Now, I’ve just been talking about the bad things that happen as a result of our own actions and choices. But what about the bad things that happen that we had no responsibility for: tornadoes, getting hit by a drunk driver, being wronged by someone, the loss of loved ones, etc.? Does God make these things happen for a reason?
Unfortunately, part of living in a “free will” world is having to live with the consequences of someone else’s choices. Bad things happen because others can choose to do the wrong thing. A person can choose to abuse someone, to hurt someone, to make bad decisions, or to take stupid risks. And unfortunately, many innocent people are affected.
And as a whole, we are all affected by Adam and Eve’s sin. When they sinned, they plunged mankind into a cursed, fallen state. (And, honestly, none of us would have done any better if we were in their place!) God gave dominion over the earth to Adam and Eve, and they basically handed it over to Satan when they chose to listen to him instead of to God. And we now live in a world where Satan is active and where things happen that God never intended when He first created Adam and Eve and said “It is very good.”
The Fall brought death and illness, as well as a curse upon the earth, which ushered in natural disasters. He didn’t “will” these kinds of things when He created the earth. He doesn’t delight in cancer, death, miscarriages, tornadoes, tsunamis, and other tragedies. He is not cruel and unsympathetic.
Not too long ago, I spent five or six nights with other family members at the bedside of an aunt. She was slowly dying of cancer. She had refused all nourishment and wanted to die at home surrounded by family. And it was heart-breaking to see the agony that her daughters were going through as they watched her slowly slip away. And while I was comforted in knowing that she knew God, I do not think it meant much to them.
And what can you say at a time like that to comfort someone? You can’t use the old “It’s for the best” or “It’s God’s Will” cockamamie. Because, while they may be well-meaning, they are generally not helpful to those who are grieving. And so what is a more appropriate thing to say to comfort someone who is in deep, deep pain? Personally, I think it’s more along this line, “This really sucks. It shouldn’t be this way. I am so sorry.”
And you know what? I really do think that this is the more godly attitude to take toward these kinds of things. Because I think that God is up there saying it right along with us . . . “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This isn’t the best way. It’s not what I planned when I created the world in perfect order. It’s not what I wanted for you. My Will was to spare you this pain and to keep you from ever knowing evil and death. But I also gave mankind the right to disobey. Man, this sucks. And, oh, it hurts Me to see you go through this. But never forget that I am here with you. And I will redeem all of this in the end!”
(And ultimately, my aunt was able to breathe her last breath surrounded by those that loved her the most, in the comfort of her own bed. We miss you, Diane!)
Yes, He allows tragedies and illnesses. And maybe He does, at times, purposely cause them for reasons we can’t know. But, ultimately, we brought all this in through sin. And we will have to suffer with it as long as we are part of the human race and on a fallen planet. That’s just a sad fact.
He has given us free-will: the option of choosing His way or going our own, the option of seeking His wisdom or acting on our own. And this free-will comes with consequences. Our sins have consequences that affect us, our family, and mankind. So not everything that happens is “His Will” or has happened for a reason of His. Sometimes, it’s because of what we (as individuals or mankind as a whole) did or didn’t do. But even then, He will help us clean up our messes and He will ultimately bring good out of it.
And so we cannot judge God to be a harsh, unloving, cruel God that delights in watching people writhe in anguish when His original plan for us was good and perfect and pain-free. And even after we screwed it all up, He still created a way to redeem it all - to redeem us – and to allow us to once again have that perfect, pain-free life. This time in eternity. And He did this by giving up His Son’s life in our place, Jesus Christ who is God the Son. He does not delight in torturing us, but He does everything He can to get us to choose the kind of eternity that He meant for us to have in the first place.
You know, I was surprised when I first learned that “All things happen for a reason” is not a verse from the Bible. I mean, we use it to put God’s touch on every problem and pain and trial that comes our way. But I don’t think that it’s really a Biblical teaching that God causes all things to happen for a particular purpose of His. This doesn’t take into account human responsibility, free-will, and the effects of the Fall.
And so for the majority of “bad” things that happen, I think it’s not that He caused it for a reason, but that it’s a consequence of mankind’s sins and choices, and individual sins and choices. But He does allow them to happen.
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