Bad Things from God?

I have run into hundreds of Christians who maintain the view that if something happens in their life, it must be God’s will. They completely misquote Romans 8:28 as some sort of karma verse: if something happens, it must be God’s will for them; if an event occurs in their life, it must be God’s plan for them.

The verse says that God will cause the events in my life to work together for the ultimate goal of good, provided I love God and “are called according to His purpose.” It does not say that every single event is good (He seems to never comment on that), and the promise is completely void for those who don’t love God or aren’t walking in His calling. I’m bothered by the fact that the people most often abusing this verse are not God’s people. “Bad things happened in my life; it must be God’s fault, therefore I won’t love God.”


This is such a blatant abuse of scripture that I find myself fairly angry when I hear people misrepresenting God’s word this way: exchanging what He said for what they think He should have said. And it bothers me when people assume that just because something happened (typically, something evil), it must have been God’s plan for them. Deliberately misrepresenting God’s heart is one of the best ways I know of to make a mess out of life.

Another thing that makes a mess out of people’s lives is their own poor choices. It seems that God was very serious when He gave us free will, though we often confuse the consequences of our free will – our choices – with God’s will. I know a man who committed several crimes and then blamed God that he was caught and put in jail, and a teenage mother that attributes her toddler to God’s will for her life rather than her night of passion with a classmate.

The funny thing is, God seems to take it all in stride. He accepts the blame for crud that happens. I have two primary examples.

1) The example of the life of Job.

The Book of Job is a long story about how Satan hit Job, but Job didn’t know it, and how Job responded. Job’s “friends” kept saying, “You must have sinned; this must be God!”, while Job, who was a righteous man, kept saying two things: a) to his friends: “No, I haven’t sinned; I’d know it!” and be) to God: “So God, why is this happening?”

Eventually (some 30 chapters later!) God answers Job, and instead of saying, “Relax, Job. The devil did this, not me,” (which would have been true, according to the first few chapters) God takes responsibility Himself for Job’s disasters, only answering Job with, “Look, son, I’m God and you’re not,” though He does restore Job’s fortunes. He also enters the record in the Bible for you and me to learn from. (Job appeared to learn his lesson: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You.”)

2) Bible verses where He claims responsibility for troubles.

I’ve recently become amazed at the number of places where God takes responsibility for bad stuff happening. Here are a few:

Ezekiel 20:25: Therefore I also gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live;
Psalm 81:12: So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.
Romans 1:28: …God gave them over to a debased mind,….

In all of these verse, God is taking responsibility. He’s saying, “I did this,” but if you look at the context, each example was where people were making stupid choices and were experiencing consequences of those actions. I’m not saying God did not intervene; I’m saying that whether He intervened or not, the motivating force was the people’s unwise exercise of their free will.

In Ezekiel, for example, a dozen verses before God gave the people judgments “by which they could not live,” He described those same judgments as “if a man does them, he shall live by them” (emphasis added). So it wasn’t God’s judgments that were out of the reach of man; it was not following His judgments that kept them separated from life.
But God took the blame.

In the Psalms illustration, God gave the people over to their own stubborn heart after He laments, “My people would not heed My voice,” and then He immediately cries that this was not His plan. “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, That Israel would walk in My ways!”
And Romans 1 is famous as a downward spiral because “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful.”

In every case, people made lousy choices and then bad things happened. I don’t know if they blamed God for the consequences of their actions, but God was certainly willing to take the blame.

So while it irritates me that people blame God for foul things in their lives that come from the devil (in Job’s case) or from their (our) own stupid choices, God doesn’t seem to be too offended by it.

The first step to solving a problem, so the psychologists say, is to acknowledge we have a problem; the second step, apparently, is to identify it. If that’s the case, then I’m more likely to resolve trouble in my life accurately by correctly identifying the source of that trouble, particularly if the trouble comes from my choices. If I’m failing at my job because I’m reading when I should be working, then blaming God may not help solve the problem; putting away the book and doing the work may be a wiser course. Taking responsibility for our actions will be good for our well-being.

Some problems – like Job’s – aren’t from our poor choices, but from a demonic agenda, and these we may never understand.

I think we need to come to the same conclusion that Job did: He’s God and I’m not. There will be bad things that happen, and many of those I’ll never understand. But if I can know God, if I avoid building a wall of blame between Him and me, then whether I understand or not, I can – like Job – walk in the best available blessing.

1 comment:

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