Why does God allow bad things to happen? Do bad things happen by God’s hand? Does God bring suffering in our lives to punish us?
I am hoping to start us down the road of a healthy perspective in a two part series on these questions and the topic of suffering.
About a year ago, a close friend of mine was coming to the end of a hard year for him and his family. He had health problems that the doctors couldn’t figure out. This led to financial stress, and his job situation was not working out in a way that he was hoping for. I remember him pulling me aside and talking to me about it. He said that he was wondering if God was punishing him for poor choices that he had made in the past.
I have another friend that I grew up with. She has had health problems for the last couple of years. Her brother has had health problems for over 10 years. Her dad now has cancer. In the last few years, she has said, “God might be mad at me, and this is why these things are happening”.
Another lifelong friend of mine just told me that the most shocking thing she has ever heard in a Bible study was, “I never help people who are struggling financially, because God is obviously punishing them, and I don’t want to counteract His work in their lives.”
What is it that causes us to even consider that God would cause us to suffer, because He is mad at us or punishing us?
I believe that we currently live in a world that has pain and suffering, and God knows about it, responds to it, and calls us to respond to it. I believe that God is both turning dark situations into moments of redemption and renewal, and He is leading things to a grand finally where He will eradicate all pain and suffering after He returns (Revelation 21).
Chaos into Order – God’s Heart and Character in Action
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Heaven and Earth were created together and meant to be together). 2 Now the earth was formless and empty (Tohu va Bohu – translates to “chaos”), darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters (Mayim – Translates to dirty water/danger/violence/transitory things).
Here is what is going on in this account…
The earth is without form and utterly chaotic. It is covered with dirty, dangerous, chaotic water that God is present with and hovering over (key to realize that He is not separate from the chaos or stepped back).
This was the start of something beautiful that happened. This was the start where our creator took the chaos over the next six days and ordered it into something beautiful that He said was and is “good”. On the last day of creation, God took the dust and formed man in His image.
The famous song “This is Amazing Grace” has that beautiful line in it:
“Who brings our chaos back into order?”
By Who’s Hand?
We have to understand that the curse on the world that brought pain, death, and suffering was by human hands and not God’s (Genesis 2:17, Genesis 3).
By our hands and heart, we continue to bring destruction into this world. Because of this, Paul says that the earth groans like a woman in childbirth, and it longs for the day that it will be released from the bondage of decay (Romans 8:20-22).
Our hope is that in our suffering God is with us (Acts 27:23, Hebrews 6:19), we share with Christ who suffered at the hands of evil men (2 Corinthians 1:5, 1 Peter 4:13), and God will remove suffering once and for all in the end.
God’s goal is not to bring suffering upon us.
God’s goal is not to remove us from suffering.
God’s goal is to finally remove suffering as a possibility!
We are living in a tension of the fact that the kingdom is available through Jesus, but has not fully come yet.
Let’s look at Revelation 21:4.
4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
Often times this is read at funerals. Among the reality of death, there is a promise that by the hand of God… death, pain, and suffering will one day be no more. It gives us hope in what might be a moment of hopelessness, if we didn’t cling to this truth.
Revelation 21 and 22 were written to tie with Genesis’s creation account. Look at the first verse of Revelation 21 in light of Genesis 1.
Then I saw“a new heaven and a new earth,” (they were created together and will be recreated to be together) for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea (no longer thalassa (greek) pointing to Mayim (Hebrew) (dirty water/danger/violence/transitory things)).
What God started in the beginning will come to full completion (Total chaos to total order! Chaos ordered at creation to perfect recreation!).
This is God’s goal that He is moving all things to. His end goal is to redeem and restore creation from it’s bondage of suffering, and setup His dwelling place where we will be with Him for eternity in perfection!