• When: 2017-11-07
  • QIC: Plan B
  • The PAX: Tory, TT, Meter Maid, Queenie, Shakespeare, Plan B

God’s Plan & Our Free Will…

Today  at Prevo we spent a few minutes thinking about God’s Plan Vs. our own Free Will… With the Texas church shootings fresh in our minds, it stands to reason that people have questions.  We may not directly question God for these sorts of tragedies, but we certainly think about why such terrible things happen.  These are some really good thoughts.  And even though it’s a long read, I wanted to share it for any others who may want to have a look.

Thanks!  And please think about coming to see us at Prevo.  We meet every Tuesday from 5:00-5:15 at Foxhole and focus on different topics and how they relate to our faith and our lives.

Why Does God Allow Tragedy and Suffering?

(Originally published in 2012, the following is adapted from a sermon preached by Lee Strobel in response to the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO. And with the Texas church shooting this weekend, it seemed like an appropriate time to discuss.)

  • In the Colorado shooting, 72 people were shot (12 killed). In Texas Church shooting, 46 were shot (26 killed).
  • There are so many tragic stories, so much pain. And many people are asking the question, “Why? Why did God allow this?”
  • It’s not just those types of tragic events that bring this question, but the everyday stuff can cause us to question, “Why? Why me? Why now?”
  • That “why” question is not a new one; it goes back thousands of years.
  • Why do all of these horrific things happen if there’s a loving and powerful God? Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Several years ago, Strobel commissioned a national survey and asked people what question they’d ask if they could only ask God one thing. The number one response was: “Why is there suffering in the world?”
  • If you’ve never asked these types of questions… you will.
  • Jesus was honest about the inevitability of suffering. In John 16:33 he said, “You will have suffering in this world.”
  • He didn’t say you might—he said it is going to happen.
  • We don’t have God’s mind; We don’t share his perspective.
  • In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we’re told, “Now we see things imperfectly, like murky reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.”
  • Someday we’ll see with clarity, but for now things are foggy. We can’t understand everything from our finite perspective. And we don’t need to, even as badly as we want to.
  • We should try to find comfort in the fact that one day we will see clearly.
  • Yet it’s still important to grapple with the question of why God allows suffering in our lives. Even though we can’t understand everything about it, I believe we can understand some things. Let me give you an analogy.
  • Imagine driving up the highway in the dark, when it started raining heavily and there’s dense fog. You could barely see the white stripe on the edge of the road. You can’t stop because you may get slammed from the back. Scary.
  • But then a truck appeared in front of you and you can clearly see his taillights through the fog. He apparently had fog lamps in front, because he was traveling at a confident and deliberate pace, and you know if you could just follow those taillights, you’d be headed in the right direction.
  • The same is true in understanding why there is tragedy and suffering in life.
  • We may not be able to make out all the details of why certain things happen, but there are some key biblical truths that can illuminate some points of light for us. And if we follow those lights, they will lead us toward some level of clarity that I believe can help satisfy us in these times of doubt.
  1. God is NOT the creator of evil and suffering.
  • This answers the question you hear so often: “Why didn’t God merely create a world where tragedy and suffering didn’t exist?” The answer is: He did! Genesis 1:31 says: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”
  • So if God is not the author of tragedy, evil or death, where did they come from?
  • Assuming love is the highest value in the universe, when God decided to create human beings, he wanted us to experience love. But to give us the ability to love, God had to give us free will to decide whether to love or not to love. Why? Because love always involves a choice.
  • But unfortunately, we humans have abused our free will by rejecting God and walking away from him. And that has resulted in the introduction of evil into the world.
  • Some people ask, “Couldn’t God have foreseen all of this?”
  • Think back to before you were parents, you had probably envisioned having children one day even though they may will most certainly find pain, heartache and disappointment in their lives. But you still wanted to have kids b/c you know the great joy and deep love that comes with having children as well.
  • God knew we’d rebel against him, but he also knew many people would choose to follow him and have a relationship with him and spend eternity in heaven with him. And it was all worth it for that, even though it would cost his son great pain and suffering to achieve our redemption.
  • So as we ponder the mystery of pain and evil, we need to be mindful that God did not create them.
  1. Though suffering isn’t good, God can use it to accomplish good.
  • In Romans 8:28 the Bible promises, “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.”
  • Notice the verse doesn’t say God causes evil and suffering, just that he promises to cause good to emerge.
  • Also doesn’t say we all will see immediately or even in this life how God has caused good to emerge from a bad circumstance.
  • Remember, we only see things dimly in this world. And God doesn’t make this promise to everyone. He makes the solemn pledge that he will take the bad circumstances that befall us and cause good to emerge if we’re committed to following him.
  • You might say, “No, he can’t bring good out of my circumstance. It’s too big, too extreme, too painful, too much…”
  • But if you doubt God’s promise, remember this… God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe—deicide (the death of Jesus on the cross) and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe: the opening up of heaven to all who follow him.
  • If God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?
  1. The day is coming when suffering will cease and God will judge evil.
  • Many people wonder: “If God has the power to eradicate evil and suffering, then why doesn’t he do it?”
  • But there’s a flaw built into the question. Just because he hasn’t done it yet doesn’t mean he won’t do it.
  • The Bible says that the story of this world isn’t over yet, the day will come when sickness and pain will be eradicated and people will be held accountable for the evil they’ve committed.
  • Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but not yet.
  • So what’s holding God up? One answer is that he’s delaying the clarity in hopes that more people will put their trust in him.
  • Second Peter 3:9 reads: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
  1. Our suffering will pale in comparison to the good things God has in store for his followers.
  • Romans 8:18 says: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
  • Remember these words were written by the apostle Paul, who suffered through beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, imprisonments, rejection, hunger, thirst and homelessness—far more pain that most of us will ever have to endure.
  • It’s like having a terrible first day of the year, car wreck, broken leg, lost job, dog died, parents divorced… Really bad day. But every other day of the year you won the lottery.
  • If someone asks how was your year, you’re probably going to say it was pretty stinking good, in spite of a really crappy first day of the year. Things always seem to be less significant the farther removed you are from them.  You move one because you have to and you grow from these things.
  • It’s like the story that British church leader Galvin Reid tells about meeting a young man who had fallen down a flight of stairs as a baby and shattered his back. He had been in and out of hospitals his whole life—and yet he made the astounding comment that he thinks God is fair. Reid asked him, “How old are you?” The boy said, “Seventeen.” Reid asked, “How many years have you spend in hospitals?” The boy said, “Thirteen years.” The pastor said with astonishment, “And you think that is fair?” And the boy replied: “Well, God has all eternity to make it up to me.”
  • And he will. God promises a time when there will be no more crying, no more tears, no more pain and suffering, when we will be reunited with God in perfect harmony, forever.
  • Let the words of 1 Corinthians 2:9 soak in: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
  1. We decide whether to turn bitter or turn better 
  • We’ve all seen examples of how the same suffering that causes one person to turn bitter, to reject God, to become hard and angry can cause another person to turn to God, to become more gentle and more loving and more tender, willing to reach out to compassionately help other people who are in pain.
  • Some who lose a child to a drunk driver turn inward in chronic rage and never-ending despair; another turns outward to help others by founding Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
  • We make the choice to either run away from God or to run to him.
  • And what happens if we run to him?
  • Above I quoted part of what Jesus said in John 16:33. Now let me give you the entire verse: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. But be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
  • In other words, he offers us the two very things we need when we’re hurting: peace to deal with our present and courage to deal with our future.
  • How? Because he has conquered the world! Suffering doesn’t have the last word anymore. Death doesn’t have the last word anymore. God has the last word!
  • It was through that cross that Jesus conquered the world for us.

 In Summary:

  • Suffering is a very personal process; it demands a personal response. And God isn’t some distant, detached thing… Jesus is right there with us in the lowest places of our lives.
  • But it depends on that free will we have to accept him and love him and know him.