Sunday, January 15, 2012

Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen to Good People?

When I was pregnant with my son I had a rash of all rashes that lasted for three months!  It was horrible - my whole body was covered in an itchy rash and nothing soothed it.  Itching didn’t help, crèmes didn’t help, herbal remedies or the “old-fashioned” remedies didn’t help, leaving it alone didn’t help.  All day I would itch until I bled.  At night, I couldn’t sleep because my whole body felt like I was covered in mosquito bites or poison ivy.  Several times during the night I would wake up itching myself.  This rash consumed every aspect of my life!  The worst part was the doctors couldn’t figure out what it was.  After seeing several doctors and a couple specialists, the best answer I received was that I must be having some sort of allergic reaction and my pregnancy hormones were amplifying it.  Because I was pregnant, they couldn’t give me certain medications so I came to the conclusion that I’d just have to deal with it.  There was no relief in sight!  One night about a month or so into the ordeal, I remember crying and crying because I couldn’t take it anymore!  Thankfully, about a week after I had my son, the horrible rash finally went away.  Those three months of itching and pain were agonizing!  Dealing with health issues and other obstacles in life can be very challenging!

I know I’m not the first to ask these questions, but why do you think God allowed me to get that rash when I was pregnant or to have a tumor when I was just a baby?  Why does God allow people to get cancer, get into bad car accidents, or die too young?  Why does God allow Christian persecution?  Do you ever wonder why God allows bad things to happen to good people?  

Think about the stories of real people we read about in the Bible…  Jonah, Daniel, Esther, Joseph.  Each of them had some pretty big obstacles they had to overcome.

Let’s look at Jonah…God wanted him to preach to people of Ninevah, but he didn’t obey and actually tried to run away from God.  He hopped onto a ship to try to get away.   While Jonah was on the ship, God sent a bad storm.  Everyone on the ship was terrified so they cast lots to see who was responsible for the terrible storm.   Eventually, at Jonah’s request, the sailors threw him overboard.  God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah up for three long days and nights.  During that time, he had some time to think.  Eventually, he cried out to the Lord and repented.  After he admitted his sin, God commanded the fish to vomit Jonah back on dry land.  Jonah overcame his fear and obeyed the Lord, but it wasn’t until he had to go through several interesting difficulties.  Getting swallowed by a fish and being vomited out of it is one hurtle I hope I NEVER have to overcome!  Jonah 1-2

Then there’s Daniel…He was thrown into a lion’s den!!!  Have you ever thought about the reality of that situation?!  These weren’t cuddly, little pet lions – they were starving, vicious lions who were ready to devour anything in sight!  I can hear their growls and roars!  I’m sure they were deafening the closer Daniel got to them.  And, I can’t even begin to imagine how time must’ve stopped as he was falling down into the den.   As terrifying as that whole moment was, Daniel got to experience something many of us will probably never have the opportunity to experience.

Daniel 6:16-17, 19-21

16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.

19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.”

I love this story because Daniel got to see an angel of God close the lions’ mouths and then see the amazing work of God!   Even at the brink of death, Daniel trusted God.  When Darias saw that Daniel’s faith ultimately save him, he immediately sent out a decree that everyone in the land should give reverence to Daniel’s God.  God received the glory and many were saved through Daniel’s experience.

How about Esther?  This is my favorite story in the Bible!  If you want drama, read Esther.  It’s honestly like reading a movie script!  Here’s a little girl who loses both of her parents as a small child.  Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything more traumatic for a child to go through!  She’s an orphan who gets adopted by her male cousin.  Mordecai was a very loving cousin, but he would never take the place of her parents, especially her mother.  The poor thing wouldn’t have a mom to talk about the changes going on with her body or to ask advice or to have that special mother/daughter relationship.  To make matters worse, she gets picked in a beauty contest and is thrown into the king’s harem.  She spends a whole year going through rigorous beauty treatments before the king calls for her.   She was only a teen girl and she was “called” to spend a night with the king!  Each girl had to take her turn with the king and if she pleased him, she got to go into his special harem.  If not, she was sent to the “unwanted” harem.  I’m not sure which would be worse, but the king finds favor with Esther and crowns her as queen – his wife!   God placed her in this position “for such a time as this.”.  In the end, she ends up saving the whole Jewish race!  What started out as a very bleak situation tuned into a miraculous ending.  God took a bad situation and used it to accomplish his bigger purpose.  See Esther 1-10

Although there are many more Bible characters we could look at, I wanted to mention Joseph.  He was the favored boy and his brothers were very jealous of him, to the point of hating him and wanting to kill him.  One brother speaks up and persuades the other brothers to sell Joseph to the Egyptians instead of killing him.  As if being sold to a foreign country wasn’t bad enough, Joseph has many other challenges he goes through in Egypt.  While in the palace, Potiphar’s wife kept trying to get Joseph to go to bed with her.  I’m sure it was very stressful for him to have these awkward confrontations day after day with his boss's wife.  Then there was the temptation to actually go to bed with her.  He resists this temptation, but ends up being falsely accused and is thrown into prison.  Being in prison in those days was torture.  After two years, God ends his suffering and Joseph is rewarded for interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.  He’s put in charge of all of Egypt, which allows him to help his family during the famine.  Genesis 37, 39-41

When looking at Jonah, Daniel, Esther and Joseph’s challenges, I noticed some similarities:

Jonah’s Challenge(s):  Lives in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights.

Purpose:  Teaches Jonah to obey God and to repent of his sin.  God uses Jonah to save the city of Ninevah.

Daniel’s Challenge(s):  Gets thrown into a lion’s den.

Purpose:  Daniel’s faith is strengthened when he sees God’s angel shut the lions’ mouths and is saved from the lions.  It teaches him to trust God in everything.  God receives the glory for saving Daniel from the lions.

Esther’s Challenge(s):  Becomes an orphan and gets adopted by her cousin who lives in the pagan city of Babylon.  Gets sent to the king’s harem for a year.  Has to make a decision to reveal her Jewish nationality or see her people perish.

Purpose:  She accomplishes God’s will, saves all of the Jews, and fulfills her destiny.

Joseph’s Challenge(s):  Gets sold to a foreign country and is eventually falsely accused and thrown in prison for two years.

Purpose:  Brings God glory when he interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and saves his family and many others in the famine.

From these examples, it appears as if God allows us to go through an obstacle or challenge, whether it was self-induced or not, to teach us something and to accomplish His purposes.  Hmmm…o.k.  I can live with that!

But, what about Job?  Job is probably the most famous person we talk about when we’re discussing trials. 

Job 1:6-12

6 One day the angels[a] came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan[b] also came with them. 7 The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

8 Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

9 “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. 10 “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. 11 But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

12 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”

I’ll be honest, there are two verses that really bother me.  In verse 8, God actually tells Satan to consider Job.  Then in verse 12, God gives Satan permission to do whatever he wants with Job’s possessions.  Why would God give Satan permission to destroy Job’s life?!  Horrible things happen his servants, his livestock, and his children all die.  Job gets the news about all of these tragedies within minutes of each other.  Because God allowed Satan to take away his earthly possessions, including his family members, Job’s life was turned upside down in an instant. 

Later, Satan goes back to God and asks if he can do even more to Job. 

Job 2:6-7

6 The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. 8 Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

God gave Satan full permission to do whatever he wanted to Job.  The only restriction was that he couldn’t kill him.  Knowing that the devil is like “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), it’s very unsettling that God would allow the devil to get near one of His chosen children.  Job was already grieving all of his loses and then he has to deal with some pretty major health problems.  Why would God allow the devil to put him through anymore pain?!

Looking at Job, there are a couple of things we can conclude: Satan has to get God’s permission before he can do anything to us and God allows or gives permission to Satan to do certain things to us.  He’s our loving Father who sets up Satan’s boundaries to ultimately teach us something or make us more like Himself, to bring Himself glory or to accomplish his plans.  “Even when we’re blind to the evidence, God works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.” Ephesians 1:11

I’ll admit I don’t fully understand why God does or doesn’t do certain things, but what I can say about all of our trials in life is that God doesn’t allow these circumstances to punish us for our sins.  Just like earthly fathers lovingly discipline their children “…God disciplines us (not punishes us) for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.” Hebrews 12:10.

Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?  Just like Daniel, they were on the hot seat because of their faith in God.  They were thrown into a fiery furnace!  I can almost smell the coals and feel the heat.  I can hear their pounding hearts.  I’m sure they were crying out to God to save them.

Beth Moore proposes in her Daniel Bible study when Christians face fiery furnaces in their lives, they have three scenarios they may endure:

Scenario A:  They can be delivered from the fire and, as a result, their faith is strengthened.

Scenario B:  They can be delivered through the fire.  They may experience some pain, but in the end their faith is refined.

Scenario C:  They can be delivered by the fire straight into His arms.  In other words, their earthly bodies die, but their souls go to live in Heaven with Christ and their faith is perfected.

No matter which scenario we’re given, we have a choice on how we’re going to deal with that challenge.  Will we defiantly disobey God and try to run away like Jonah?  Will we do what I tend to do and start crying or yelling?  Or is there a better option?

Beth Moore further suggests that every person will always do one of three things:

·         We panic or do the wrong thing.

·         We become paralyzed and do absolutely nothing.

·         Or, we pray.

Beth, also, says:

“We have opportunities…

·         To experience gloriously, intense encounters with God. 2 Tim 4:16-18

·         To emerge from a terribly, hurtful situation unhurt. Dan. 6:22; Jer. 10:19; Jer. 30:12, 17

·         To see the world become impressed with our God.

Every choice has an outcome or opportunity to experience God on a deeper level.  When we’re at our lowest point, it sets us up to see God work miracles!

As I grow as a Christian, I’m slowly starting to choose the latter option more and more.  I have to admit, though, I usually fail miserably – I yell or cry or try to handle the situation myself. I want to be so in love with Christ and be so captivated by Him that the first thing I do when I face a challenge is drop to my knees and pray!  How about you?

We may not fully understand why God allows really painful things to happen to all of us and the rest of the human race but, like Jesus said, “… in this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33. 

A Letter from Jesus

If you never felt pain, then how would you know that I am a Healer?

If you never had to pray, how would you know that I am a Deliverer?

If you never had a trial, how could you call yourself an overcomer?

If you never felt sadness, how would you know that I am a Comforter?

If you never made a mistake, how would you know that I am a forgiver?

If you knew all, how would you know that I will answer your questions?

If you never were in trouble, how would you know that I will come to your rescue?

If you never were broken, then how would you know that I can make you whole?

If you never had a problem, how would you know that I can solve them?

If you never had any suffering, then how would you know what I went through?

If you never went through the fire, then how would you become pure?

If I gave you all things, how would you appreciate them?

If I never corrected you, how would you know that I love you?

If you had all power, then how would you learn to depend on me?

If your life was perfect, then what would you need me for?!

I love you!  Love, Jesus


God “works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” Philippians 2:13

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

“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

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