Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thank God that He allows bad things to happen to good people

Hebrews 10:36 - "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised."

A common theological question that is debated among both believers and none believers is "if there is a God who loves us, why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?"  No doubt that in the midst of hardship, most of us have questioned whether God was present. 

A related but different question worthy of consideration is this: which is worse - bad things happening to good people within God's control, or outside of His control?  In other words, is it in any way better or easier for us to operate in the belief that God is in control of all (including the bad things), or that bad things happen outside of God's will?

Our initial reaction might be that we want to believe that a loving God would not purposefully allow bad things to happen to good people.  This belief allows us to maintain our image of a protective Father who only wants and allows the best for us.  To the extent that bad things occur, those things are directed by forces outside of God's will.  This belief creates an image of us and God always playing on the same team, facing trials and hardships and reacting to those hardships as they come.

To believe the other side of this debate creates much angst in our minds and hearts.  How could God allow some of the terrible things that happen in this world to occur?  If He does allow those things, how can we say that He truly loves us?  The underlying assumption behind this line of thought is that love translates only into the provision of a life of peacefulness and prosperity.  To allow anything other than peace and prosperity to enter our lives either points to an absence of true love or a challenge to the notion that God is good, all the time.

So which side of the argument is better or somehow easier for us to operate under?  More importantly, which side of the argument is the truth?  I would propose that an unwavering belief in the sovereignty of God is not only true, but is our source of comfort and confidence in the storms of life.

If bad things happen outside of the will of God, then it says there are forces in this world that are equal to Him and acting opposite of His will and purposes.  No doubt there are forces in this world that are operating against God.  But the God who created all is sovereign and has dominion over all.  Otherwise, when bad things occur and catch us off guard, they would catch God equally off-guard.  God would fly into reaction mode at the same time we do.  Is that really what we want to believe about our God?  Is it better to believe that there are forces in this world that throw Him for a loop just as much as they do us?  Do we take comfort in a reality where God has to scramble and make contingency plans because He didn't see something coming?  If that were the case, why would I ever pray to Him for protection that He is incapable of providing?

Or is it better to believe that nothing catches God off-guard?  If He created all, then there is nothing in this world that He does not hold dominion or power over.  There are no forces that are remotely close to being equal to Him.  There is nothing that happens outside of His control, and He is never forced into a reactionary mode. 

The main reason I would contend that this side of the argument is not only true but should be the source of our strength and confidence during bad times is what God promises to us.  Contrary to some current philosophies, God does not promise us constant peace and prosperity.  It would not demonstrate love if all He did was make our lives easy.  We need look no further than the lives of Paul and of Jesus Himself to see that God is not solely interested in providing a nice cushy life for those He loves.  If God didn't provide this for His One and Only Son, why on earth would I believe that His sole interest is to provide this for me?

My job as a parent is to raise my children in such a way that they are loved and equipped to the extent that I can provide these things, and that they come to know the Lord who can provide these things in perfect measure.  In carrying out my job, I do not always make life easy and cushy for them.  I do not always give in to their desires and preferences, but I guide them toward what is best and most fruitful for them in accordance with God's principles as closely as I understand them.  They often interpret this guidance and direction as the introduction of "bad things" in their lives, at least in the immediate term.  However, I am relatively confident in saying that when I have introduced what they interpret to be a "bad thing" in their lives, they may not like it, but they have a level of trust in me and an unwavering core belief that I love them and always want what is best for them.  It may not be until much later that they can look back and see why we did or did not allow certain things to occur in their lives as a means of teaching a larger lesson that is for their beneficial growth.  Importantly, I am careful to not subject them to more than they are capable of handling based on where they are in their growth and development.  All of this I do based on my deep and passionate love for them.

If this is what I do, how I do it, and why I do it for my own children, why would God be any different?  If we are created in His image, don't we feel for our children what He feels for us? 

I want to believe that God loves me enough to help me grow and develop for His good purposes.  I want to believe that He cares enough to mold me and guide me toward the character of Jesus.  I understand that much growth and development occurs during times of trial and hardship, and therefore to achieve growth and development, He may choose to lead me through such times.  Most importantly, when He does lead me through these times, He is ever-present and provides me with all I need to make it through to the other side.  Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, because I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

When bad things happen, I would rather draw comfort from the fact that He is with me and will provide me with all I need to meet the challenge than to engage in a pointless debate about whether or not He allowed the bad thing to happen in the first place.  It would be a much scarier and uncertain reality if I believed that God and I are both sitting around with crossed fingers hoping that bad things aren't around the next corner.  Instead, I will trust in His unfailing love for me and that in good times and in bad, His ways are above my own.

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