Saturday, July 12, 2008

“I Guess God Must Have Some Reason for It”

How many times, during or after a trial, have you heard someone say, “God must have some reason for this”? I am convinced that we need a paradigm shift in our understanding of suffering. We should not think, “I guess God is allowing this,” but rather, “God is doing this.” This takes the trial from the area of arbitrariness to specificity. God doesn’t just allow things to happen because nothing would happen apart from Him. The next step is then to begin considering what God is doing through the trial. Cf. James 1 and God and Calamity.


GUNNY said...

On some level, I don't mind the "God must have a reason for it" language.

However, what concerns me is the assumption that we will always be able to discern what that is.

Sometimes we can, but at other times we just have to trust that His reasons fall under the broad reasons of (a) His glory and (b) the good of His people.

Jonathan Moorhead said...

Gunny, Job is a good example of one that apparently never knew God's reasons behind his calamity. The reason I don't like the "I guess God must have some reason for it" language is because it seems to ignore the fact that God indeed does have a reason for it. James 1 seems to encourage us to seek out what that reason may be, and to ask for wisdom for discernment.

GUNNY said...

Amen. That is one of my favorite aspects of Job's experience. We know, but He never does. It's enough to know of God's ability and plan for him (cf. 42:2), without knowing the details for himself.

I don't have a problem with trying to discern God's rationale, for it can be very encouraging to us. But I think language with certainty and objectivity is used when conclusions should be much more tentative.

In other words, barring divine declaration, our understanding of God's providence is just that, our finite human understanding of the divine Being and His ways.

But, I am feeling you. I would say to someone, including myself, "Of course, God has a reason for it. But he is not obligated to share it with you, O man." (in keeping with the Job theme)

Connie said...

To acknowledge that God "does/causes/brings" trials is consistent with a Biblical understanding (and embracing) of His complete sovereignty. It is the only source of true hope I can claim--for His glory, and for my good.

GUNNY said...

Some related slooge ...

John Piper:

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain

Read the whole thing to see an illustration on this theme.

Matt said...

Hmmm . . .

I would be careful telling people that God has a plan for their suffering.

While I agree that James says that there is a benefit to suffering--namely developing perseverance--I don't think that this implies that God intentionally brings suffering on people. Notice what James doesn't say--"Rejoice because God brought this on you." If I were to paraphrase James' thoughts, I would say, "Hey, look on the bright side--whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Even in the Job example, Satan is the one that brings tribulation upon Job, not God. God's answer is not, "I had a plan in all of this," it was "Don't question Me."

While I believe that God is absolutely sovereign over everything that happens in His creation, I am not so sure what this looks like. I want to be careful not to force God into a neat theological system that omits the biblical data presenting the world in rebellion to its Creator.

I think God has allowed some wiggle room for rebellion in His sovereignty. Paul refers to Satan as "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph 2:2). Jesus referred to him as a "strong man" (Matt 12:29). There is a definite sense that the forces of darkness (sin, death, Satan) have some kind of power in the present world (albeit vastly inferior to that of Christ).

The world is in rebellion to its Creator (Rom 8:18–25) and death is the last enemy to be subjected to Christ (1 Cor 15:24–28). We can be confident that all things will work out (Rom 8:28), but I think that this refers to all things in general, not each individual bad thing that happens.

Last week a 23-year-old construction worker in our community was killed in a work accident. Some of his friends are in our church and they are pretty shaken up about it. My words to them were, on the one hand, "God is too good to be unkind and too wise to make mistakes," but on the other hand, "This is a reminded that the world is not as it should be. Even so, we believe that God is redeeming our world through the death and resurrection of Jesus."