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?