It’s Not Helpful!

I’ve been having a rather lengthy  Facebook conversation with some former students of mine, including one of my sons.  I guess it’s not surprising that it has taken  the form of a blog post in my head, so here it is.

Believers, Christians, often experience awful, horrible, heartbreaking events. Babies die, husbands or wives leave, life-threatening illnesses occur,  violent crime takes away our feelings of safety, value, and belief in God Himself. Severe persecution in some parts of the world  threatens believers every single day, and there is no escape from it.

These hurting people often cry out, “Why?  Why are these things happening?  Where is God?  Why is He allowing this?”  Some will get answers from well-meaning people, but those answers only serve to increase their sense of helplessness and abandonment.

One of those answers, which has become ubiquitous  lately, is,”Well, everything happens for a reason.”  And that is supposed to heal the wounds, soothe the heartache, and remove the grief.

It’s a vague, formless answer that carries very little power to help. In fact, it can create even more hurt because the suffering ones can’t find that elusive reason, and they just don’t understand. It has a sort of  New Age kharmic feel about it, because it is non-specific and indicates a vague faith in. . . . well, I’m really not sure. No person, no god, no ultimate arbiter of life events is mentioned.  Just that somewhere out there sits something or someone who orchestrates terrible events in our lives for some non-specified reason.

It makes no sense to me.

So, why DO bad things happen?

For me, the answer is both simple and complex.  My worldview is biblical.  I believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is holy, just, and sovereign; He is loving, merciful, and gracious. He cannot look on evil, so He provided the only possible perfect sacrifice to cleanse sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit of God, born of a pure, virgin girl who was in the line of King David.  Jesus was the One Whose blood could cleanse sin, and Whose resurrection could provide victory over sin and death. You can read all about Him in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Why did God do all that?  So that we could find salvation and spend eternity with Him, because He loves us.  All of us.

Why doesn’t He, then, protect us from terrible events?

Because it’s not His job to do so. He never said He would.  What He did promise is that He would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us (Psalm 23).  He promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb, 13:5). He promised to be with us to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:20).He never promised to prevent harm; He did promise to help us endure it.

Bad things happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world (Genesis 1-3). Satan is real. Evil is real. Jesus said that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust ( Matt: 5:45).

To accuse God of bringing evil into our lives is to believe the exact opposite of His true character. To demand that God should have prevented whatever happened is to demand that He conform to our wishes.

The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for his faith. Near the end of his life, knowing he was facing a painful and horrifying death, he said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).  He did not complain about all the beatings, the stoning, the shipwreck, the snakebite, the imprisonment.  He accepted it as the price for his preaching the gospel wherever God sent him, and he rejoiced always because he knew God was always with him (Phil 4:4-5).

I know this is longer than my normal posts.  Just one more thing, and I’m done.

Instead of asking “Why,” we would do much better to ask for the what and the how. 

What can I learn from what has happened?  How can I begin to heal, or if necessary, to forgive, and move on from here? How can I use this to learn and grow, and to help someone else who is hurting?  How can I be a channel of blessing, showing the love of God to those around me in spite of the trouble that has beset me?

After all, no one suffered more unjustly than Jesus did.  He was the perfect Man, Who never sinned. Yet God allowed Him “to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).

Please don’t accuse and blame God for the work of Satan.  Put the blame squarely where it belongs.  Satan’s whole purpose is to destroy all that God loves.  Evil does exist, and it finds all of us to one degree or another.  No one is immune.  God’s job is NOT to prevent all believers from ever suffering harm and evil. It is not His fault that we suffer.

“Everything happens for a reason”  is not helpful. It just makes the sufferer feel more confused, and removes permission for that person to grieve. Instead of saying that, tell the person how sorry your are for his pain, and find some way to be helpful, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.



Friday Schlump

I’m feeling kind of 

I’m discouraged and tired.  Maybe it’s the typical reaction after being on such a high during the trip to Slovakia. Maybe I’m just old. There’s no real reason for it, so I thought maybe I could write my way out of it.

Well, actually, there is a reason.  I’ve either developed a new disc herniation, or one of the other ones has gotten worse.  I’m having the same kind of pain on my left side now. I did so well for the trip, I was feeling so good, and then WHAM! this pain started about four days ago.  I waited to call my pain doctor, hoping the problem was only temporary, but I was kidding myself. So I have an appointment for an evaluation next Thursday, which I’m sure will lead to another MRI and another round of epidural shots. Sigh.

I’m trying to be thankful that treatment is available.  Since I started with this condition, I’ve heard countless stories from other people about their own painful journey. For many of them, the shots didn’t work, or they worked only for a short period of time.  All that’s left at that point is surgery, which scares me to death. I don’t like the idea of nerves being snipped.

I’m learning, though, that no matter how bad your own situation may be, someone else’s is much worse. It is interesting to me that people who live with chronic, debilitating pain don’t usually talk about it. Their attitudes toward the pain is, “It is what it is. I do the best I can. Other people have it much worse.”

If the person in pain is a believer, it is often true that she has learned to walk more closely with God because of her pain.;That is what I want to do. The only alternative is to grow bitter and whiney and miserable.  No, thanks.

A few weeks ago, while I was at my physical therapy place, I saw a woman I know who is a chronic complainer.  She is never happy about anything, never has anything good to say.  I avoid her. When she appeared at therapy, I dodged around a corner before she could see me.  I did NOT want to spend an hour listening to her sad story. Again.

I don’t want to BE her. You don’t have to be her. It isn’t necessary.

I often think about the Apostle Paul, wondering about his thorn in the flesh. Some believe it was something to do with his eyes. Others believe he may have been damaged as a result of the beatings he took. We don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. What we do know is that he asked God repeatedly to take it away, whatever it was, and God did not heal him. Yet Paul was able to write “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  He knew how to be abased and how to abound. He knew he could do all things through Christ, Who gave him strength. He knew that no temptation or struggle can come to us that God cannot help us through, and make us able to bear it.

This is part of what grace is all about, I think. Last Sunday, we sang Wonderful Grace of Jesus  in church.  The words have stayed in my mind all week, and helped keep me from slipping into the pit of self-pity.

I think maybe I have written my way out of my schlump.