Quit Blaming God!
I have a feeling I might step on some toes with this one, but I hope that already in the short lifespan of this blog one can sense the heart with which I write. I do not write to be malicious or to point fingers. I do not write to pass judgment on brothers and sisters. And yet, there are some topics that come up from time to time in discussion that can ruffle feathers. This is probably one of those topics. I also really want to emphasize that I don't have all the answers. But I feel the need to bring some balance to this topic.
Lately, it seems that when listening to radio preachers, or when listening to Christian music, there is a strong and frequent emphasis on how God brings trials and tribulations into our lives in order to shape our character. The conclusion is always the same -- don't question anything that's going on in your life, no matter how bad, because it's something God has designed just for you in order to accomplish His desires in your life.
Lines of songs say things such as:
- "I will follow You through dark disasters" (i.e., God is leading us into and through these disasters)
- "This broken road prepares Your will for me" (i.e., God designed this broken road to walk on because it's the only way to get you to the place He wanted for you)
- "In my brokenness, I see this was Your will for me" (ditto the one above)
- "You give and take away" (more on this later)
- "Sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms His child" (there is probably a whole post that I could write on this song alone, but suffice it to say I wish someone would show me in Scripture one example of where God did not calm the storm...)
And I've heard preachers making comments like:
- "Don't look to get out of the situation. Look for what you can get out of the situation." (very clever. But cute doesn't mean truth.)
- "When these situations come into your life, don't immediately look for the way out. Instead, accept it as something that God has designed for you to go through."
- "Don't be surprised at the things that go wrong in your life. Jesus said, 'In this world you will have tribulation.'"
Now, I recognize that some of these statements are either direct quotations from Scripture (in the case of God "giving and taking away", taken from Job) or are on the surface based on Scripture (many point to Paul's "thorn in the flesh"). But does that mean they are accurate and true statements?
As an absurd example of my point, one could quote Scripture by saying "There is no God." But the full context of the verse says, "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God'". What a difference context makes. Now, I'm not saying that the arguments put forth on this current topic are that absurd. In fact, on the surface, many of them seem to make some sense. But the question I have is, to what conclusion does that lead us? And with relation to context, as I mentioned in a recent post, what is the context of the whole Bible tell us about our conclusions?
We must look at the context of the entire Word of God in order to gain some perspective on this. Does the Bible teach us that God regularly brings difficulty into our lives in order to "teach us something"? Can we look at Paul's "thorn in the flesh" or Job's suffering and conclude that the normal Christian experience is for many difficult things to come into our lives?
Let's look at Job, first of all. Job made a statement that "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away." And his response to that assumption was, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." While I certainly applaud Job for still choosing to bless the Lord (although one could argue that in later chapters, he seemed to move away from blessing the Lord and instead chose to call the Lord to account, a move that brought him much humiliation when God actually showed up to answer his challenge!), we have a perspective on Job's situation that Job did not have when he made his statement. That perspective is what the Holy Spirit chose to record for us in the opening of the book. If you read the beginning of Job, who was it that took everything away from Job? Was it God? No! It was Satan!
Now, I realize, many will be jumping up and down saying, "But God allowed it." OK, I do not argue with God allowing it. But let's make one thing clear. Allowing does not equal causing. Regardless of whether or not God allows things to happen, we should not jump to the conclusion, then, that God causes that thing to happen! At least to my mind, there is a world of difference in perspective between sovereignly allowing something to happen (in other words, nothing takes God by surprise) and actually causing it to happen.
When Satan took all of those physical belongings and family from Job, Job proceeded to blame God for it. "The thing that I have feared has come upon me." In other words, Job wasn't fully convinced that God was going to protect Him anyway. He saw God as some capricious Being Who just did what He felt like on any given day. That is not God's character as revealed in Scripture. Perhaps I am missing something here, but I cannot seem to find one example in Scripture (apart from Christ, Whose suffering was a substitutionary suffering on our behalf -- more on that in a moment) where God capriciously turned His power against a righteous person. We are righteous if we are in Christ, so why would we conclude that God regularly brings things into our lives that hurt us?
Perhaps the bigger issue, however, that I have with all of this teaching that is so prevalent today is that it makes a grave mistake in interpretation of Scripture. That mistake is to equate Scriptural mentions of "trials" or "tribulations" with anything that goes wrong in our life. Some examples that I have actually run into:
- Someone battles depression, and is told that God is taking them through this battle against depression in order to strengthen them or teach them something. Therefore, they shouldn't ask for, or expect, deliverance from it because God will not deliver them until what He wants to accomplish is complete.
- Someone struggles with a destructive habit, and says that they want God to deliver them from it, but claim that He hasn't done so yet. They maintain that He is teaching them to trust Him completely before taking this destructive (might as well call it what it is: sinful) habit away from them. The conclusion: It's not His will for them to be freed from this sin yet. (Does anyone else see the danger here?)
- Someone is experiencing financial hardship. They maintain that God is "testing their faith" by seeing if they really truly trust Him. Therefore, it is God's choice for them to be facing this difficulty.
- Someone experiences a life-altering physical injury and decides that this is their "thorn in the flesh" and so they say that they don't want God to heal them from it. They claim that they are better off with this injury, and that it would be detrimental to their faith and relationship with God for them to want to be delivered from what God has apparently deemed best for them.
Now, I'm not, not, not criticizing these people. Please believe me!! But I am concerned that they are held captive by a false reasoning that leads them to believe God is something He is not. Several lines of reasoning begin to emerge from this way of thinking:
- Whatever comes into my life is designed by God. Therefore, I will not question it.
- I will not seek to get out of this situation because I don't want to "short circuit" God's design for my life.
- Jesus said we would have tribulation. This seems like tribulation to me. Therefore, this is exactly what I should expect to happen.
- God works all things together for my good. Therefore, He must have designed this trial for my own good.
But in all of this, we miss the very critical truth of what "trials" and "tribulations" are. As defined in the context of Scripture, we get a very clear picture of trials and tribulations as something that come to us from the world who hates us because of our faith in Christ. For example, Jesus said, "In this world, you will have tribulation." He did not say "In me, you will have tribulation." He was talking in context of how He was leaving us in the world. But by the same token, He also exhorted us to "Be of good cheer because I have overcome the world." In other words, the world is going to hate you and mistreat you if you truly identify with me, but I've already overcome those powers on your behalf, so it does not need to negatively affect you!
Additionally, Peter and James write separately to believers who were being persecuted for their faith. They told them, "Don't be surprised at these things." What things? Loss of job because of company layoffs? Physical injury due to falling off of a bike? Depression in their spirits? No! They were talking about people being ridiculed, mocked, beaten, tortured, killed because they took a stand for Christ! (Tell the Christians in prison or worshipping underground in China that we experience trials and tribulations here in America. Somehow, I'm not sure they'll really feel like you can identify with them.) Not once did Jesus, Peter, James, or anyone else say, "Take joy because this is something God has designed to make you a better person." In fact, in the context of these writings, James actually says, "Now when you're tested, don't say that you're being tested of God." Somewhere along the line, we seem to have overlooked that bit of crucial instruction!
Finally, before I shut my mouth and wait for the arrows to fly back at me (just joking), let me address one other aspect of this. Many times when people want to explain why all these bad things happening in our lives are really God's design for us, they point to Jesus. "Look at how much He suffered," they say. "Look at all that God allowed Him to go through. He was actually nailed to the cross, and He took it all because He knew it was the Father's plan."
Yes. That is correct. But we must not stop there. Remember that the reason Jesus did that was because He was taking our place! He didn't do it simply as a model so that we would see how we should act when God deals out judgment to us. He did it so that God would not pour judgment out on us! Isaiah says it best: "He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows." So if we think that we still have to walk through things in order to become what God desires of us to be, we might as well say that the sacrifice Christ made was a waste! Now, if we choose to remain in a place where we are not experiencing all that Christ made available to us, that will result in depression or difficulty in our lives. But that's not something God designed for us to walk through! That's something He has already set us free from, but we choose not to walk in freedom.
Jesus said that the enemy is the one who comes to "steal, kill, and destroy." (This is exactly what the enemy did in Job's life.) But Jesus came to "give life and more abundantly." So when something comes into your life that seeks to pull you down, don't blame God! Rather look to the One Who is capable of lifting you above any circumstance. As Paul said in Colossians, "set your mind on things above, not on things of this world." God will most definitely use any circumstance in your life to bring about good in you and His own glory. But don't just say, "This is God's plan for me, and therefore I will not choose to fight against it at all." And definitely don't just assume that it's a "trial" that should be expected. Peter said that if you're suffering for doing wrong, you can take no joy in that. But if you're suffering because of your identity with Christ, then you can rejoice.
I don't know if all that makes much sense. I hope so. And I hope I don't regret posting this one. But I felt it needed to be said.
Until next time,