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Big Questions — Part 1

The outpouring of love, prayer and compassion after Cindy Morris, whom I work with at Connexus, was involved in a car accident this week has been overwhelming.  Much of what happened with Cindy is outlined on the Connexus blog.

Among the many conversations this week, some really good questions have arisen that take us into the heart of God, suffering and life.  I thought I might spend a bit of time on the blog over the next few days answering some of the questions you asked. Feel free to enter the discussion and to ask the questions on your mind too.  (We’ll get back to the Leadership Traps series next week.)

The number one question I’ve heard is a variation on "why on earth would God let something like this happen? She’s an amazing person who is serving God.  Of all people, why her?"

The short answer is always disappointing: I’m not sure we specifically know why it happened.  We can talk about ice, a car losing control etc.  But underneath is a bigger idea of God we need to name.  I wonder how many of us still carry a picture of God as a puppeteer who directly pulls every strings in our lives? That view of God often blames God for all the bad in our lives and in the world.  (Rarely does it give him credit for good, though).

I’m not sure that’s the picture of God we get in the Bible.  Occasionally God is shown as directly causing calamity — but not often, and most often not individually. Every death or tragedy that happened in the Bible is not described as the result of an angry God harming people.  Even Jesus infers that tragedy is often random.  And the overall picture of God in the Bible is of a God rescuing people from a very present and real evil.

The Bible paints a picture of a world that was once ideal (in the beginning), became corrupted (when sin entered the world) and is in the process of being redeemed (through the cross, resurrection and second coming of Jesus). While we long for heaven, we don’t live there yet, and the world we in fact live in is one deeply scarred by sin.   If an analogy is helpful, it’s like buying a new computer that runs perfectly for a while and then gets infected by a virus.  When the virus invades it, things are still recognizable, but nothing really works like it was supposed to.  That’s what life, infected by sin, is like.  Good people get hurt.  "Bad" people live to be a 100.  It’s just corrupted.

I’m not sure we know why bad things happen to good people other than the whole system has been corrupted, and nothing is as it once was or will be. 

But — and this is a huge but — God’s redemptive purpose can be at work in every situation. The Joseph perfectly illustrates how God can take a terrible situation and use it for good.  (I talked about this principle on some length last weekend at Connexus).  Similarly, God can take all things (good and bad) and use them somehow for his glory if we submit them to him.

I think if we keep framing the question the way we usually ask it (why do bad things happen to good people or why did God let this happen), we’ll always be disappointed with the lack of an answer.

If we reframe the issue in recognition of the fact that we are still living in a fallen world, and ask it this way — what can God do in the midst of this bad situation if we offer it to him? — we might be surprised to see what can happen in our lives.

This isn’t a neat and tidy answer, but it has helped me immensely as I’ve tried to make sense of the pain in my life and the pain I’ve experience in other people’s lives and situations.

What do you think?

13 Comments

  1. mike hiscock on February 5, 2008 at 6:32 am

    If I may share an illustration that I must have heard somewhere. If we can imagine the situation of a caterpillar and a Monarch butterfly. I would suggest that regardless of the difficult life the caterpillar may have lived, it is soon forgotten by the Monarch. The caterpillar may have been missing parts or ended up in a bad cocooning spot but it still becomes a whole, beautiful butterfly.Maybe God sees us here on earth as that caterpillar. Maybe he uses our temporary form to ensure that other people are able to get to the 'Monarch' stage. As believers, if we truly trust in the Lord for an eternal future this life could be looked at as merely a temporary passage which the Lord sometimes uses to ensure that his heaven is heavily populated with breathtakingly beautiful butterflies.

  2. june stables on February 4, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I agree with Laurie, learning to trust and love unconditionally and let go of control is such a difficult ongoing battle, but in our brokeness we CAN learn to lean on God's Everlasting Love to get us through the sorrow and the pain. Jesus said "In this life you will have many troubles but fear not I have overcome the world".
    It's just that some days really are much harder than others, and we need to lean hard.

  3. diane on February 4, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    I feel that things happen because of human error not because God is causing them to happen.. I do believe that there is a plan of sorts for my life and that when these things come along it makes me realize how fragile life is, that my time will come someday and this makes me appreciate each day that much more..the people in my life who are so special just seem so much more so…when I have lost someone close to me, having God in my life has been such a help and comfort that I have been able to endure what I need to…I have not found comfort in the community you speak of as I have not joined connexus yet ….perhaps trusting humans is what I need to ask God to help me with now???

  4. Wendy & Kim Creasey on February 4, 2008 at 9:42 am

    We are so very grateful to God that we are in His family, His community and can share the good times and the challenges of life. Cindy always said she could "feel" the prayers being said for her. I know she can feel them now with God's help. We know God continues to bless this family and keeps them close to Him, always.

  5. Dave and Gen on February 4, 2008 at 9:34 am

    In past times, I used to think "Community Living" was a term used for a Government Assoc.which in those days I did not need to be a part..Am I ever learning..Community Living is not just an area of people in need, but groups of people coming together, as we have seen in Cindy's case, coming in love to serve, encourage and build one another together in Christ.God's purpose is at work in every situation in our lives..We have proved this so often.If we could only keep in step with Him all the way.. yet He is there to carry us through the difficult trials in our lives..He gives us the strength we need, but there is a condition.. We need to spend time with Him, listen to what He is saying..Be a part of a Community and then get involved in the business God has planned for our lives. Dave and Gen

  6. Laurie McNair on February 4, 2008 at 8:26 am

    When dad got sick and we started to realize that his time with us was growing short, this question kept coming up–why?! Why were our prayers for healing not being answered;why him;why now;what was the grand plan behind all of this suffering and many more questions and "disappointments" with God. I was a fairly new believer and this just didn't make sense!

    The thing that I have learned is that there is a MASTER plan. I may not like or understand why this is happening but God does. Did he want our family to suffer–no but in that most vulnerable time I learned so much;about myself, my friends, and most importantly God and my relationship with Him. I am still learning, and that is a good thing. Learning to trust and love unconditionally and let go of control is something that I struggle with. In my brokeness, I have learned to lean on God's everlasting love to get me through the valley of sorrow and pain. Some days are easier than others!

  7. Harry on February 2, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    I've read some interesting books on why bad things happen. Dobson's "When God doesn't make sense" was one, and "Disappointment with God" by Philip Yancey is another. I've come to view this world as a battle zone and in a war zone there are casualties. It doesn't mean God doesn't care, but He can't miraculously intervine all the time either. When he did that while on earth, they chased him down for the wrong reasons, to make him the king for their selfish motivations. As God is omnipotent, He's already seen all the hurt and injustices and accidents that occur in life. But if this life is just a whisper of wind in the grand scheme of life, then (just as we tend to look back at pain in the past as distant and bearable) we'll probably look at the heartaches we have suffered now in the same way when we enter His Kingdom for the long term.

    It doesn't answer the question as to why God allows bad things to happen, but it helps me mostly get through the times where the hurt has not been to deep. For those, its another struggle.

  8. Andrew on February 2, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    When people ask why is God putting me through this, the answer is he's not, he's getting you through this.

  9. Carey Nieuwhof on February 2, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Great comments on a tough question.

    Chris…neat perspective. Jesus, I think, may have addressed that when he said God makes the rain fall on the just and on the unjust, the sun shine on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5.43-37). The parable of the wheat and the weeds also explains a lot for me (Matthew 13:24-30). God tolerates the wicked because he is merciful. I feel protected under that.

  10. Chris on February 2, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    The opposite question has always been more intriguing to me – we've come up with lots of explanations on why bad things happen to good people but for me the real question is this: why do GOOD things happen to BAD people? Sinful, broken, enemies of God who live in a world where we see glimpses of beauty, grace, mercy and forgiveness.

    That question has been much more revealing in terms of the character of God for me than the question which normally gets asked.

  11. Rob pinches on February 2, 2008 at 10:41 am

    We can ask a lot of questions about the why But I would like to point out all the Things that went so right from the beginning of this whole ordeal. The fact that Martin Graham was right there within minutes; an off duty police officer and friend.
    The off duty first responder EMT which allowed for an expedited diagnosis and life flight to be called faster. The family and friends available for the kids and the fact that so many other people able to be active in their own field of expertise like Sean. I was able to go to the hospital the first few days and I watched the love for this Lady and her family pour out like a river. To know how much she is loved; Kayla and I talked and she expected only 3 or 4 people to be there. the interaction of concern for the other people in the waiting room and the prayer the continuous prayer wow and amen to those individuals that have been there from the start and have set aside their daily life without thought or hesitation. the family of God at work I know that what has happened is tragic.
    I watched the news footage as they put Cindy in an ambulance and my heart was wrenched yet again. At the same time the continued amazing things that are happening to get Cindy the right help the Right doctors at the right time we certainly see God working. We too are praying for Cindy and the Kids and we know not just believe that God will bring more miracles out of this that we will grow and be amazed from. Thanks so much for all that The church and the other people are continuing to do for this Family.

  12. Nancy MacLachlan on February 2, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I have often thought about this and have come to the conclusion that life just happens and it is what we do with life and crisis events in our life that can show us the real love, the healing power of love and faith and prayer as we journey through the experience. I don't believe God makes these things happen, but will use all things for good. In the present moment we cannot see it because God has a much bigger picture than we could ever imagine. Our prayers go out to Cindy and her family for healing, strength and love. Nancy, Josie and Lauren

  13. Dan Richardson on February 2, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Not sure if you've read it yet, but an awesome book that speaks directly to this issue is "The Shack". It's by a fellow canadian and is written in an amazing way. He just portrays the trinity in such a real, tangible and accessible way that anyone reading it will find it hard to deny God's love.

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