Have you ever heard the statement, “This is all part of God's plan”? I am sure most of you have heard that statement, or some variation, said at one point or another. This statement is one that I grew up hearing quite a bit. People used it to help others find peace in a difficult circumstance, hope in a hopeless situation, or strength in a time of weakness. The intentions of those well-meaning individuals were admirable and a wonderful testimony to what it means to reach out to those who are hurting and seek to help them in their time of pain or uncertainty. But those words have always bothered me.
This week I was reading a book and the author mentioned time and time again how when things went bad in his life he would cling to that statement, “this is all part of God's plan”, to help stabilize his spinning world. Every time I read that statement I would feel very uneasy. Not because I doubted that God could take whatever issue this author was dealing with and bring good out of it, but because of the connotation, the implied flip side, of what this statement says.
If someone you love is experiencing a horrific episode in their life and you tell them, this is all part of God's plan, what is it that you are telling them? In my mind, we have just told them God caused this horrific episode. Really? Is that the best we can do to minister to a hurting person? Does that statement accurately depict the God we love and serve? I would say no it does not...not even close.
Let me tell you very briefly who I understand God to be. I understand God to be love in its purest form. I see a benevolent creator that goes to incredible lengths to help me feel the over abundance of grace, mercy, and forgiveness God has for me. I believe God wants to be in a relationship with each and every one of us, so eagerly, that God created a way to bridge the gap of sin so that all of us can freely receive the gift of eternal salvation in God's presence. I know God as my Lord, my Lord that has moved mountains to be with me. I see a God that no matter the situation, is willing to be by my side, if I allow it. I see a God that can bring good from any situation, but whose heart breaks every time mine does. I see a God that has cried every tear I have, felt every moment of pain I have, and gone through every moment of uncertainty right by my side. I worship that God. I have devoted my life to the one that seeks out the least, the lost, and the last. I love my God, and remain in constant awe of how God works in this world. In short, that is who I understand God to be.
And I believe all of that not only from personal experience, from feeling and seeing and sensing the Spirit of God in the lowest times of my life, but from Scripture. I read Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). Then I read Zephaniah 3:17, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT). All of that shows me that God does not want us to hurt. God does not want us to despair.
Now I understand horrific and tragic and unfair things happen to all of us in life. Things that we do not deserve, cannot explain, and that devastate us. God does not cause those things. God does not use tragedy to teach us a lesson or bring about his will. God is much bigger than that! God does not need to create tragedy for us to learn. However, when those terrible things happen, and they will, God will be the one to walk with you through it. God will swoop in and care for you, cry with you, comfort you, if you let him. For me to say to another person, “this terrible thing you are going through, God caused that” does not line up with the God I just described a few paragraphs earlier. For us to attribute the evil of this world to God is obscene and just plain wrong.
There are many, many people in our world that are hurting. There are many, many people in our world that are searching for the one thing they can adopt into their life that will help bring them a sense of stability, hope, and strength. That 'thing' is God. That peace is found in Christ. That hope is given by the presence of the Holy Spirit. In the midst of pain, to tell someone God caused that pain, does not seem to be the best way to go. In my mind that is not the God of love that I have devoted my life to. As Christians we are called to bring people into the Kingdom. To go to the ends of the earth talking about the love and grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. We are to let people know God loves them and is eager to be in relationship with them. So I encourage you to tell them about our God of love, our God of grace, of mercy, and forgiveness. Tell them about the God that continually keeps us in awe. Tell them about the God that will never leave them, that has plans for prosperity for them, and that rejoices over us with songs of joy.
When people come to us and they are hurting, we are blessed with a great opportunity to be a door way to God for them. Let us show them, and at the same time remind ourselves, that God does not cause the evil or tragedy in our lives, but God will comfort us in those times, consistently and faithfully. God will be our refuge and our strength, this day and every day.
Have a tremendous week and I will see you Sunday!