A man is awoken in the middle of the night by a figure at the foot of his bed. It is Jesus Himself, who says, “I am sending you to another city, where the thing you have waited for will come to pass. But it is no longer safe for you here; if you remain, you will only find difficulty and heartache.” At that moment, Jesus disappears and the man falls fast asleep. The next morning, the man remembers the event vividly, God’s words as clear as crystal. But he has many ties to the community, and he likes it here, where he lives. He decides instead to remain where he is at. And in a few months, he finds himself enduring tragic and difficult circumstances, just as God said he would.
Is it ever possible the bad we experience is not God’s will? The answer is yes . . . and no.
We have been discussing the topic of God’s sovereignty over the past few weeks. I have been contending that God is responsible for not only the good but also the bad in our lives, at least what we consider bad. But I now wish to ask the question: Is it ever possible the bad we experience is not God’s will? The answer is yes . . . and no. This dual answer, which I shall explain in a moment, actually provides us much insight into how God can be good in the midst of our difficulties.
Like the man in our story, there is clearly a case for the suffering that God does not intend, but the suffering we choose. In this sense, it is quite possible for all of us to find ourselves in difficulties that were never God’s will for us.
On the other hand, there is a difference between the circumstances God intends and the circumstances God ordains. When we make decisions that are not God’s best for us, God does not cease to exist, nor are the circumstances we find ourselves in a place where God is not. The path of difficulty we choose through poor decisions is built and maintained by the same hands as the path of peace and prosperity, and those hands are God’s. In this sense, even the suffering we choose is His will.
What this means is that the God who is infinitely good can in fact be responsible for bringing about bad things. These two concepts are in fact not inconsistent, and the reason they are not inconsistent is us: We have a vital role to play in the circumstances that God brings about. If we choose what is right, we experience God’s best; but if we choose otherwise, God is still good and just to bring about the difficult circumstances that in a sense, we ourselves chose.
In one sense, this whole idea is very basic and obvious. But it is interesting how quickly this is forgotten when the question is asked, “How can a good God allow bad things to happen?” We suddenly forget we have a role to play in the answer to that question. We instantly view ourselves as mere victims in life, and God the sole initiator, as we set out to answer the question. But as with most questions, this question cannot be properly answered without its premise being properly understood.
God is good, even in the difficulties we bring about ourselves through poor choices. But what is the good that God desires, that we might choose the path of peace and prosperity? The answer might surprise you.
And there is another question: What role does God play on the path of difficulty? Is His message to us along that road, “You made your bed; now you can lie in it”? Hardly.
We will explore these and more questions in the coming weeks.
But let me leave with the question: Do you believe that if God allows bad things to happen, even through our own poor choices, that He is still good? I welcome your comments. 🙂