Is God not the author of ALL – good and bad?

Isaiah 45:7 (KJV)
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil:
I the Lord do all these things.

(This post is longer than most. Only those who have an interest or need will read it in its entirety. I apologize for its length. In the words of Mark Twain: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”)

I have had the privilege of spending time in the last year with two people who really want to believe God. People who want to tell Him they are sorry for their sins, and they want to accept Jesus’ death in their place in front of God. They want to, but they have questions…struggles…deep, emotional pain. They have been dealt some very bad things in this life.

I have also had the opportunity to sit with a newer believer with similar circumstances and have observed fellow Christians attempt to skim over their valid questions with a cheery smile, often proclaiming “trust” as the answer to all inquiries. They have announced “all things really do work for the good of those who love Him”. These types of scriptures spoken to address cancer, rape, horrible atrocities…

For those of us who have been walking this road awhile, we understand those scriptures. We still don’t understand the “why’s” in this life, but we accept and trust that when we open our eyes on the other side, God really will reveal the purpose of the unimaginable emotional and physical pain of this life. That knowledge we possess as Christians still does not ease the ache of this world.

Seekers and new believers need us to be REAL about the fact that the knowledge and relationship does not eliminate the ache.

Ignoring their questions and glossing over their deeply unfair life circumstances doesn’t seem wise to me.

Let me tread carefully when I state that one underlying issue that many tend to avoid is that – God allows and perhaps ordains some bad stuff. (See Does It Make God Evil to Ordain Evil? below.)

No one wants to tell the unbeliever that yes, God allowed this horrible thing that happened to you. It seems that our honesty would go farther than acting as though God is big in one area, but absent in another…

If we believe the God of the Holy Bible, He is the Creator, the I Am, our Redeemer. This is not Someone who leaves anything to “chance”. I do not know where our free will and His divine plan intersect. I do not know to what extent our prayers move the divine plan, if at all. (Read Philip Yancey: Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?)

There are those who sincerely accept that Jesus died for their sins. And that’s where it ends. They proceed with life as they always had, just adding church on Sundays and that works for them. But this does not work for all people. Others can’t help but bury themselves in His Word, reading the story, desperate for as many answers as they can get on this side of heaven.

Everyone is built differently, some with very deep thought processes about all that has happened to them and to others throughout history. When we joyfully respond to a seekers pain with “trust in the Lord” that leaves them thinking, “trust a God who had his Son killed?! Even if the reason was to save me, this is the plan? The good news? If He designed all, couldn’t He have designed a different way?”

They go to a deep level of thinking that back tracks into the beginning that never was for God and ask out loud, “If He created everything, then He created Satan and designed man with the knowledge that he would fall. He knew before creation that we would fall, that He would send Jesus!”

Pastors and mature believers start getting anxious in the room. “Yes, Satan was a fallen angel, so yes, God created him. There was no other way, this was God’s perfect way, by sending Christ.”

“So in creating Satan, God created evil.”

Clergy is definitely growing uncomfortable. “Well, He didn’t create evil, but more the “option” of choosing evil. Presented with a free will choice, He wants us to choose Him, not evil or sin.”

Smart, insightful, desperate-for-answers-newer believer is not satisfied. “I understand that God will judge my free will decisions and actions and I can choose to live for Him or not. I understand that there are moral choices and personal accountability.”

Someone speaks up, “God can use evil to accomplish His purposes.”

But that was not the question on the table, so it is again restated. “Genesis says there was nothing. God created everything. He’s also all-knowing. So He knew before the beginning of time that Satan would fall, take a bunch of angels with him, and embark on a seemingly endless dominance over humanity. Sex slavery, famine, diseases, child abuse…all evil, all sin, all offered by Satan. If he is created by God, God created him with sickening depravity.”

Lifelong believers in the room are silent. Newer Christian is careful but will not be dismissed with soft answers.

“Well? Is God not the author of ALL – good and bad?”

“God allows bad” someone says.

“So He is the author of evil?”

“NO!” many chime in.

The new believer’s eyes narrow, wondering what they did wrong to receive the scolding. Then, the eyes soften, wet, wanting to understand… “I believe God created everything and it was all good. But if we had the ability, the intention to choose bad, then He created us with the ability to be bad.” Pause. “God is sovereign, therefore He has the final say in what does and does not happen. When bad stuff happens, it only happens because He let it happen.”

What would you have said to this struggle? I appreciate their desperation to define their God and His ability, His creation, His sovereignty. It demonstrates that they genuinely care more than many people mindlessly sitting in pews each week, empty and void of any deep thought toward or about God.

These questions demonstrate concern and compassion for the atrocities piling up the evening news. These questions demonstrate a person who wants to put their trust in God, but fears He is dangerous to trust…

There exists a struggle between fearing irreverence before a Holy God (and judgmental Christians) and stating what appears to be obvious: God is the author – of all.

If we say to the newer believer: yes, He authors all of it, can they then move forward in their trust-relationship, their walk with Christ?

Worthwhile article from Grace to You,
authored by John MacArthur: Is God Responsible for Evil?

A brief 6-minute audio by John Piper (Desiring God) titled:
Does It Make God Evil to Ordain Evil?

Philip Yancey’s book: The Question That Never Goes Away

Selections from pages 88 and 89 from One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp:

“Isaiah 14:24, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand” (NASB). As God plans…so it stands.”

“Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?” (Amos 3:6). A good God plans everything. Everything. So a good God can only…make plans for good? He only gives good gifts? A thing of evil cannot be created by a good God?”

“All God makes is good. Can it be that, that which seems to oppose the will of God actually is used of Him to accomplish the will of God? That which seems evil only seems so because of perspective, the way the eyes see the shadows.”

“But what perspective sees good in dead farm boys, good in a little girl crushed under tires of a truck right in front of her mother’s eyes, good in a brother-in-law who buries his first two sons in the space of nineteen months-and all the heinous crimes and all the weeping agony and all the scalding burn of this world? The sun rolls across wheat warm. I lean against the windowsill and watch it. I hear the echo, truth words whispering down time’s cavern, words that Julian of Norwich heard:

See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?

“…and I won’t shield God from my anguish by claiming He’s not involved in the ache of this world and Satan prowls but he’s a lion on a leash and the God who governs all can be shouted at when I bruise, and I can cry and I can howl and He embraces the David-hearts who pound hard on His heart with their grief and I can moan deep that He did this – and He did.”

 

 

Trouble Will Come. Why Am I Surprised?

“In the world you’ll have trouble.” John 16:33

Many people draw closer to God when trouble comes. I tend to step back, surprised by it. As if I should somehow be immune. I am a passionate prayer partner for others, but struggle when it’s personal. While I lean into God for the big stuff, I can seriously fuss and step back over the smallest of “troubles”.

“…do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12

My teenager lied. Big time. But about something ridiculous. It hurt no one, nor involved anyone. The extension of a lie from months ago when we knew it, but couldn’t prove it; then unexpectedly, I caught him mid-sentence lying. I was stunned. Did I not just five minutes earlier finish reading seven glowing, all incredibly-l o n g letters of recommendation, with more on their way, for college applications later this year? Weren’t the words still in bubble comments floating through my head including “gentleman” “the finest student I’ve ever had” “respectful” “sincere” “nice to all fellow students”…and more?

All of those things are true. This 17 year old boy stands out from other kids his age because he is sensitive, smart, athletic, and thoughtful.

He is also human. But I forget that and immediately launch into crazy woman in my personal pain, feeling like a failure of a mother, wondering what I did wrong to have this child lie, hiding it for months – nonetheless about something completely inconsequential.

I wonder: do I give him room to be human? Or was I too quick with, “be sure your sin will find you out!”? I sure didn’t take two seconds to consider that I too am a liar, having been a lying teenager back in the dark ages when I was one. But! I protest silently, I’m raising them better, pray more… why, God?

It got worse. Another issue came up just as I was calming down. Nothing to do with drugs or alcohol or the usual teen nonsense. It hurt no one. Still, it wasn’t good and I was sad, and mad, and surprised – again. I considered how many days while he was at school I prayed specifically for him. And, now? His mistake – I take it personally.

“Children will lie at one time or another. The question is not if they will, but whether or not lying will become something they believe they can get away with.” Stormie Omartian

We deliver the consequence, days pass, and all I can think of is the prayer that went into this boy. I am mad at God for not responding as I had planned. I do not spend a second focusing on my son’s good or God’s good. No time thinking about the volunteering my boy does, the love he shows…that this wasn’t earth-shattering. I take no time to consider that this is part of teenage life and I am acting completely irrational. My husband tries to talk me down from the cliff, but I don’t listen. I do not consider that my daughters and my son are observing how I handle these two disappointments. I blame God silently. He could have prevented my son from lying by giving him a more truthful heart. Hadn’t I directly prayed for that?

Just then, I remember that 48 hours prior to the lie being discovered, I asked God – literally asked Him out loud – to reveal to me if my son was lying. I was tipped off by a sister in the house that there may be a lie lurking…

Okay, so maybe that prayer was answered. Directly. Prompter than most.

I settle, but continue to berate myself for subconsciously holding them to an unrealistic standard that I don’t even live up to. I berate myself for being so foolish to think that somehow my kids would be “good” 100% of the time. But oh, there is so much good. I refuse to see it. I focus on the two bad things revealed within two days.

My husband grows increasingly weary with the looming, likely job loss. We will be fine, but it’s still hard. He’s tired. So much change at work. Then, he comes home to the lunatic wife freaking out about her teenager lying. Not letting it go. He bows his head and rubs his temples and I see that I’m no Proverbs 31 woman lately.

“You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!“ Acts 7:51

Then, a 5-year old boy dies a horrible death and godly parents are in pain and we attend the memorial and my 15-year old is in mourning. She only held him at church a few times on Sunday mornings. But she knows her God and she knows He is bigger than childhood cancer and she believed Him to heal on this side of heaven. And, He didn’t. And the girl grieves like nothing I’ve seen from her. She shies away from her daily devotion and prayer time. She questions deeper than most adults. Because she cares and loves Him. She’s hurt – for herself, for the family. I watch her break down on and off and see her wrestling with God, questioning the value of intercessory prayer. I spout out the usual Christian-ease statements like, “we pray because Jesus did”. Ugh. I can’t even stand my hypocrisy as I’m mad again – mad that my baby girl is struggling with her faith. Mad at God that He still lets Satan prowl. I refuse to see that this could possibly strengthen her faith.

My friend learns that her cancer is at stage 4. I weep. He can heal this.

Another friend with a threatening ex-husband must fearfully attend court. Again. He could put this man in jail once and for all.

“The question is not: “Will you and I have these moments of loss and dizzying confusion?” The real issue is: How will we respond to these inevitable and unavoidable moments?” Ann Voskamp

I reach for my gratitude journal (see my last post) and the numbers name the “hard eucharisteo”. The tip of the pen pierces the page as my jaw clenches. No sweet sentiments about the Mama bird and her eggs that I’ve been watching and photographing daily…

My anger melts into a silent protest. I do not pick up my bible or pray formally at the morning table. I am talking to Him throughout the day, but mostly firing out questions at Him, simultaneously sorrowful over my blasphemy. He pulls at me.

“I will never leave you…” Hebrews 13:5
Ugh, but why? I’m awful right now and You’re still pulling at me?

I tire of the anger stretch, of the two-days of sobs for the grieving family, the teenage mistakes, the friends in pain, that leave the forehead ache that no aspirin can remedy. I am indifferent to prayer. What for? He pulls at me still. I scour the bookshelf and revisit, “Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?” by Philip Yancey.

I read, then skim, knowing that He is Him and I am not and I am feeling sorrowful. Much sin is our own fault. We live in a fallen world, disease entered with the first bite of the fruit and so on… Above all, some of the gut-wrenching sadness and tragedy is undeniably inexplicable on this side of heaven.

The next morning I can’t help myself. I reach for the Word, sit at the kitchen table after lunches are made and kids are finishing up their grooming for school. I don’t ask them to sit and get a blessing like I usually do.

They leave and I squirm in the seat like my own son did three weeks ago. I know better, practicing faith and living it throughout the days, but not in my personal disappointments. I believed that the prayer prevented (and still do), but free will and God’s will are very much alive. Good can, and often does, arise from the ashes. Is 61:3

And I quiet enough to learn lessons that really, I already know…

ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I am CHIEF among sinners.

Open the fist of control! There is free will and teenagers need to exercise it.

Surrender the near-adults to His care. For heaven’s sake: TRUST ME ALREADY.

Mistakes are a part of living. They are not all-encompassing of my parenting, my family, nor my teen.

Stop over-reacting. Oh Lord, forgive me! May the fruits of the spirit show up in the unwanted “surprising” moments.

Stop being surprised. Trouble will come.