This week we need to confront something that might be uncomfortable. If you know me, you know I’m a “people pleaser” and that confrontation is the thing I avoid at all costs! So although there’s a part of me that wants to skip this post, here we go. There is a fundamental truth we need to face in order to fully surrender and use God’s perspective completely. I have heard a lot of people, including many well-intentioned Christians, proclaim the opposite of this truth. I am going to show you what I believe is the Biblical, scriptural truth about a very sensitive, misunderstood subject, which is this: God doesn’t cause suffering. He does not inflict illness, loss, or tragedy on people today. It is important for you to know in your heart of hearts that God doesn’t kill children, put cancer in bodies, cause airplanes to crash, or any of the other things we may have heard attributed to Him. I have heard people say “God needed another angel in heaven so he took your baby” or any number of variations on that theme. That simply doesn’t agree with anything I find in the New Testament – the Jesus-redeemeed part – of the Bible. It may appease the grief-stricken mind at first, but I imagine it can easily become a seed of disdain and anger that will fester and grow towards a God who would act so cruelly.
“But what about those old testament stories where God sends plagues or destruction upon groups of people?” Certainly, before Christ, and even now, actions reap consequences. Pharaoh killed the firstborn of all Jewish families. God then gave him seven chances to repent and let the Jewish people go. Each time a consequence was spelled out in advance, and the choice of Pharaoh to disobey brought about God’s promised answer. The Israelites themselves suffered consequences that God warned them would happen and He begged them to obey Him and avoid the resulting disaster, but they chose not to over and over again. The enemies of the Israelites, who willingly chose to attack the Lord and His people, always eventually reaped the result of going against the only true God.
The purpose of Jesus Christ coming onto the scene was to reconcile every single one of those “sin begets punishment” scenarios once and for all. That’s what “savior” means. The old retribution is out, and forgiveness is freely available to all who simply request it. No more does a sin guarantee the boomerang of consequences. One has simply to believe and receive forgiveness, available on an absolutely unlimited basis. Grace is the new multi-purpose answer to everything.
So where does disaster come from? The Bible very clearly states that there is one who “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8). And so, there are many times each day, all over the world, where Satan wreaks havoc, in the hopes of devouring his prey. Over and over I’ve heard Pastor Steve explain that although Satan is like a roaring lion, he is actually toothless to defeat us believers- the enemy has no authority over us. However, the Bible shows us examples of when God allows Satan to have his way, so that God can use the situation for a greater good. Through Jesus Christ we are not guaranteed trouble-free lives. But we are absolutely guaranteed that every situation will be used by God to work everything out in our favor, “for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
My first interaction with this premise was in a re-print of an article titled “CAN SOMEONE WHO CAN’T SEE, HEAR OR TALK BE “SUCCESSFUL IN MINISTRY”?** In this article, a father shares the impact his daughter’s two years on earth had on numerous people. Born profoundly handicapped due to microcephaly, Mandy was unable to see, hear, communicate, swallow, prone to frequent seizures, and too weak to fight off illness. But Mandy was “Special” in the most important way. Her father relates story after story of hospital employees, nurses, kids at church, and co-workers who came into Mandy’s presence and experienced “true revival.” Multiple individuals confessed sins, drew near to God, believed in Him, prayed for the first time, and made drastic changes to their own lives, in turn affecting countless others around them. Mandy’s condition – no doubt planned by an enemy to destroy her life, her parents, their marriage, etc. – was used by God for such a glorious and fantastic destiny. This story made me wonder how many people every day die of old age without ever bringing revival to anyone or sharing God’s glory with others? Whose life then was better-lived? Better-used?
Jesus explains this himself in John 9:1-3. He and his disciples encounter a man blind from birth. The disciples asked whose fault it was – did his parents sin? They were accustomed to the Old Testament “law” that I mentioned earlier. Sin begets consequences. But now Jesus is here and he explains wonderfully, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such thing as cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do ….” He said this and then healed the man of his blindness, which threw the entire town and region into a complete whirlwind!
The story of Mandy’s life showed me that her dad got it. He didn’t linger on the “why”. He was aware that God allowed satan’s attempt at destruction because He, God, would turn it around into something so glorious and marvelous. He witnessed the only thing to be destroyed was satan’s plans. Mandy wasn’t “taken” by God after two years, she was allowed to fulfill a fantastic purpose, a divine destiny, that most folks sadly will never realize.
I don’t know if this issue has bothered anyone else out there. I struggled with “why” for a while. Until I found a true answer to that question and settled it in my heart, there was no way I could move on to experience the awesome wonder of what God had in store for me. I pray that you also find an answer to the “why” in your life and in the chaotic world around us.
Praying for each of my readers this week! I love you and thank you for joining me on this journey. This week was deep, so I leave you with one of Nick’s goofiest big smiles 🙂
** “Can Someone who can’t see, hear or talk be ‘Successful in Ministry’?” by Marshall Shelley, originally printed in “Leadership Magazine”, reprinted in the book “Milestones & Miracles: The story of the Little Lighthouse” by Marcia Mitchell, Lighthouse Publications, Tulsa, OK, 1993.