I’m going to double down today.
I wrote a blog called “When You Lose Your Trust in God” some time ago and a few people have responded to it basically calling out God for His complicity in suffering. Their argument is that if God is all-powerful (which He is) then He could and should do something but because He doesn’t, He’s at fault.
I’ve engaged a couple of the people privately and have had great conversations with them about their situations and views. But there is always one point missing in their argument that I’m going to take on this morning.
This is going to sound really harsh but perhaps that is what is needed. The truth is this:
WE ARE AT FAULT FOR OUR SUFFERING NOT GOD.
All suffering comes from just a few sources:
- We suffer the consequences of our own actions – the whole reap what you sow thing.
- We suffer the consequences of other’s actions – the whole people transgressing against us thing.
- We suffer the consequences of the fall (man rebelling against God) – the whole natural disasters, fallen/sick bodies, people doing evil thing.
That’s it. God didn’t do any of this. WE DID when we rebelled against Him and decided that we knew better than He did what is best for us. We choose to go against God’s word and then we suffer the consequences.
I could be just like my new blog friends and blame God for a lot of things.
- God sat on the sidelines when I was being abused as a kid.
- God sat on the sidelines as my mother was paralyzed by MS.
- God sat on the sidelines when my dad went to jail over and over again.
- God sat on the sidelines when I was homeless.
- God sat on the sidelines when I didn’t have food to eat.
- God sat on the sidelines when I was abandoned.
- God sat on the sidelines when I was unemployed.
- God sat on the sidelines when I endured physical disabilities.
The list could go on and on. But it’s just not true.
- I was abused by people using their free will in an evil way.
- My mother’s body was fallen and thus susceptible to disease.
- My dad was an idiot and went to jail because he wouldn’t obey the law.
- I was homeless because the people who were supposed to take care of me made bad decisions.
- I didn’t eat because the person who was supposed to provide food didn’t want to work.
- I was abandoned because people involved were drunks and decided the bar was more important than caring for a child.
- I was unemployed because of decisions I made to quit or other’s decisions to let me go.
- I have physical disabilities because, like my mom, my body is a lemon.
I don’t blame God in any way because He isn’t responsible. It’s just that simple.
Now, what about Him being all powerful and having not just the ability but the responsibility to step in and help? And I’m not just talking about little things like my own personal issue but what about the big things like the Holocaust? Why didn’t God stop that?
Let me answer that question with a question: Do you like your free will? Do you like the fact you can make any decision you want to? I do – I like the fact that I can choose whatever I want to choose good, bad, or ugly. My life, my choice.
Some say we don’t actually have free will because God knows everything. Sure, He does but He’s not making you do anything – He just knows what you’re going to do. That’s not control; that’s just foreknowledge. There’s a difference.
God gave us free will for a reason. Every single relationship we have is a choice – if it weren’t it would be coercion and that’s not relationship. God gives us free will to choose a relationship with Him or not. He won’t coerce us into it. That’s why Christianity is a relationship not a religion.
Men absolutely abuse their free will, choosing not only to abandon God but to abandon what He stands for. Instead, they choose against God and do evil – EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.
So, should God take away free will? Maybe just the free will of the bad people, right? Here’s the problem with that thinking:
WE ARE ALL BAD PEOPLE!
Scripture is clear, there is not one righteous person not one! All fall short of the glory of God. If this weren’t true, then we wouldn’t need a savior – we could get to heaven on our own good graces. But that is not the case! We need Jesus because we suck and must be saved from ourselves. So, if God were to take away free will He’d have to take away all of our free will not just the so-called “bad people.”
When we say that God is at fault because He didn’t intervene what we’re really saying is God is being unfair to me because I don’t deserve whatever is happening. So, it’s God’s fault.
NO, IT’S NOT.
Just like God doesn’t take away your free will when you do stupid stuff, He doesn’t take away anyone else’s free will either – including the Hitlers of the world.
In our finite thinking, that just is outrageous! But you have to understand the bigger picture here or you’re going to really suffer in this world.
There is this thing called eternity. We all live forever – there will be a new heaven and new earth and God’s original plan of Eden comes to fruition. When you die an earthly death, you enter into an eternal life. Those of us who choose a savior get an eternal life of perfection – no more tears, no more suffering, perfection just like in the original Garden.
I have suffered in this life – I’ve suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally. God could have stepped in and stopped it, but He knows that this short little life I live here is a blink compared to the eternity I have. My eternity is such that just like Paul writes I won’t even consider the sufferings of this world of any value whatsoever.
To put it another way, God plays the long game while we play the short one. We focus on the here and now and suffer for it. God knows what eternity holds and clearly tells us in scripture to keep our eyes on heavenly things. Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this world – especially if we follow Him – but to take heart because He has overcome the world!
I’m the first to agree with people that this place sucks and can be really unfair and unjust. People are evil and we suffer for it. But to blame God instead of ourselves is a cop out.
God didn’t do anything but love us. We’re the ones who rebelled against Him; we are the ones who broke the covenant with Him; we’re the ones who transgress against each other; we’re the ones who make decisions that adversely affect ourselves and others; we’re the ones who caused the fall of perfection by choosing against God’s ways; we’re the ones who abandoned God not the other way around. We are the ones who are guilty not God.
Ever heard of the 12-Step Program? AA uses it as well as other addiction programs. The first step in all these programs is admitting you have a problem. Our faith is no different – we have to admit that WE are the problem and not blame God, Satan, or anyone else. God wants us to own our issues so that we come to the conclusion that we need a savior. Until we get through that first step there isn’t much God can do for us because we live in denial just like the addict.
That leaves one more question: Why pray if God doesn’t actually intervene?
In re-reading what I’ve written I could see how you could come to that conclusion. But I think I’d put it this way. God does intervene. Scripture says God uses all things for the good of those who love Him. Once you get your relationship straight with Him – admit you need a Savior; accept Jesus as that Savior; understand that God is God and you’re not; submit to the idea that God’s ways are not your ways; and abide in Christ for all things – God then can intervene in your life because you are one of His children. But until you do these things – when you fight Him, blame Him, accuse Him, and reject Him – there’s not much He can or will do for you.
This is hard learning. We all want God to act like we would act. We all want God to do what we consider to be the right thing. We all consider God unreasonable when He doesn’t do what we believe the Bible says He should do. But my advice is this: Look in the mirror.
In my younger days I called on God repeatedly and He didn’t answer. The reason? I had one foot firmly planted in my worldly dysfunction and wouldn’t move it toward God and instead expected God to answer me on my terms. God doesn’t work that way. He moves on His own terms, and we must move toward Him.
For my blog friends who have written me about that original blog, I know none of this will change your mind. My only hope is that you will continue to talk with God about your anger, hurt, and struggles to the point where you will submit to the idea that Jesus actually does want to help you in your lives but needs you to actually believe and have faith not based on some kind of prosperity gospel – if you do what God wants you’ll get great stuff – but based on the Gospel of eternal life – when you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that God is good you will be blessed regardless of your worldly circumstances.