Last week I wrote about why God would allow bad things to happen to people. Whether bad things were initiated by another person or by nature â€“ like a tsunami or an earthquake. I also mentioned David Pawsonâ€™s book, Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters. The book came from a three hour TV series in which Pawson was asked to answer the question in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami of 2004 that killed 230,000 people.
When I wrote about this last week none of us had any idea that a Tsunami, triggered by a massive offshore earthquake, would kill over a hundred people in Samoa and another earthquake would rip through Indonesia shortly after, killing over eleven hundred people. Death tolls are still rising as victims are discovered. This week thereâ€™s a fresh relevance to the question, and weâ€™re still looking for an answer. Why did God allow this to happen?
I also gave you three answers I felt were insufficient in the face of great tragedy:
1. Suffering is a mystery. We canâ€™t understand it because weâ€™re not God. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. Weâ€™ll never understand why God does what He does; all we can do it trust Him.
2. Sometimes God allows bad things to happen so we can step up and show our goodness in the aftermath.
3. God loves us; He is there with us in the midst of suffering, but He is powerless to stop our suffering.
For reasons I explained last week, those answers arenâ€™t good enough for me. This week Iâ€™ll share with you my best answer to the question: Why did God allow this to happen?
When we see or experience a tragedy in which innocent people suffer, either at the hands of other people or through an act of nature we believe that things like that shouldnâ€™t happen in this world â€“ that God shouldnâ€™t let those things happen to â€˜innocentâ€™ people. When bad things happen to â€˜goodâ€™ people, God gets the blame.
So is it really Godâ€™s fault?
If God is all-powerful and all-loving why doesnâ€™t He prevent bad things from happening to â€˜goodâ€™ people? And if those kinds of things happen, then He must either not be powerful enough to prevent them or not loving enough to care. Why bother serving a God like that? If we were to put the questions honestly it would be, â€˜Why bother letting a God like that serve us?â€™
I believe the question, Why did God allow this to happen? and the concept that if bad things do happen, itâ€™s somehow Godâ€™s fault, stem from the fact that we have no clue of our present situation.
For the most part, people believe that what weâ€™re experiencing right now is life, and the planet we live on is a pretty sweet spot to be. Get a â€˜Life is Goodâ€™ bumper sticker, send the kids to soccer, put a steak on the grill and kick back â€“ this is life and it feels pretty good â€¦ until something bad happens.
Where is God!? Heâ€™s supposed keep bad stuff from happening to me while Iâ€™m enjoying life! Iâ€™m a good person this shouldnâ€™t be happening to me. And since it is, God has somehow failed in his duty; what kind of God is that?
You really donâ€™t have any idea of your situation, do you?
Life isnâ€™t good. This world isnâ€™t the sweet spot in the universe. And youâ€™re not good or innocent, so donâ€™t blame God when bad stuff happens. If we got what we deserved this planet would have been an interstellar charcoal briquette a long time ago. Only by Godâ€™s grace, love and infinite patience do we even exist today.
Let me explain.
The world is broken and weâ€™re the ones who broke it â€¦ at least our great, great grand-parents did, and we inherited their genes. When Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:6) they chose a path that led to their own deaths, the deaths of all their offspring and, because they were responsible for it, the frustration of all creation (Romans 8:20). In eating from that tree they exercised their own will above the will of God. The knowledge of good and evil put them in the driverâ€™s seat. Now instead of God, Adam and Eve could decide what was good and what was evil. They passed that knowledge down to you and me.
We exercise our judgment about right and wrong, good and evil, over Godâ€™s. We call it independence â€“ He calls it rebellion. When people rebel against their king the country goes into civil war. Weâ€™ve been in a civil war with God since that day in the Garden. And thatâ€™s where we live now. Things arenâ€™t as they should be and life (as we know it) isnâ€™t â€˜goodâ€™.
Instead of asking, Why did God allow this to happen? We ought to be asking, Why didnâ€™t He just burn us to cinders and start over?
Because He is all-powerful and all-loving.
When God created Adam He created someone â€˜after His own imageâ€™; someone He could have fellowship with. And He created a place where Adam could live and rule over; a place that wasnâ€™t â€˜frustratedâ€™ by manâ€™s dominion. God even created a tree thats fruit would allow Adam to live forever. But because God wanted a friend and not a robot, He created in Adam the ability to choose. And out of all of the choices to be made in a new world there was only one that led to death.
Of course, that was the one Adam went for (Iâ€™m not letting Eve off the hook, but letâ€™s face it, Adam was in charge). From that point forward Adam was a walking dead man. So are his offspring. This world, before that moment, was a good place; now itâ€™s not. He initiated his will over Godâ€™s and not only did it lead to his and our deaths, because nature is subject to man, it led to the natural worldâ€™s â€˜frustrationâ€™ over the position Adam put it in. Things in the natural world arenâ€™t as they should be. The Bible says, â€œFor the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.â€ (Romans 8:20-21)
Weâ€™re walking dead people and we live in a world thatâ€™s broken and longs to be fixed. What weâ€™re experiencing right here and now isnâ€™t life, and the world we live in isnâ€™t as God intended it. The problem isnâ€™t that God allows bad things to happen; itâ€™s that we think this is real life and the worldâ€™s a great place to be.
Over and over again the Bible refers to life as something we havenâ€™t experienced yet. â€œBut small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.â€ (Matthew 7:14)
â€œIt is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.â€ (Matthew 18:8) â€œThe man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.â€ (John 12:25)
Why did God allow this to happen? He didnâ€™t. We did. Weâ€™re a people and a world in rebellion. Remember the parable Jesus told about the landowner who planted a vineyard, built a wall around it, installed a wine press and a watchtower, and then he rented it to some farmers and went away on a long journey? (Matthew 21:33-40) Whenever the landlord sent his people to collect the rent the farmers would beat them and toss them out without paying the rent they owed. Finally the landlord sent his son, figuring, â€˜surely theyâ€™ll respect my son.â€™ The farmers, seeing the landlordâ€™s son, figured, â€˜heâ€™s the landlordâ€™s heir; if we kill him the vineyard will be ours!â€™ And so they did.
Weâ€™re the farmers. This isnâ€™t our vineyard and our believing it is has messed things up royally. Weâ€™re not the landlord and we were never meant to be. But we pretend the vineyard belongs to us and disrespect its true owner. Then when something bad happens we ask, â€œWhy did the landlord allow this to happen?â€ Silly farmers.
In his time, the landlord will step on this rebellion and set things right. And someone is going to pay the price. As a matter of fact, Someone already has. In spite of ourselves, God loves us. But God isnâ€™t just all-loving and all-powerful, Heâ€™s all-righteous. That means the books have to balance. What Adam started brought the death penalty to all mankind. The price must be paid in order to set things right again. If we had to pay the price for our own rebellion there wouldnâ€™t be any more us. God knew that. He also knew that the only one who could pay the price without sacrificing the entire human race was His own Son.
And He offered Him up.
The next time tragedy strikes, before you ask, â€œWhy did God allow this to happen?â€ Remember what He did allow to happen; He allowed His Son to pay your debt.
We live in a war zone. And in a war zone bad things happen â€“ to the good guys and the bad guys, to the innocent and not so innocent. Things are not as they should be. But they will be one day. The landlord is coming back. Thatâ€™s when life begins. Thatâ€™s when the world really will be the sweet spot in the universe.
Iâ€™ll leave you with a quote from Pawsonâ€™s book in which he gives a possible answer to why God would allow things like the Asian tsunami to happen.
â€œI believe it was a global warning â€“ that God was reminding us of his justice, that we all deserve disaster, that we all deserve to die, even prematurely and violently. But it was also a reminder of his mercy, because he is not wiping us all out. He is giving those of us who survive even more time to repent, to think again and get right with him. The real questions we need to be asking ourselves now are these: Why do I cry out to God when I am suffering and not when I am sinning? Why do I cry out to God in terror but not in temptation? What am I really worried about in my life â€“ my discomfort or my disobedience?
â€œTurning to God and saying, â€˜God I need your help; I need you to make me into a good person so that I can live in your new worldâ€™ â€“ that is when things really begin.â€