So here’s my take on the classic “why bad things happen to good people.” But first, a retrospective…
I began writing Peace in the Storm almost five years ago, after Elizabeth and I had gone through what we would call one of the most difficult years of our lives, but also one of the best. In the midst of the troubles we faced during that time, as I read the Bible, God provided me with what was truly a “peace which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7 NLT), and I wanted to share the Scriptures that had comforted me with the hope that they may also comfort others who were going through difficult times — and it seemed that hurting people were all around us at that time.
Of course, hurting people are always all around us — the only question is whether or not we notice them. I realized this clearly again at church on Sunday, when the pastor opened up the altar for all those who were experiencing significant pain or trials in their lives. So many people went forward that he never even got to the sermon. I remember hearing one woman bawling. I have no idea what she’s facing in her life, but there is no doubt she was feeling deep pain. Again, I remembered: hurting people are all around us. Some days it’s me who’s hurting. Some days it’s you. Some days it’s someone we know. Every day it’s people we don’t know. We’re all looking for peace in the storms of life.
And so, here’s a recent lesson I learned that I pray will bring peace to you as it did to me…
As some of you know, Elizabeth and I have been in the process of adopting for almost a year now – by “in the process” I mean having a home study done, filling out lots of paperwork, etc., on the way to getting on the waiting list of a couple of adoption agencies. So far, we’ve come close to having a baby twice, and actually, we did have a failed placement (meaning the birth mother placed her baby with us and then changed her mind) a couple of months ago. That happened before we had made any official announcement that “we have a baby!” simply because we knew we were still within that uncertain period during which the mother had that right. It was painful, but we’ve healed and we’re once again in waiting, anticipating the arrival of our baby one day – hopefully soon!
It was once again in a stormy experience — that failed placement — where I learned something about God that brought comfort to me. You see, there were several things about our match (adoption term) with that baby that made it seem to be a “God thing.” Several unusual “signs” that seemed to be a message from God saying “This is your baby!” Then it all fell apart. Have you ever experienced anything like that? What do you do? Do you question God? Wonder if He’s a liar? Just give up on “signs”? We were asking “What is God doing?” “How can He allow this to happen?” “Why?” When the adoption fell through, we had to wonder if it was ever in God’s plan at all, or if that adoption was ever in His will. Of
course I can’t speak for God, but here’s the conclusion I came to:
We live on earth, not in heaven. Things don’t always work according to His will here. Does He reign over everything? Yes, of course. But there are imperfect humans involved, too, and God gives us free will as we know. He doesn’t force anything. So all of the “signs” leading up to this adoption may have absolutely been from God. The fact the adoption fell through doesn’t mean that they
weren’t. I believe that it may very well be that it was God’s will for that baby to be adopted by us, but it was not the mother’s will, apparently, and God allows her to make that choice.
Some people were praying with us during this process. Were their prayers not heard? Does God not have the power to answer them? Of course they were heard, and God can do anything. But again, we live on earth, not in heaven. What we’ve experienced, I believe, is an example of God restraining Himself, and it must be so difficult for Him. We know God loves children, we know this child is God’s creation, and we know that our home would have been so much better for him (based on some things we learned along the way). So how could it not have been in God’s will that this child be placed in our home? Likewise, I’m sure it is God’s will that all of the hurting, suffering children around the world be placed in loving environments. But this is earth. This is not heaven.
Jesus prayed that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). If God’s will being done on earth “as it is in heaven” were a given, that prayer would not have to be spoken. In heaven, everything will work perfectly according to God’s plan – and what an awesome thing that will be! – but as long as we are here, we have to live with the consequences of our original sin which changed everything.
Is this a comforting message or a depressing one? It’s comforting to me because it’s real, and I think sometimes our Christian beliefs are missing a dose of reality. We don’t need any more “Christianese.” That only leads us to get mad at God, or to give up on Him. To those who were praying with us, I would say: Don’t question the importance of prayer. Don’t question whether or not you said the right words. God is God, worthy of all praise. He is not to blame. We started this. He gave us (as humans) the highest responsibility, and we blew it in the Garden. Now here we are.
God still loves us. He still hates to see us hurt. That’s why He sent His Son to save us. Things are not as they are in heaven. As long as we’re here on earth, we’re going to have to live through some pain. He will still be right beside us, though, and He gives us peace and comfort to endure. And just as He has been working to save that little boy since before he was born, I know He will continue. Remember, “…we know that God causes everything to work together for the good…” (Romans 8:28 NLT) He is the great Redeemer!
Thanks, as always, for reading. I’m praying for peace for you.