Why Would God Allow This?

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Sam has a nice post in response to someone who asked her why God would give us two autistic children. I should first note that we have no idea why Isaiah is just beginning to talk as he approaches age three. Most of what we understand is largely repetitive but indistinctly enunciated. Most of it sounds like gibberish, but he might be saying things, and he might not be just repeating things but simply can't say them in a way we can understand. It may just be that the ones that sound like repetition are the only ones we can understand because they occur in a context when we've just heard the thing he's repeating. It might be autism-related, and given Ethan's diagnosis of autism it's more likely that than any one other explanation, but we have no idea. He might just be delayed in speaking with problems enunciating. He doesn't have any other indications of autism besides some signs that there might be sensory issues, and those may explain the delay in speech on their own.

She asks a few questions that people don't tend to think about, and I want to reiterate some of them but also introduce some elements that seem to me to make it a much more complicated issue. We tend to wonder why people might have bad things happen to them, but we don't wonder why good things happen. When this comes from a sense of deserving the good things, it explains why people do one and not the other. Sam says:

How often do you hear someone speculate about why God allowed them to wake up in the morning? Or why God gave them a roof over their head? Or provided them with good health and daily sustenance? Just about never. Why? Because we consider these things to be our due. If we were a little less self centered I think we'd realise that we don't deserve any of the good in our lives.

She goes on to point out that it's radical patience on God's part to spare us at all and allow things to go on long enough for people to repent and for more people to come into existence who will repent.

This is certainly what a Christian should say. When we wonder why bad things happen to us as if we deserve better, we're not thinking in light of the Christian gospel. Deservingness is often not the reason why bad things happen. In John 9, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. People were speculating about whether his blindness was because of his sin or his parents' sin, and Jesus flat-out told them that it was because of neither. It was so that God would be glorified. Now sin ultimately is responsible for all the bad in the world, but it's sin as a condition, fallenness as a state of the universe, not necessarily individual sins. Individuals sins can cause further bad, but Jesus is saying that they're not necessarily the reason why anything bad happens.

Jesus' response in John 9 raises another question, however. He says that the purpose of that man's blindness was to glorify God. Paul says in Romans 8 that all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose. I think it's going too far to say that it's wrong to wonder how particular events in our lives might fit into that (not that she's saying that it's wrong; she just doesn't see the point). It's wrong to pretend we know such purposes when we don't. It's also wrong to think we deserve an expanation, as Job spent almost forty chapters before he learned (and ultimately never got his explanation). That doesn't mean there isn't one, and we can wonder what it might be. I suspect the person who said this to Sam meant that and not how Sam interpreted it (because I think I know who it was, and I know how that person means such statements).

I've seen various responses when someone loses a loved one. Some people lose confidence in God's goodness or power. I know more than one person that that's happened to. Some people wrestle with the philosophical issues involved with the problem of evil to assure themselves that God must be still in control. Some people are so absorbed with their loss that they don't think about God.

When my closest brother (17 months younger) died at age 21, none of those things happened. Wink told me at the time that he wasn't surprised. He knew I wouldn't doubt God's goodness or power, and he knew I wouldn't be wrestling with the philosophical questions. He knew that I wouldn't assume that it had anything to do with his, my, or anyone else's unrighteousness. I still wondered why, though. I wasn't wondering how it was possible for God to allow things like that in general. I wasn't wondering whether God was really in control. I was wondering how this particular event might fit into God's purposes. It didn't take me very long to get some clear answers to that, some within a couple weeks and some within the next year, and I've speculated about possible others that I could never hope to be sure of in this life. I'm sure there are some more fundamental ones that I don't even know about. What would be wrong would be to assume that my speculations are more than that. That doesn't make the suggestion of possibilities wrong, particularly when I'm trying to imagine the wonder of God's plan based on the glimpses of it that I've gotten.

Now if you mean the question that way, I don't see why it's inappropriate at all to wonder why God would give someone two children with serious developmental delays. Sam almost gets to this when she says "except to make myself feel better about what is most definitely a stressful situation". Why would it make her feel better? Because it would show that there's a higher purpose to this, and all our difficulties, which she feels more of the brunt of, will be in the end serving some ultimate purpose that God has in store.

That's what I like to know about why certain things happen. I trust that there is such a purpose, but I wonder what it is. Sometimes knowing what it is would make us feel better, or so we think. Paul knew why he had the thorn in the flesh in II Corinthians 12. It was to make him humble. Of course, he didn't know the more long-range purpose, that we would learn of his thorn in the flesh even today, something that probably wouldn't have made him more humble. He knew full well that God had blessed him with an amazing responsibility, but he had no idea the impact his writings would have on the course of the world over the next 2000 years.

We'd certainly feel good if the sufferings we're enduring right now will have an impact in ways that would make us prideful. Prideful thoughts do feel good. That doesn't mean God wants us to have them, and I think that explains part of why we don't have these answers all the time. What he wants us to learn through the difficulties might not come as easily or at all if we had all the answers.

So I think asking this kind of question is perfectly fine and can sometimes serve to aid us in pondering anew God's glorious plan in history and in our lives, but I don't think we should expect answers, as if we deserve them. It's always worth asking ourselves why we're asking, also, because it may not be the motivation I've been explaining as ok and may well be the one Sam says we often have.

I want to conclude with a further thought. I wonder if sometimes terrible events should lead us to ask this kind of question, as a matter of the proper moral response. It's not just that it might be ok to ask why. We might have an obligation to wonder why, at least with certain kinds of terrible events. I wonder if people missed the message God sent on 9-11 if they didn't use that as an occasion to reflect on the sin of our country and the possible reasons God might be judging this nation. My thoughts were constantly driven in that direction on that day and in the weeks that followed. Events like that are portrayed throughout the Bible as judgments on nations, and we shouldn't have gathered together prouder than ever, vowing to continue our idolatry in building even higher towers. We should have repented of our national sins and sought God without a mind toward justice but with a mind toward our own moral condition.

Is this also true on the personal level? I have to wonder. If something happens that I don't like, I should be engaging in self-evaluation (see Abednego's post). Maybe I wanted something for the wrong reasons and didn't get it. Maybe I wanted something that would be bad for me. Maybe God has something for me that I'm not ready for, and I need to wait. We can't think through these possibilities unless we examine ourselves to see if there is something that isn't right with God.

That doesn't mean bad things are happening because of sin in our lives, but shouldn't times of difficulty be times of reflection anyway? God's purpose for Joseph's captivity may have had nothing to do with his own sin, but it may have been to make sure he was fully humbled from what seems to be a proud attitude over his brothers so that when he was ultimately given great authority he would use it wisely. So what I want to say is that difficult things that happen can often be occasions for self-evaluation, even if we shouldn't be interpreting what happens in terms of what we deserve.

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Christian Carnival #82 from ...in the outer... on August 10, 2005 3:09 AM

Well, here it is at last! The 82nd Almost Weekly (or As-Far-As-We-Can-Manage-It-Weekly) Christian Carnival where participating bloggers submit a post they have penned during the past week to showcase to the blog-reading public. Each week, a host arran... Read More

6 Comments

powerful.

All the questions are interesting and indeed most speculative.

But sometimes I think, as Sam points out, we miss the boat by not even asking the right questions. We might be absolutely laughing about all our gyrations once eternity is revealed more fully.

And to know your boys and the absolute SUNSHINE in their eyes and souls... this factor so outpaces their disabilities... it is hard to see anything but love and soundness in your family.

It is not to say that things are difficult and frustrating on a practical day to day level...

But whenever we might feel discouraged about death, suffering, difficulties... we just need to remember that on the other side which will seem like a mere breath, we will see perfect bodies and perfect minds.

We will blink and see these kids and indeed all who believe in Christ in a very different light. And that is by grace and most undeserved.

The end in sight, makes today easier to bear.

When I was a young Christians in a Bible study with other young Christians we would frequently get hung up around the question of why when something difficult happens to two people, who appear equally committed to their faith, why does one use it to grow significantly while the other seems to lose their faith?

Sometimes in the end it isn't us. I have always felt what separated Peter from Judas was Jesus' statement to Peter, "The devil desired to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you." He told Judas, "Go and quickly do what you must do." My prayer and hope has always been, "Pray for me, Lord Jesus Christ, pray for me."

At this time, I am really struggling with believing in God anymore. I used to love Him with all my heart, but now I find it difficult.

I am really disappointed in the things that he has allowed in my life. This may be self pity, I believe alot of hurt.. I was born to a Indian woman years ago, and she gave me up for adoption she stated later it was becasue my b father was black and her mom did not want a black child in the home. Well she told me she wanted to abort me at the time but it was illegal. while in foster care I was molested from the age of eight until the age of fifteen when I ran away. THere i was beat by different adults and attempted rape. I was also astrocized by my peer because I became a whore. I slept with different guys. I went back to my foster home, enrolled my self in school, I started working and had auditions with different modeling agencies. I had major modeling audition and I was accepted, but due to my foster family getting to gether, I was kicked out. I never knew why. I had came back home and tried to get things right. Years later when I went back, everybody lied on one another. Well, needlessly to say. I pretty much was screwed up in my mind by the time I was 17. I found it very hard to trust anyone. I could not keep a friend and I had a bad rep. So I just wanted to kill my self, I tried twice, but I never got anywhere. any way I ended up homeless at the age of seventeen, I became an alcoholic, I found myself followin in love with a man who 11 year my senior, from another country. He turned out to be very abusive. At first i believed that he would be someone who would love and protect me seeing that he was older. so I confided in him and told him about the sexual abuse that had taken place with me when I was a child. he ended up using this against me, and started siding with my family. I had told him that my mother did not believe me, he said that she was right, that I was liar. This hurt and it did alot of mental and emotional damage. Alot has happened in my life and I look and I take inventory and I see where I was at fault, But really hurts me, is everybody takes my inventory and they see my as a nobody. Know one has ever been on my side or had enough patience to be on my side. I have night after night day after day sought God, but he does not answer my prayers. I have went to church and I confided in people and they turned around and spread rumors about me. I had a very close relationship with God, but now I have just about given up on him and his church. He organizations seem to be just as screwed up as the world and me. I find no hope and if God does not help me, I will have not choice except to forget about him and serve satan

I can completely identify with this question. There are days that I ask this question myself, and others where I don't. Its not that I question that God is in control, or whether God knows what he's doing or not and why, but is more of an expression of my frustration in my inability to deal with the situation at the time. For who have not experienced this kind of frustration, I would think it would be presumptuous to know what this person is REALLY going through. it may be a time of weakness, sorrow or even fear. More than criticism of whether or not she is asking the right question or not, this person needs to be listened to, validated and offered help. This person does not need condemnation, this person needs help. It may be just for a day, or even a minute. Everyone has their own thresholds, and she just may have surpassed hers for a little while. I know many people would like to correct her, but she needs some love and comfort first. Once she gets that, she'll be more open to hearing the rest of it.

I think you've got it backwards, though. She wasn't asking this question. She was responding to people who asked it about her.

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