“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give him advice? And who has given him so much that he needs to pay it back? For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36 NLT
Paul finishes his musings about the greatness of God with the thought that God holds everything in its place through His power and for His glory. Of course, we know that God is good and nothing bad can come from Him, don’t we? Surely to do what we perceive are “bad things” must be impossible for Him. However, God receives much blame for the negative things that go on in the world. For the wars. For someone’s illness. For a mugging in the street. Because it’s raining on a summer holiday. Blame is aimed at Him, whether trivial or serious. Even insurance companies refer to an uninsured loss as an “Act of God”.
We pilgrims know that sometimes God disciplines His people, either corporately or individually. At the time we might think that God is capriciously dealing out some form of punishment for our misdemeanours, and we mistakenly feel that God is not good anymore. But in Hebrews 12:5-6 we read, “And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child””. God is always seeking our highest good, and when we stray off the narrow path, He will never hesitate in drawing us back to the right way, even if it involves us in some pain. And we have Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them“. Scripture tells us that God dispenses good gifts. We read in James 1:17, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow”.
So where does all the bad stuff come from? Can any of it be attributed to God? Obviously one source is sin and another is from the devil, although we can read Old Testament accounts of God allowing, or even making, bad things to happen. He may even initiate them for His redemptive purposes. Or bring them in judgement, as we saw in the Old Testament accounts of the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. We also know that God abhors sin, but allows it to run its course, for now. We may observe, read about, or even experience, an illegal act, such as an assault, which would violate God’s moral code. Surely He should intervene or at least, bring some form of punishment? But we know that one day Books will be opened and everyone who has ever lived, or will live, will have to account for their deeds, facing into the consequential punishment for their actions. We should note, however, that we sometimes confuse bad things with immoral things – God’s morality is above reproach.
The other difficulty we have when considering the bad stuff that happens to people, is that, although it may happen by accident, it may not be stoppable. As an example, a friend of mine tripped over in his garden yesterday and banged his head and cut his arm in the process. Should God have stopped that happening? Accidents happen in our world, whether we like it or not. Although God is of course capable of stopping them, and may do so from time to time, we cannot expect Him to intervene at every occurrence. What about natural disasters? Should God have stopped the recent earthquake in Turkey? The Revelation account tells us that this may be one more sign of the End Times.
The conclusion we can draw from Scripture is that God will give us gifts that are good. A sinful world suffers bad things, but in this time of God’s grace we can assure ourselves a future that is going to be good and perfect. God holds the world together for His ultimate glory, but He allows mankind to make its choices. And choosing sin will inevitably bring bad stuff to our world. Through Jesus, the ultimate “Good Gift”, we can find forgiveness for our sins. And through it all, we give God the glory that is rightfully His. We may not fully understand why things happen, good or bad, but we trust God, because only He can see the end from the beginning, and every stage in between.
Dear Father God. Only You know the words of eternal life. Only You can be trusted in this sin-tainted world. So, we thank You for Your grace and love – where would we be without it? Amen.