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.

 

Righteousness Restored

Isaiah 26:7-9. “The way of the just is uprightness: Thou, most upright, does weigh the path of the just. Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for Thee: the desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee. With my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek Thee early; for when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.”

Image result for the desire of our soul is to Thy name

A side note:  A new reader has asked me why I capitalize God, and pronouns or other names of God.  It’s simple, really.  There are a couple of reasons. First, He is God, and the capitalization is a simple recognition that there are no other gods above Him. He is sovereign.  Second, it helps to clarify  what the pronouns are referring to. It is  a grammatical tool to help sort out who words like you, he, and his are talking about. And I’m glad someone asked 🙂

Now to today’s passage. As I read it over, typed it, studied it, the one main idea that  comes through clearly is that when our hearts are truly turned to God, everything else sorts itself out.  Verse 9 tells us that when His judgments are honored, the people of the world will learn righteousness. That’s pretty impressive.

Earlier in Isaiah, in chapter 5, we are told that what is wrong will be right, and what is right will be wrong. That’s where we are today in our country.  Righteousness is spurned as being a negative, pejorative thing because it offends people who disagree.  So right is wrong.  Also, we have legislated that which God has judged as evil to be the righteous law of the land. Abortion, for example, is now so common that it is normal, right, and accepted.  That which is wrong is now right.

It’s because American Christians have been lulled to sleep by our comforts and our (very fragile) safety. If we were the salt and light we have been called to be, many of the injustices of this age would not be happening.

But, praise God, the day is coming when Jesus will set it all straight. He will rule on the earth for 1,000 years, and righteousness will be restored. His judgments will cause the people of the world to learn righteousness.

The Just Shall Live by Faith

Galatians 3:11. “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”

God never said anywhere that our own adherence to every letter of the law, our own good works, would take us to heaven. It is clear all through the scriptures that we have eternal life not by our works, but by our faith. God said it. Jesus provided it.

Habakkuk 2:4 is just one of many verses that teach faith, not works.

Where we sometimes stumble is over the idea that if we are not doing good works, then we must not have faith; that you can’t have the one without the other.

Our good works truly will not get us to heaven;  what they will do is demonstrate our faith to the world around us, thereby sharing the love of God with all those with whom we come in contact.  Our good works are a result of our faith.

There aren’t enough good works in the whole universe for them to result in faith.  Faith results in good works, not the other way round.

Holy, Just, Unblameable

I Thess. 2:10. “Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe.”

I am immediately reminded of Micah 6:8. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Could this verse have been in Paul’s mind as he worked and lived among the Thessalonians?  I’d like to think so. 

It’s interesting that Paul combines both the new believers and God as witnesses of their behavior.  The believers could assess only their outward behaviors; God understood the motives of their hearts.  Paul’s conscience was clear before God and man. 

Holy, just, blameless. Holy,  in this verse, is hosios, meaning devoutly, piously, religiously.  It describes the inner lives of Paul and Silas. The word justly is dikaios, and describes outward conduct that meets the standard of what is right and good.  

Unblameably is amemptos, and is the assertion that no charge against the missionaries can be supported in any way. 

Paul and Silas not only believed the gospel; they lived it.  Everything they did was to the furtherance of preaching the gospel.