12. I used to take comfort in the fact that God does whatever He wants to do and that God causes everything to happen for a reason. But if that’s not the case, what then?
I once heard about a mom and dad who were going away for vacation. They had to leave their nearly-adult teenager at home. They knew that he might end up making bad decisions; he might throw a party and do things that they didn’t want him to do. And they had the power to prevent that. They could have stayed home or sent Grandma over to watch him.
But in their wisdom, they knew that he was going to be an adult and on his own in college in just a year or so. And they realized that this was a good opportunity to test him and to see what decisions he would make. They encouraged him to choose wisely, and they hoped that he would choose wisely. Because they knew that was the best for him.
Now, if he chose to make mistakes, they would not have caused him to do it. They were allowing him to do it, but they weren’t causing it. But they allowed him the opportunity to make mistakes because they knew that they could use it to teach him life-lessons. Since he was still at home and under their care, they could use his mistakes to challenge him and grow him and help him find the right path, before he was let go into the world.
And that’s kind of how I believe God works with mankind. God gave us this world, told us the best way to live, and then let us decide to listen or not. But He does not cause our disobedience and the consequences of our bad choices and of the Fall. While it’s a fine distinction, I think that it is more accurate (in many instances) to say that God allows things for a reason, instead of causing things for a reason. And whatever God does allow, He allows because He knows that it can be can used for His good purposes, whether for us, for others, or for mankind, in general.
So, He might not cause it for His purpose, but He can and will use it for His purpose. And He can do this since He sees all of history at one time and can see how things can be used to accomplish His goals. Of course, He wants us to choose the best way the first time around (and that will spare us a lot of heartache and trouble), but He can and will use our mistakes to make something good and He will incorporate them into His overall plans for us. And just because He allows something bad to happen (say, cancer or a tornado), doesn’t mean that He always and necessarily wanted it to happen. It’s a part of living in a free-will, fallen world, but He knows that He can take it and use it for something good. (Yet let's not fool ourselves. God can and does cause things to happen that we don't like, when it serves His purpose. As God, He has that right.)
And if I may point out, God is definitely a God of healing in the Bible. We read so much about how He wants health for us and how Jesus healed and how the disciples were sent to heal. About how He desires that we have well-being and abundant life, as opposed to pain, illness, and heartache. But pain, illness, and heartache are a part of living in a fallen world. He didn’t plan or desire these things for us. (Not that He can’t or doesn’t ever cause them for a reason.) But they are consequences of our decisions and of Satan’s influence. But God does promise to work all things, even the pain, for good . . . for those who love Him. And this is the promise that you can take comfort in.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). (And I think that this is the verse that people are misconstruing when they say, “All things happen for a reason.”)
This is the promise that we should be resting on. No matter what happens, God will redeem it in the end and use it for good. Whether He caused it or allowed it, whether it seemed to have a reason or was seemingly senseless, we need to decide if we will turn our backs on God or if we will trust Him, if we will believe Him when He says that He will work it out for good. Although, we may never get to see the good that comes from it until eternity. So we have to go forward in faith, taking God at His Word.
And even if He does cause bad things to happen, we have to remember that we are the creation and He is the Creator. We are limited and He is all-knowing. We are full of sin and He is good and loving and just, whether or not we understand Him. And as Creator, He is certainly allowed to do whatever He wants with His creation, for whatever purposes He deems worthy.
And if we don’t like that arrangement, we don’t have to choose to be on His side. But in the end, we will miss out. We will be missing out on the loving, peaceful, restful, Heavenly eternity that He desires for us. And our eternal destination matters more than anything we go through on this earth, and it will make our time on earth seem like the blink of an eye. Now, I know that knowing this in our heads won’t take the pain away. But it should give us hope that, in the end, God will redeem it all.
But I do want to add a caution here. We should not use God’s promise to “work all things out for good” to be lazy and to let ourselves make mistakes. Ah, so what if I mess up? He’ll use my mistakes for good, and it will all be alright in the end! If we want to live the most abundant, God-glorifying life possible, we should be diligent about living as righteously and obediently as possible. But when we do make mistakes, we should not beat ourselves up about them. We should return to God fully and trust that He’ll make something good come out of them. For those who love Him!
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