10. Can things happen that God doesn’t want to happen?
Obviously, yes! We fell, didn’t we? We introduced death and sin into the human race and the world. I bring up this question because people want to know why God would allow evil if God is all-powerful and can stop it. And the answer is because He doesn’t use His power to override our choices and the consequences of our choices. And so bad things happen because of us and because of Satan and his kingdom. (Funny thing is, we don’t want God’s interference when things are going good and going our way, but we sure want His “interference” when they aren’t.)
I think people mistakenly believe that because God is all-powerful and sovereign, it means that He micromanages every detail, that He causes everything to happen and that He always does whatever He wants. The people who think this then have the burden of explaining why bad things happen and why people sin.
If God is sovereign (in the way Calvinists define it - "causing all things that happen") and making everything happen and always doing whatever He wants, then God causes all bad things to happen and makes people sin. Every bad thing that happens would be because God wanted it to happen, because He controls everything. (See "What Does 'God is Sovereign' Mean?" for more on this.)
However, when it comes to sin, Scripture (James 1:13-14) says that God does not tempt anyone to sin. Yet obviously people sin. But if God is not responsible for people’s sin, who is? Satan and people, obviously.
“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.”
The issue of sin shows me that just because God is all-powerful and sovereign and in-control, it does not mean that He micromanages everything, that He always causes what He wants to have happen, and that He actively controls every detail. If He did, it would mean that He was responsible for making us sin.
But He isn’t. We sin because we have the option to sin. Free will. Because we choose it. And when we sin, it’s not because God wanted it to happen. God lets things happen that He doesn’t want to have happen.
He is still on the throne. He is still in control. He is still sovereignty. Yet He holds back His right to micromanage everything and He allows us to make choices and have an effect and cause consequences. And in His sovereignty, He promises to weave all the bad into something good for those of us who love Him.
I think we cause a lot of problems in how we view Him when we think that His sovereignty and all-powerfulness means that He micromanages every detail and always causes what He wants and never lets things happen that He doesn’t want. He doesn’t like sin. He doesn’t want sin. He doesn’t cause us to sin. He didn’t cause us to ruin His perfect creation. Yet He allowed it.
It doesn’t mean He is less powerful or less sovereign or at our mercy. It just means that He has voluntarily restrained Himself and His power to always do whatever He wants and He has given certain rights and privileges and responsibilities to mankind. It is a sobering thought! Yet in no way does it diminish His strength or His God-ness. Not when He Himself has ordered things to be this way and He voluntarily restrains Himself and allows man to have a certain influence over life and this world. (And yet, I think He is much more active in this world than many of us realize!)
Posts in this "Understanding God's Will" series:
3: His Will Is A Verb 4: Taking It Seriously 5: Prayer Matters 6: But God Can Read Minds 7: But God Knows Our Needs 8a: Pray Specifics? 8b: Three Keys For Next Step 8c: About Smaller Decisions 9a: Name It Claim It 9b: Help
9c: Verses 9d: Idolatry 9e: Unanswered 9f: Not Listening 9g: More Verses 9h: Effective Prayer 9i: Still Waiting 10: Bad Things Happen 11a: Happens For A Reason? 11b: Marriage Trouble 11c: Deliberate Ignorance 11d: Bad Things Beyond Us 12: God Works Good 13: Limiting God? 14/15: God Forcing Things? 16: Change God's Mind? 17: But God Can't Change? 18: Our Responsibilities