September 11, 2014
There was a tragedy in our community today. A young person committed suicide right at school. About midday I started to receive some text messaging from concerned parents about it – parents from families I pastor. The gist of the messaging was of this nature:
“My children don’t understand. Why did God let this happen? Why did He not intervene? Why didn’t He help that child? They want to know. They don’t understand”
Perhaps you ask these questions too?
There was tragedy in our community today; but there was a lot of tragedy all around the world today as well. Christians were driven from their homes. Children were kidnapped and sold into slavery. War and brigandage claimed countless lives. Disease and want did much damage to the body, mind and soul of good people.
Why did God let that happen?
There is an answer to the question. The answer requires some insight to understand and some maturity to hear. I am afraid that when you are suffering the pain of loss and are emotionally engaged in the process of mourning high-browed intellectual explanations of the reasons for human suffering are unwelcome and seem a bit pompous and cold.
I am not a cold clinician and I am not a stone. I weep for humanity and I live in the fray everyday just like you do. I suffer loss.
I will, however, as clearly as I can spell it out for you; and you will forgive me if my explanation seems a bit abrupt or detached.
So here goes.
The reason you are here in Earth is to make a decision. That is your purpose. You are not here to enjoy yourself, although you may; and you are not here to spend your life foraging for and accumulating material possessions, although most do; and you are not here to devote your life to procreation, although this seems to be an obsession that spans many cultures.
You are here to make a decision. The decision you are here to make is for God’s righteousness or your own. Put another way, the decision you need to make is whether or not you will affirm God’s sovereignty and His right to make the holy standards of right and wrong and will you unite with Him in common purpose to uphold that standard thereby willingly making yourself accountable to Him as Lord. This is a decision for life and an eternity of perfect relational unity with God.
A decision to distain God’s sovereignty or a refusal to make a decision or a denial of the necessity of decision is a choice to forge your own course away from God, disunited relationally. It is a choice for death. It is a choice for death because only in unity with God is there life. Life cannot sustain independent from God.
To be valid, this decision must be made without coercion or manipulation. It must be a genuine choice made only with the objective intellectual capacities God has given you based upon your analysis of the evidence and data points present in the environment of Earth.
Coercion means that the decision cannot be compelled with force or threat. A compelled decision is no decision at all. God will never intervene in the environment and force you to be good or loving.
Manipulation means that the decision cannot be coaxed on the basis of reward or favors or the withholding thereof. Nor can your salvation be based upon works, as if in return payment for some homage rendered. That’s not a decision. That is action out of necessity the same as a threat, as one needs to earn their daily bread to survive or action based upon self-gratification, as we find the blessings of God gratuitous.
If God intervened in the world and rewarded every good deed with a material or social reward or if God intervened in the world and withheld or prevented every negative consequence that might ensue from a bad decision we might make or even if God intervened and punished the wicked, people’s behavior would be based upon reward and punishment, like that of the family dog. Our behavior would not be based upon attitudes of the heart or our loving regard for God based upon His Holiness, but it would be totally self-seeking.
This is, in fact, the devils accusation against God and Humanity as recorded in the Book of Job (see Job chapters one and two). In the opening chapters of Job, satan, after evaluating the works of God, comes before Him and contends that the only reason that anyone upholds God’s sovereignty is because of the rewards for doing so. The devil contends that if the blessings that God had bestowed on Job, a righteous man, were withheld and rescinded and if his health was adversely affected he would disassociate himself from God and even turn on Him. In other words, Jobs loyalty was manipulated and therefore shallow and in-genuine.
In the account, Job stands in the place of all God’s people. Job is representative of all of us. Job maintains his relational position with God in spite of all the suffering and loss. Although he does not understand WHY events are unfolding as they are, he nevertheless maintains God’s right as sovereign to control the environment as he sees fit. Job does this based upon his intellectual affirmation of God’s righteousness and not on his own reasoning based upon self-interest. Job’s love for God is, therefore, genuine and un-manipulated and consequently a valid decision for God.
Note that all of Job’s friends in the story evidence a relational understanding of God based upon punishment and reward. The Good are rewarded, the evil perish and suffer.
As the children of the families I pastor noted today, this is manifestly not the case in the world. The good and the innocent often suffer and die and the selfish are rewarded . . . and they ask – WHY.
And the answer is that God is not going to intervene in the environment manipulatively or coercively any more today than he did at the time of Job.
Note further in the story that satan is responsible for Job’s afflictions. Understand this – the hubris of the adversary is the source of human suffering.
Soon the present darkness will end. In the story of Job, after he had successfully endured his testing, God blessed him more abundantly than ever.
Soon the wicked will be no more, neither will there be morning nor outcry nor pain, as the former things will have passed away (Rev 21). The righteous will stand in that day, along with Job, and like him they will do so because the tested quality of their faith is genuine and based in love and not a faith that has been coerced or manipulated by threats or the application or withholding of favors and benefits.
Like Job, God’s children will be blessed – not as a wage for services rendered – but as grace.
My dear children; that is why God did not intervene in the life of your schoolmate. It is not because he does not care. God loved Job. God loves you and your friend too.Your friend was free. That is a great gift. His free decision was tragic. Soon the abuser and manipulator of the hearts and minds of God’s free children, who prompts negative decisions like this, will be dealt with and tragedies like this will be a thing of the past.
Come Lord Jesus.