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When Things Go Wrong

 

When Things Go Wrong
 
In January of 2010 the horrible earthquake ravaged Haiti. It was estimated that several hundred thousand people died, not counting injuries and hardships brought upon thousands more. 
 
A few days after the tragic earthquake, I was listening to a radio talk show. The discussion revolved around the question of God and the occurrence of evil. I tuned in just as a woman began to speak. She said that her neighbor had experienced the tragic and accidental death of her child. The distraught mother said to her, “Christians say that God sends His angels and protects us. But what comfort is that to me, when my child died? Where was God for me?”  
 
Having contemplated the words of this despondent mother, the neighbor now called the talk show. With all the evil in our world, where is God? Her conclusion: There is a God, but He does not intervene in everyday life. He is in heaven, far away and removed from us. He is much like a mother who sends her children out the front door to play, turns around and walks back inside to read a book. What happens out there in the world just happens.
 
The tragedy in Haiti and the distraught mother’s loss of her child, as well as your own personal tragedies, cause us to ask the question: In view of all the evil in the world, where is God? What should we think of God When Things to Wrong?
 
There are a couple alternatives to the Christian and Biblical answer to evil.
 
THE ANSWER OF SECULAR HUMANISTS/ATHEISTS
 
The atheist will answer:
This loss of life is a tragic occurrence. But no one is to blame, for there is no God. Nor are there any angels, nor any special soul in man. All that exists is matter. Yes, we live on a dangerous planet, and by chance things will happen. The best we can say is that the most fit will survive, as man continues to ascend the evolutionary ladder.
 
Instead of looking to God to intervene to help when troubles threaten us, humanists believe: “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.” [Humanist Manifesto II]
 
The answer of the atheist to the problem of evil is: Don’t blame God, because He doesn’t exist. Just do the best you can.
 
THE ANSWER OF COSMIC HUMANISTS/NEWAGE PROPONENTS
 
The idea behind Cosmic Humanism is that there was once a great God-cloud, a great God-consciousness. There was a disruption in the God-cloud and the result was a splintering off of individual souls, that is, your soul and mine. And that is the problem of our world: we don’t realize that we are all a part of the great force, the great God-cloud. We are god. And when we learn that, we will be more kind and loving toward one another.
 
In addition, the Cosmic Humanist, or New Age believer, says,.
The soul is eternal, and will migrate to another body after death [so-called “reincarnation]. If you live a good life in this world, you will be reincarnated on a higher level. If you live a bad life, you will suffer in the next life.
 
Actress Shirley MacLaine wrote,
Whatever action one takes will ultimately return to that person – good and bad – maybe not in this life embodiment, but sometime in the future. And no one is exempt… [Out On a Limb, p.96,111]
 
In other words, the people in Haiti suffered for their wickedness in a previous life. If they die, it is not the end of the world. Their souls will migrate to another body where they will be able, hopefully, to live a better life, progress to the higher consciousness and realize that they are god. 
 
Neither of the above two world views are inviting to me. The first offers no real explanation to the problem of evil, except that it is there and we have to deal with it as best we can. The second explanation says that when evil falls our way, we are simply getting what we deserve.
 
THE ANSWER OF THE CHRISTIAN
 
The Christian looks to the Bible for the answer to evil. 
 
1.       Adam and Eve Spoiled God’s Perfect Creation, Bringing Death and Corruption into our World
 
The Bible states that God is Creator of a perfect universe that was corrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve. (See Genesis chapters 1-3.) Sadly, the inclination to sin was then passed down to their descendents, and also to us. God moaned over this, saying in Genesis chapter 8, “Every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood” (v.21). Many of the world’s evils stem from the sinfulness and selfishness of individuals: shoppers steal, parents abuse, children disobey, neighbors gossip, enemies war.
 
In addition, after Adam and Eve sinned, God cursed the ground, saying,
Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground… (Genesis 3:17-19)
 
The Apostle Paul wrote that the creation itself is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22). And it waits for the day when Jesus will come again; and the creation will be freed from “its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (v.21). God will destroy this present, fallen world, and make a new heaven and a new earth where there will be no more pain or suffering or death (Revelation 21:1-5; II Peter 3:13).
 
Tornadoes in Oklahoma, hurricanes in New Orleans and earthquakes in Haiti are testimony to the fact that we live in a fallen world, a world spoiled by sin and ready to collapse. It is a visual reminder of the sad consequences of human sin and our need for a Savior.
 
2.       Disasters in Nature are Signs of the Nearness of Christ’s Return
 
In addition, these earthly disasters are signs of the nearness of Jesus’ Second Coming. In speaking of the signs of His Coming, Jesus said,
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. (Matthew 24:7)
 
Every time we hear of an earthquake, a flood, a hurricane, or another disaster, we are to think, “The time of Jesus’ Coming is drawing near. I must prepare.”
 
3.      Disasters Give God’s People Opportunities to Serve Others
 
At the same time, these disasters give us opportunities, as Christians, to give visible proof of our love for Jesus. For He said, in the Matthew, chapter 25,
I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me. (Matthew 25:35,36)
 
Christians will ask, “When did we do these things for You, Jesus?” He will respond,
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (v.40)
 
4.      On Some Instances, Disasters Can Be God’s Judgment upon Rebellious Sinners
 
This is a little more difficult to say, but it is still true. God sometimes carries out His wrath upon people who sin in rebellion against Him and refuse to repent. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (1:18).
 
Think of the universal Flood (Genesis 6-8), of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), or Herod Agrippa I [grandson of Herod the Great] who died when an angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not give praise to God (Acts 12:23). 
 
These events teach us that we must always be humble and ready to confess our sins, and receive forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ.
 
5.      Disaster Is Not Necessarily the Result of a Specific Sin
 
Yet, we must be very careful not to assume that suffering is the result of a person’s sinning. For example, if your spouse, or your son or daughter dies at an early age, or if you live with a specific illness, it is not to be assumed that you are suffering for some specific sin of yours. 
 
Jesus once saw a man born blind. His disciples asked Him,
“`Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ `Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, `but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” (v.1-3)
 
Then Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. He told him to wash in the Pool of Siloam. He went, and washed, and came home seeing. 
 
This man’s illness was Jesus’ opportunity to heal him and display His glory as God in human flesh!
 
The suffering of Job teaches the same point. God said that Job was “blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Yet, Job’s enemies carried off his oxen and donkeys. Then a fire came from the sky and burned up his sheep and servants. Other enemies carried off his camels. Finally, a building collapsed and killed Job’s ten children.
 
None of this happened because of Job’s sin. But, “in all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).
 
6.      Disasters Are God’s Reminders That We Are All Sinners Who Need to Repent
 
Once a tower fell upon some people in Jerusalem, killing 18 people. Jesus asked His disciples,
“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.” (Luke 13:4,5)
 
The people who died when the tower fell were not more evil than the other people living in Jerusalem. No, all the people were sinful, and all of them needed to repent and receive God’s forgiveness.
 
7.      God Promises to Turn our Sufferings into Blessing
 
One of the greatest answers of the Bible to the question of evil is found in God’s promise, recorded in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 
 
An example of this truth can be found in the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. (See Genesis 37-50.) His father favored him more than his eleven brothers and gave him a coat of many colors. One day Joseph was sent to find out about the welfare of his brothers, who were shepherding sheep. When they saw him coming, they conspired against him, took his robe and threw him in a pit. Then they sold him to some merchants on their way to Egypt. Joseph ended up as a slave in the house of Potiphar. Yet, the Lord was with Joseph and blessed everything he did. (Genesis 39:2)
 
Yet, more grief was to come his way. Potiphar’s wife was attracted to Joseph and tried to seduce him. When Joseph refused because of his reverence for the Lord, she cried to her husband that Joseph had made advances on her. This landed Joseph in jail. Yet, the Lord continued to bless him. (Genesis 39:23)
 
By God’s special wisdom, Joseph was able to explain a troubling dream to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. There would be seven years of good harvests and plenty of food, followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh appointed Joseph as second in command of all of Egypt.
 
Eventually Joseph’s brothers came before him to find food for their own families. Joseph was able to lead his brothers to repentance for their sins, and they were reunited in love. At the end of the book of Genesis, at the death of his father, Joseph made this statement to his brothers:
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)
 
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” But it may be some time, even many years, before we understand God’s goodness. Or, we may never understand until God explains it to us in the life to come.
 
“The story is told that during a war in Europe a father and his child were fleeing from the enemy. During this flight the father took shortcuts through rocky and thorny hills. Repeatedly the child tried to ask the father why they were going this way, since it would be so much nicer walking on the road. But, lest the enemy might hear them, the father would only say, `Be still, my child.’” 
 
“When they at last came to a place of safety, the father explained to the child why they had come that way. Then the child understood the love and wisdom of the father.” 
 
“God may lead you through paths of difficulties, and when you ask why, He may, for the time being, say in effect, `Be still, My child.’ But someday we shall understand the wisdom and love of our heavenly Father.” (“When Things Go Wrong in Life,” Concordia Tract Mission, St. Louis, MO)
 
8.      God’s Greatest Blessing Came through Suffering
 
God is not insensitive to our suffering. In fact, our Lord Jesus, who is God in human flesh, lived among sinful people and suffered the abuse that men heaped upon Him. The prophet Isaiah foretold of what Jesus would experience:
 
He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
 
Jesus was arrested and put on trial. Though innocent of all wrongdoing and declared so by Pontius Pilate, he was handed over to His enemies to die. But God the Father had a special purpose in His death, a death that benefits both you and me. Isaiah said,
 
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
 
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4,6)
 
You have scars. But God has scars, too. Jesus bled and died, not for any sins of His own, but for your sins and my sins. Isaiah said that He took our sins upon Himself; He suffered the death we should have died, the punishment we deserved; He “took the rap” for you and me. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). 
 
But death could not contain our Lord Jesus. He rose from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. He did so by His almighty power as God. This moved His disciple, Thomas to exclaim and confess, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).
 
9.      Our Present Suffering Will Be Replaced and Surpassed by Eternal Joy
 
Finally, our present sufferings will be replaced by eternal joy forever. The Jesus who rose from the dead has ascended to heaven and will return for us. He promised,
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am going. (John 14:4)
 
Jesus will come again and raise up our dead bodies to life, power and perfection, by His might. He promised, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies,…” (John 11:25).
 
The Apostle Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Paul also wrote,
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Philippians 3:20,21)
 
Suffering is unavoidable in this fallen world. Our world is rotten with human sin, our own sin also. It is creaking and cracking and will finally be destroyed. But the great sin-problem has been overcome by our Lord Jesus, who took our sins upon Himself, paid the penalty for us, freed us from sin and has forgiven us fully, completely and forever. 
 
Our eternal future is with Him. And when He comes again in glory to take us to be with Him forever, then all evil will be taken from us. We will become perfectly holy – we will sin no more. And the new earth will be perfect and harm us no more. There will be “no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
 
“He who testifies to these things says, `Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
(Revelation 22:20)
 
Scripture quotes are from the New International Version of the Bible.
 
 
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