“…What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?…” Job 2:10
I was nineteen years old and slumped between the toilet and the bathtub after several rounds of vomiting. Studying wasn’t happening, and I was watching my dream of becoming a veterinarian slip away. All but accused of lacking character for not pushing through the overwhelming illness, I found myself bowled over with discouragement and despair. Why God? Why is this happening to me?
Perhaps not an audible voice, yet clearly heard by my spirit, God said, “Read Job.”
|Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash|
My mother was dying and I was trapped in another country due to COVID restrictions. I’d not be able to see her before she left for Heaven. And, I’d just been diagnosed with cancer. What an amazing journey God was taking me through, never leaving me, showing me His love through the love of my church family, providing for our every need, allowing me to be strong when I should have been physically weak so that I might enjoy both of my daughters’ graduations and my eldest daughter’s wedding. I am blessed beyond measure.
When dropping off my youngest daughter at college, I answered the question of how to make friends by saying, “Smile and be friendly, look for ways to help someone, and then do your best to help them. The best friendships come when you are able to help another.” And to add to that, the best friendships come when you fight for a common goal, or pass through a trial together. That’s why team building exercises usually include some sort of obstacle course you have to overcome together, usually against another team.
Before the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked in perfect fellowship with God, worshiping Him, enjoying Him, bringing Him pleasure. We get the picture that they lived in perfect harmony.
Then they took their eyes off God and onto what they might gain if they ate the fruit from the tree which God had forbidden them to eat. Fellowship with God was broken. How they saw each other changed. To see God as they had seen Him before was no longer possible. Bad things now happened to them…they were no longer 'good' and trials would become a part of their lives.
So why didn’t a good God prevent this from happening? God desires us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. He desires us to love Him, which cannot happen if we don’t have the choice to not love Him. Our choosing Him brings Him pleasure. He, the Creator of all, has every right to conduct His creation as He sees fit, just as I can build a house with Legos as I see fit or train a dog according to my ways. Part of having a relationship with Him requires accepting His sovereignty over all creation and that His thoughts and ways are beyond our understanding. I know that this can be difficult to accept. We don't want to humble ourselves to what we can't understand.
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
Trials, hardships, trouble, come to us for various reasons. Cancer came to me not because I committed some great sin, but because it would help me to experience God and His love in a way I’d not be able to without going through this trial. My illness at nineteen changed the direction of my life, and while I have made many mistakes over those years, that illness drew me to God much the same way a team building exercise draws team members together. God encouraged me, picked me up when I fell, cheered for me, gave me water when I was thirsty and food when I was hungry. He gave me hope when I couldn’t see the end. These things I could not experience without first suffering.
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
Why do bad things happen to good people? The knowledge birthing the answer to this question begins with understanding the nature of God and the nature of men. To gain insight into that understanding, first accept that no one is good, except God. We all sin. That break in the Garden of Eden disrupted all of creation, and the Almighty God is working to first redeem us and then to one day bring us into a new heaven and a new earth that will surpass anything we can imagine: no more illness, no more tears, no more fighting, no more death, no more sin. A place where we can have a perfect relationship and a perfect life with God.
The second thing is to believe that God is found in the fire and the flood and the storm and in every trial you face, and that He is worth finding. Get your eyes off yourself, your suffering, your loss, your pain, and step out in faith that He has a purpose for you and only by passing through your present condition will you find His purpose for you profitable and most blessed.
Third, passionately seek Him with all your heart, and you will find Him before you, behind you, beside you, above you, and below you. And when you find Him and experience His presence, You’ll find cause to thank Him for using that trial to draw you to Him, not to mention the lessons you will have learned along the way.
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43:2