Thursday, December 12, 2013

UGW Q11a: Do Things Happen for a Reason?

            11.  But don’t you think that God could’ve caused bad things to happen for a reason, even if He didn’t really want them to happen?  
            Sometimes, maybe.  I wish that I could say no . . . and yes.  No, because I don’t want to think that God causes bad things to happen.  And yes, because I want to believe that all bad things have a purpose and that He is in total control.  It makes the bad things a lot easier to face then.  (And for the record, I think that our view of what’s “bad” can and does differ from God’s.  Our perspective is so, so cloudy and flawed compared to God’s.) 
            I think that the Bible does show times when He causes something “bad” for a reason.  Sometimes it’s because of discipline and judgment, such as when He causes rebellious nations to be overthrown and destroyed.  And sometimes it’s to gain glory for Himself, such as when He hemmed the Israelites in by the Sea with Pharaoh’s army closing in on them.  That would seem pretty bad to me, but He did that so that He could show His power and gain glory for Himself.  He even hardened Pharaoh’s heart to get this done. 
            Exodus 14: 4:  “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them.  But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
            It seems that whatever “bad” He does cause is because He has to discipline, to pass judgment, to gain glory for Himself, to maintain His good name, or because He has a greater good in mind.  (And once you really get a glimpse of God’s holiness and glory, you know that it’s only right that He is glorified, even if it takes “bad” times to do it.)     
            But when we ask this question, what we really want to know is if He causes the tsunamis or cancer or an accident or a death for a particular reason.  “Everything happens for a reason” is our way of dealing with these things.  And the answer is . . . I don’t know.  Some of them, probably.  But He doesn’t run His reasons past us, and so we can’t get hung up on figuring out something that is not ours to know. 

            [And we cannot dare make any judgments or pronouncements about tragedies that happen, saying things like “God brought that disaster on you (or your city) because of your (or your city’s) sin.”  How dare any Christian act as though they know for sure what was going on in God’s mind when He allowed a certain tragedy to happen!  It is smug, self-elevating, condescending, pride that causes one to sit on God’s throne and point fingers.  Where is the humility and grace in that?  It certainly doesn’t sound to me like it comes from a godly heart. 
            I just have to say this for the record because it makes me sick when I hear Christians acting as know-it-all “moral police officers” who think of themselves as God’s little enforcers sent to scold and condemn everyone else, who act as though they are not also sinners in need of grace and forgiveness, who fail to extend to others the grace and forgiveness that God has given us, who fail to humble themselves before God while they try to weasel their way onto the throne right next to Him.
            Christians, there is a reason why society can’t stand us sometimes.  And sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with our beliefs but with the fact that we try to force them on others and that we use our faith against others in judgmental condescension.  We are called to live out our faith in love and grace and humility, with the hope of drawing others to Christ through these things.  And yet, we turn it into an “us against them” kind of thing.  “They” are not the enemy.  They are the people that God dearly loves and wants to draw near to Himself.  Yet we push them away by our lack of grace and gentleness and love. 
            We are all on the same level ground at the foot of the cross.  And God is the judge; we are not.  So let us reach out to others in love, live out our faith in gentle, quiet strength, humble ourselves before God, and remember that  others are not accountable to us.  We will all stand before Him one day and give an account for how we lived.  So let’s be more concerned with how we are living before the Lord then with how others are living before the Lord.  I just have to say this because Christian history is full of terrible examples of what happens when we forget all of this.]      
            But yes, everything does happen for a reason.  Now, I’m going to branch off a moment from those tragedies that we are not responsible for, like natural disasters, accidents, etc.  And I’m going to say this:  Sometimes, the reason bad things happen has less to do with God and more to do with us.  Sometimes it’s because we disobeyed, chose our own path, chose unwisely, or sinned.  It is amazing how we will live life however we want, but then the moment something goes wrong, we go, “Oh, God, why?  Why did You let this happen?”
            We have sex outside of marriage and get pregnant, get an STD, or have future marital problems, and we go, “Why, God?”  We have affairs or don’t work to keep our marriages healthy and strong, and it’s, “Why are we facing divorce?”  We don’t care what we eat or if we exercise, but then we plead with God, “Why are we sick?”  We fill our homes with all sorts of toxins, like candles, air “fresheners,” chemical cleaners, and then go, “Why aren’t You healing my sinuses?”  We sit on our duffs all day, eating our take-out food, and then ask God why we have heart problems, fatty stomachs, costly medication, and shortened life spans.  We text, drink, or talk on our phones while driving, and then cry, “Where were You when this accident happened, God?”  We won’t let go of our expensive toys, multiple phones, multiple cars, cable and other “crucial” entertainment, restaurant dinners, and packaged food (when we could be learning to cook beans) and then we cry out, “Lord, we can’t pay our bills!”  (Let’s face it, our excessive spending habits and our misunderstanding of what is “essential or important” have helped to get us into the economic mess that we are in.)  
            I mean, think about how many times we say things like, “Well, I know that I should . . . but . . .”  I’ve said things like this myself.  And we close our eyes to the things that we should be concerned about, and we continue to live the way that we want.  And then when we face consequences later, we blame God, when - more accurately - we should be saying, “I caused this by my decision or by ignoring my responsibility to make wise, self-controlled decisions.”  If we started to take responsibility for our decisions and actions, maybe we wouldn’t have so many problems in our lives.

Posts in this "Understanding God's Will" series: