Many question the existence of God especially when terrible things happen in their lives or in the world. Even many Christians wrestle with God’s involvement in horrific circumstances.
At the first church I pastored, a young father with two teenage daughters was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died within the year. When I was a young adult, four teenagers were killed when they were speeding down a side road and lost control of their vehicle. Billy Graham, the famous evangelist is now dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. Terrible things happen. That is a reality we all experience.
So the question is, how do we respond when difficult circumstances enter our lives? But before we enter into a discussion on when God is to blame, let’s spend a few moments looking at those things for which God is not to blame.
The first thing we need to understand is God is not to blame for the circumstances of our lives. Back in the day, counselors used to say it was all our parent’s faults that our lives were so messed up. We like to place blame.
I’ve seen how our upbringing can have an effect. I’ve talked to many adults today who have described how their parent’s divorce affects them today. Couples who go through marital stress sometimes will point fingers.
And then there are the physical things we experience. We all have physical limitations and abnormalities. Some of us wear glasses, struggle with joint issues, and are losing our hair. After playing hockey yesterday, my body ached! Is God to blame?
Of course for many of these things we can blame circumstances, genetics and how we have responded to those things. But what about all the tragedies we see and experience in the world around us? If God is above all and over all, isn’t He responsible when horrible crimes are committed?
I have been asked in the past, “If God is a loving God, why doesn’t He just get rid of all the sin in the world?” The problem with that argument is to get rid of sin or evil means getting rid of the source of sin, namely us.
God’s love for us allows for sin to exist in order that humanity might come to the realization of their need of Jesus. In Luke 13:1-3, we read this: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” God allows things to happen to point them to Him.
Too often people often viewed the way a person died was a reflection of what kind of person they were and thus how they died played a role in there eternal state. Although this may be sometimes true in some circumstances, Jesus addresses the issue that in the end, where we end up depends on our relationship with God, not our how we live our lives.
But what about accidents or unforeseen tragedies? Again Jesus points to God’s ultimate purpose of events. Reading on in Luke we see in verses 4 and 5, “Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Many people live their lives like there is no tomorrow. Eternity is something that doesn’t exist. Many of you have heard of the statement, “only the good die young.” This was based on the early demise of people like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and my childhood hero, Bruce Lee. More recently the early demise of Curt Cobain, Amy Winehouse and Heath Ledger, all continue to add to that fallacy.
I think what we are missing is we fail to recognize that God is trying to teach us that we need to be spiritually prepared for the circumstances of life. We don’t know how long we have to walk on this earth, but we do know that we have a responsibility to use this time wisely. We are given an unknown number of days. Are we using them in light of eternity or living like there is no tomorrow?
In the end, although God may not be to blame for circumstances, there is something we can blame God for. We can blame God for when He purposefully disrupts our lives. I believe God is trying to speak to us and to get our attention He will use different methods to accomplish that goal.
I can remember trying to wake up teens after a sleepover. If you’ve ever done this, you know how hard it is. Sometimes it took water or picking them up and throwing them outside in the cold. It was hard to get them moving.
And there are times when God tries to “wake us” from our slumber too. He did it with Abram, Sarai, the disciples, the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus… He even does it to us! So why does God do that?
He calls us to fulfill the purposes we were created to do. Ephesians 2:10 says, “ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” That means God has opportunities for us to impact our world and the lives of others. I think we just need to be periodically reminded of this.
A colleague of mine was about to leave his office for an important meeting when he was confronted by a very large man. He asked the man why he was there and he couldn’t really answer. He just needed someone to talk to. The pastor didn’t make it to his planned meeting. Instead he had the opportunity to lead this man to Christ.
More often than not, we don’t know or see the reason why things happen in our lives. When we encounter difficult circumstances or interruptions in our lives, we can choose to blame God or trust Him. We can choose to be angry and bitter and blame God for what is happening in our world and lives. Or we can choose to be at peace, trusting God has a purpose He wants to work out.