrongfully accused about even minor matters, or to see when we were right about a suggested course of action, or to see that we have wisdom to share that seems to be ignored.
As a pastor who counsels people, I see this desire not only in myself but in many others on a regular basis. The desire for vindication can often be healthy in a fairly obvious sense. Why wouldn’t most people want the truth to be said about them and for lies or misunderstandings about themselves to be clarified?
But for some people, the desire for vindication can actually reach unwholesome levels. In fact, if not properly restrained, an unhealthy desire for vindication, especially over relatively minor matters, can consume a person’s life.
The Bible speaks to this issue in many places. One of the clearest passages that encourages us to let go of an unhealthy desire for vindication is Psalm 37. In the first two verses, we are told, “Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.”
A few verses later, we see more of the solution: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Therein lies the ultimate solution. While we do well to seek justice and righteousness and vindication in our lives, ultimately vindication lies in the hands of the Lord.
But patience comes hard for many people. The more important the matter, the more difficult it is to remain patient. Psalm 37 and other passages teach us that vindication for the innocent and for the righteous will come in due time. Sometimes due time takes a long time. And sometimes due time means we may only experience such vindication in eternity.
The statements and challenges in Scripture can strip us bare. Can we live with the possibility of only seeing ourselves vindicated in the next life? That is one of the Bible’s high callings upon us.