I walked into the break room at work recently to find a crime show playing on the break room TV. One of the characters said the line “She’s certainly had her fair share of suffering,” referring to the victim in the drama. As soon as I heard the line it struck me that it’s a nice-sounding line for a TV show, but a horrible idea to actually believe.
I constantly run into other well-meaning people, and most of them followers of Jesus, who say things like this, and the worst part is that they actually believe it. I had a patient once who had a surgery that caused her to have her foot and lower leg in a splint. The surgeon’s instructions were explicit: it was to remain in the splint for two weeks, at which point in time HE would look at it and decide the next step in the treatment plan. About one week in, she took a shower and in spite of the best efforts of the staff, the entire foot was soaking wet. I was horrified, she seemed unconcerned. “Maybe God planned this so that I could get the splint off a week early. I’m sure God has a reason for this happening.”
Ummm, no. Not only do I have to spend an hour of time on a single one of my 26 patients, and am now NOT spending that time taking care of the other 25 patients’ needs, but now I have to call a doctor who will most likely be very angry, and who will need to have her come in for an office visit to see how badly screwed up the situation is, and whether there is significant infection risk or other complications as a result. I’m sorry, but no, that’s not something God put on his to-do list for the day.
While the situation ended up working out okay, as generally things do, I have observed MANY people who have a serious misconception about God’s will and His plans. The Bible has a few things to say about this. Jeremiah 29:11 states “’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.’” James 1:17 states “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.“
Those passages sound pretty clear, mainly because they are. God has good plans for good and to keep us from harm, he gives good and perfect gifts and doesn’t change like the darkness, so he’s not going to start giving bad stuff out later, and that he works all things, even the bad things, in such a way that in the end they will become a good thing. What it does NOT say is “God plans bad things for us so that in the hard times we can realize how dependent we are on Him and turn our hearts toward his.” Nor does it say “Due to the exceedingly insufficient amount of bad stuff in the world, God in His wisdom has seen it fit to cause calamity and heartbreak so that in the midst of the problems He causes, we can turn to him to solve them.”
Only a highly abusive and seriously dysfunctional parent would traumatically injure a child so that the child will rely on that parent during the healing and recovery process. That is known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) , and is a psychological disorder. I assure you God doesn’t have MSP. People seem to forget that there are dark entities, usually referred to as demons, who have our personal destruction in mind. THEY actively cause new problems and enhance existing ones, requiring no additional help from God to make this happen.
God doesn’t need to cause problems to have solutions. He doesn’t need to waste our time, cause us stress, or in some cases bodily injury to “work good for us.” It is time we took a bit of a higher view in every situation, instead of instantly jumping to the notion that every unfavorable situation is the will of God. I recommend a much more mature approach to adversity, asking God for solutions to problems instead of instantly assuming God sent the problem. Not only is this the wiser method, but it is the MOST healthy response we can have when faced with adversity. Praising God IN the midst of problems is VERY different than praising and thanking God FOR sending us problems. The former heads toward a solution and inner peace, the latter is just stupidity. I encourage each and every one reading this that as you face life’s difficulties to thank God that He isn’t sending these things upon you, and that in the midst of those difficulties that He will provide the solutions and USE it for good.