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Posts tagged ‘Judgment’

Revenge Is Too Draining

SOURCE:  Dr. Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

I’ve always been a sensitive person, and that was especially true during my childhood. God placed me in a home where negativity and judgment were common. The frequent emotional manipulation strained my brain. I would get so angry. Much of my energy … physical, emotional, and psychological … was wasted on dealing with these situations. I would fight back in various ways, try to understand why and where all these situations came from, attempt to avoid them, and persist in a “why me” attitude. All of these sucked so much life out of me. Enjoying childhood was actually a difficult task.

Many of us have people in our lives who have hurt us or who want to hurt us. It can range from a few hurtful words or subtle manipulation… to lies, cruelty, and vindictiveness … all the way to physical or sexual abuse. The obvious questions we ask ourselves are “Why me?” “What can I do to make them stop?,” and “Why would someone do that?”

Dealing with such people extracts huge amounts of energy as we try to defend ourselves, recover from the attack, or plot and engage in possible counter attacks and retaliation … efforts to “get even.”

Much of my healing began when I realized a few facts and principles:

1. Don’t take it personally, because it is not about me. It’s their problem and issue.

2. God is sovereign over all, and He is allowing this for a grand purpose, so put on His lenses.

3. Remember, the real enemy is Satan, not the people attacking you. They are just getting used by Satan, as you are at times. Pray for them to know God’s love and healing for their life.

4. Be on guard … put on the armor for the real battle.

You see, I don’t need to retaliate.

Getting even or revenge is just an idol that takes my gaze and heart away from God. I probably need to set some healthy limits and boundaries with the offenders. But the bitterness and revenge efforts are wasted time and energy. God will take care of them as He determines because He knows all.

Today, if you harbor some unresolved forgiveness, let God deal with and determine the consequences for your enemies.

We do have a stewardship role and a responsibility to address our enemies (in our heart or in an actual interaction if it is safe). But we often go overboard in our minds. God promises to help the persecuted and bring judgment on those who treat others with cruelty. So focus your energy on what is going on in your heart and mind regarding your enemy. If you know someone who is being mistreated, slandered or attacked by others, send them this devotional. Spread the Word of God to give hope and peace to those in need. Wasting your energy on revenge or channeling it to compassion is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I come to You in need. I have people in my life who are hurting me, trying to harm me. My anger rages at the injustice of this. My natural human reaction is to take revenge … to get even. I know this is wrong and against Your Word. I release my enemies into Your care. I pray as David did to “make my enemies be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away.” Help me, Lord, to remember that it is not the opinion of others that I must focus on. Give me strength in the battle against the evil one who wants to use this persecution to pull me away from You, to distort my lenses, and sidetrack me with stinky thinking. Help me see myself through Your eyes. I pray in the name of the one who teaches me to love my enemies, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ”I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  Psalm 35:1-6

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  Matthew 5:44

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Heaven: The Great Beyond

Randy Alcorn answers questions about heaven.

SOURCE:  Kyria/Randy Alcorn

1. When a believer dies, when does she go to heaven?

At death, the human spirit goes either to heaven or hell. Christ depicted Lazarus the beggar and the rich man conscious in heaven and hell immediately after they died (Luke 16:22-31). Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul said to die is to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

These passages clearly invalidate the notion of “soul sleep,” or a long period of unconsciousness between life on earth and life in heaven. Every reference in the Book of Revelation to humans talking and worshiping in heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates we’re conscious after death. Our spirit’s departure from the body ends our existence on earth. The physical part of us “sleeps” until we’re resurrected, while the spiritual part immediately relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Daniel 12:2-3).

2. Will I know my husband and children in heaven? Will they know me? And why can’t we be married in heaven?

Christ’s disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection: when he cooked breakfast for them on the shore (John 21:1-14); when he revealed himself to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29); and when he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). And at Christ’s transfiguration, his disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they couldn’t have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33). If we can recognize those we’ve never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?

Many people misunderstand Matthew 22:30: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” The Bible doesn’t teach no marriage in heaven, but onemarriage, between Christ and us, his bride. Our marriage to Christ will satisfy more than even the most wonderful earthly marriage. Once that ultimate marriage begins at the Lamb’s wedding feast, all human marriages will have served their noble purpose of foreshadowing this one great marriage.

The God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), is both the giver and the blesser of our earthly relationships. My wife, Nanci, is my best friend and closest sister in Christ. I’m convinced we’ll be closer in heaven, not more distant. Receiving a glorified body doesn’t erase history; it culminates history. According to 1 Thessalonians 4, we’ll be together with the Lord forever, so we’ll doubtless pick right up in heaven with relationships from earth.

3. If we already go to heaven or hell right after death, why does the Bible teach about another judgment?

When we die, we face the judgment of faith to determine whether we go to heaven or hell. When God judges those who’ve accepted Christ’s atoning death, he sees his Son’s sacrifice for us, not our sin.

But this judgment is different from the final judgment. The Bible indicates all believers will have to give an account of their life (Romans 14:10-122 Corinthians 5:10). Our works don’t affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward (2 Timothy 2:12Revelation 3:21).

Unbelievers also face a final judgment. The Bible says it will come at the Great White Throne, at the end of the old earth and before the beginning of the new (Revelation 20:11-13).

4. I lost my son in a horrible auto accident three years ago. What kind of body does he have in heaven?

My friend David O’Brien is a brilliant man trapped in a body that groans for redemption. His cerebral palsy will disappear the moment he leaves this world for heaven. And at his resurrection, he’ll have a new body forever free of disease. I picture David running through fields on the new earth. I look forward to running beside—and probablybehind—him.

I often think how paraplegics, quadriplegics, and victims of constant pain, physical trauma, violence, or catastrophe will walk, run, jump, and laugh in heaven. Believers now blind will gawk at the new earth’s wonders. The only body we’ve known is a weak, diseased remnant of the body God first designed. But free of sin’s curse, our resurrection body will be restored to its original design and purpose, even more glorious than Adam and Eve’s.

5. When a baby dies, does he remain young, grow up, or mature instantly in heaven?

Bible Answer Man Hank Hanegraaff suggests, “Our DNA is programmed in such a way that, at a particular point, we reach optimal development from a functional perspective. For the most part, it appears that we reach this stage somewhere in our 20s and 30s. … If the blueprints for our glorified bodies are in the DNA, then it would stand to reason that our bodies will be resurrected at the optimal stage of development determined by our DNA.”

This hypothesis doesn’t necessarily mean children who die won’t be children in heaven. Isaiah 11:6-9 speaks of a place, presumably the new earth, where “the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. … The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain.” Is it possible that after they’re resurrected, children will be at the same developmental level as when they died?

If so, these children would likely grow up on the new earth. Such a childhood would be enviable! Although I’m speculating, I believe parents whose hearts broke at the death of their children not only might reunite with them, but might also experience the joy of seeing them grow up … in a perfect world.

6. Are our loved ones aware of what’s happening on earth?

The Bible makes evident heaven’s inhabitants see, to some extent, what’s happening on earth. When Babylon is taken down, an angel points to events occurring on earth and says, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you” (Revelation 18:20). That the angel specifically addresses people living in heaven indicates they’re aware of earthly happenings.

Hebrews 12:1, in telling us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” creates the mental picture of Greek competitions that attracted throngs of engrossed fans who watched intently high up in stadiums. The “great cloud of witnesses” refers to saints whose previous accomplishments on life’s playing field are now part of our rich history. The imagery suggests those saints, the spiritual “athletes” of old, now watch and cheer us on from the great stadium of heaven that looks down on the field of earth.

“There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Who’s doing this rejoicing in heaven? I believe not only God is rejoicing but also the saints in heaven, who obviously must be aware of what’s happening on earth.

7. Do pets go to heaven?

God created “the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25).

Eden was perfect. But without animals, Eden wouldn’t have been Eden. The new earth is the new Eden—Paradise regained, where the first Adam’s curse is reversed and transformed into the last Adam’s blessing (Romans 5:14-15).

God entrusted animals to us, and our relationship with them is significant. Would God take away from us in heaven what he gave—for delight, companionship, and help—to Adam and Eve in Eden?

Animals aren’t nearly as valuable as people. But God is their maker, and through them he’s touched many people’s lives. On the new earth, he easily could create brand-new animals, re-create old ones, or both. If restoring our pets in the new earth would bring us pleasure, our joy may be all the reason God needs to do so. He’s the giver of all good gifts, not the taker of them.

Christ proclaims from his throne: “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5, ESV). He won’t renew just people, but also the earth and “all things” in it. “All things” includes animals. The entire creation will benefit from Christ’s death and resurrection.

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Randy Alcorn is the bestselling author of  Heaven (Tyndale) and founder/director of nonprofit Eternal Perspective Ministries.

The Most Misunderstood Woman in the Bible

Why Job’s wife may have gotten a bad rap

Editor’s NOTE:  This article gives pause to consider another perspective or other possible reasons why a person says or does something we might take exception with.  There can be other factors involved that must be understood before we rush to judgment based upon how things seem.  Without compromising truth or values or failing to realize we can always “do better next time” and “learn from our past,” it is also important to look at things humbly and gracefully in the context of the present circumstances.  Not only must we do this in reference to others, but also with even ourselves as we seek to embrace God’s direction to love others as we love ourselves (Mt 22:39).

SOURCE:  Christianity Today/Daniel Darling

Her name was never revealed and yet she may be the most infamous woman in the Bible. Augustine labeled her “the devil’s accomplice.” Calvin called her “a diabolical fury.”

And the contemporary understanding of Job’s wife hasn’t improved on Calvin or Augustine. It’s difficult to find a book or sermon treatment of the life of Job that doesn’t include the usual condemnations toward his wife. It has become a standard joke to pity Job, as if his wife was yet another cross God called this man to bear.

If the Proverbs 31 woman represents a model of Christian virtue, the wife of Job occupies the role of least desirable, sharing space in the Hall of Shame with the likes of JezebelDelilah, and Michal.

But is this image an honest assessment of her character? Or is there a possibility that in our rush to empathize and identify with Job, we’ve rushed to cast judgment on his wife?

What We Forget

I wonder if there isn’t a gap in our understanding of the Job story. Although clearly Job is the main character, he is not the only one. She may not have been the primary subject of the cosmic argument between God and Satan (1:6-112:1-4), but she was still caught in the crossfire. You might argue that every hardship endured by Job was similarly felt by his wife:

She watched her children die (Job 1:13-19).  Ten times God had blessed her womb. Ten times she endured the joy and pain of childbirth. Ten lives nurtured to love, honor, and respect Jehovah. From the account in the first chapter of Job, this appears to be a fun-loving, God-fearing, tight-knit family. Who was the heartbeat of this home? Likely Job’s wife played a part in that. It’s unlikely he could be such an esteemed man in society (Job 1:1) if his wife was not an integral and influential leader in her own right.

Imagine the grief that overwhelmed her soul as she looked down in disbelief at ten freshly dug graves.

She experienced dramatic financial loss.  The Bible describes Job as a wealthy man, perhaps the richest in the world (Job 1:3). Undoubtedly his wife was accustomed to a lifestyle of luxury and comfort. I imagine her home was adorned with the finest furnishings, her clothes spun from the most expensive threads. Her children likely had everything they needed.

In one really bad day, she lost it all. All their wealth, property, and way of life (Job 1:13-22). She was not only bankrupt, but homeless, forced to beg outside the city dump.

She became a caretaker for her disease-ravaged husband.  Although Old Testament scholars don’t agree on the nature of Job’s illness, clearly his pain was so excruciating, he asked God to take his life (Job 3). It distorted Job’s appearance so dramatically that his closest friends could barely recognize him and when they approached, fell to the ground in pity (Job 2:12). This last temptation brought by Satan was so severe, it nearly broke Job’s soul. Every day Job spent at the ragged edge of death, only experiencing momentary relief brought by the heat of the burn piles and the scrape of pottery shards.

While we weep with Job, we miss the faithful, steady presence of his wife. She put aside her own grief to stay care for her husband. Imagine the exhausting drain, caring for a suffering soul like Job. Imagine the loud howls of agony, hour after hour, day after day. Imagine the one you love walking the thin line of sanity, suffering excruciating, debilitating pain.

Job’s wife continued this mission of mercy without the resources of a helpful support network, without any financial resources, without relief. Their children were gone, their friends and family scattered, her God seemingly absent.

Words of Despair

And we come back to those seemingly bitter words of resignation, the only recorded words of Job’s wife in the entire story. Words shared at the lowest point of her life.

“Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9, ESV). These are tough words that appear to reflect a heart bitter and angry toward God. This is where most commentators pounce, accusing Job’s wife of collusion with the Devil to force her husband to do exactly what the Devil predicted Job would do: give up on God. Many question her faith, wondering if perhaps her faith in Jehovah wasn’t real.

I find both scenarios difficult to believe. Every human has moments, words, thoughts we’d love to have back, shared in the crucible of a crushing trial. Imagine if those words were recorded in history for everyone to dissect and analyze.

Clearly God chose to record her thoughts in Scripture, yet sometimes I wonder how fair it is to define an entire life based on one conversation. Nowhere before or after this incident are we given any indication that Job’s wife was a perpetually bitter, unhappy wife.

And perhaps her advice to Job wasn’t born out of her own misery, but out of compassion. Day after day, she witnessed her husband live out his days in utter agony, no relief in sight. Maybe she was seeking the most compassionate way out for Job. Curse God, pull the plug, and get it over with. Perhaps she longed to see an end to Job’s suffering, a painless journey to the sweet relief of heaven. This is certainly something Job himself desired of the Lord.

It’s not uncommon to find raw, honest, expressions of grief spilled on the pages of the Bible. Yet we celebrate David, Moses, Jeremiah, and even Job as being authentic and honest, but heap judgment on Job’s wife for similar expressions.

A Husband’s Response

Job’s response is fascinating. He carefully listens and watches his beloved wife shrink under the weight of their shared hardships.

I imagine Job lifts his blistered hand and strokes her hair. At first, his words read like a harsh rebuke: “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10, ESV).

Yet, if you listen to Job, you almost hear admiration. “You speak as one of the foolish women.” He didn’t say his wife was foolish. He didn’t even say her words were foolish. He said, “She sounds like one of the foolish women.”

In other words, “You don’t sound like yourself.” You might read these words like this:  Sweetheart, that’s not you talking. This doesn’t sound like the woman of God I know and married. That is not you talking, my wife. Let’s remember God’s promises. Let’s remember his goodness.

Such a far cry from the ringing condemnation she’s received in the centuries since. Job knew his wife’s suffering was just as acute as his. In fact, seeing the pain in her eyes may have added to Job’s great suffering.

It’s likely she was in a state of shock. Sudden loss has a way of clouding our judgment, distorting our view of reality and of God. Often those living in the thick of tragedy make contradictory statements about faith and life. Today we might even conclude Job’s wife suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Apparently Job’s words were the balm his wife needed to soothe her soul, because she isn’t heard from again in the remaining chapters of the story.

What Does God Think?

Curiously, while authors, commentators, and pastors all rush to judge her, God is silent. The Scriptures don’t record specific words of blessing for Job’s wife like they do for Job (Job 1:8).

Yet we don’t find divine rebuke either. Surely, if God was displeased with her, he would have expressed it. He didn’t hesitate to rebuke Job’s friends (Job 42:7-9).

All we know of God’s treatment of Job’s wife is how he blessed her after the trial was over. She shared in the doubling of their wealth (Job 42:10). She had the privilege of giving birth to ten more children, whom the Scriptures declared the most beautiful in all of the land (Job 42:12-15). And it’s likely she shared in the many more fruitful years of her husband’s life. The Scriptures say that Job lived long enough to see four generations of his offspring (Job 42:16).

A Model of Endurance

So what can we learn from Job’s wife today? Perhaps her greatest testimony is her simple presence during her husband’s lowest moments. At the end of Job, we read that his siblings and friends returned and “consoled and comforted him because of all the trials the LORD had brought against him” (Job 42:11). It’s easy and safe to show compassion after the fact, but during Job’s lowest moments, they were nowhere to be found.

Yet every single day, there was his wife, caring, loving, and enduring the trials Satan inflicted.

The trials that would split many marriages didn’t split Job and his wife. They stuck it out together. And at the end of this story, we read of them conceiving and raising another ten children.

Was her attitude perfect throughout the storm that engulfed her family? No. Did she say things she would later regret? Absolutely.

But through it all, she endured, her faith in God remained intact, and maybe, just maybe, her service to her husband should be held up as a model of biblical character.

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Daniel Darling is the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He is the author of Teen People of the BibleCrash Course, and iFaith. He and his wife, Angela, have two daughters and a son. www.danieldarling.com.

Repentance And Change Are Much Better Than Guilt

SOURCE:  Jan Johnson

My views on guilt have evolved over the years. Like many people, I beat myself up and thought that guilt was the Christian thing to do. I figured guilt motivated me to do better so I heaped it on myself. My first and early realization was that I lived in false guilt or shame. It wasn’t just that I’d done something wrong, but I was wrong. So I worked on breaking free from false guilt.

But I still thought true guilt was useful because so many people don’t admit when they’re wrong. Then I started listening to my friend Dallas Willard, who made blanket statements such as, “Guilt never helps.” I was puzzled though because he wasn’t from my psychobabble generation; he was of that generation that seemed to love guilt. Why did he say that?

But over the years, I’ve seen how even true guilt doesn’t help me. It just makes me hopeless. Even worse, it fixes my eyes on me (what I’ve done wrong!) rather than on God and what God has done right. My view of guilt actually made my spirituality about me and my performance (and lack of it), not about God. So I became suspicious that Dallas might be on to something. I’ve experimented with dumping guilt and I’ve discovered some important things.

First, repentance is much better than guilt. Repentance isn’t feeling bad, bad, bad about sin. It’s metanoia, thinking about my thinking—examining how I think. It’s making changes in how I think, which then makes changes in how I act. A short cut version of this is that I began focusing much more on, “What is my next step?” instead of “Wow, my last step was really dumb!”

Next, I realized that we need better training in how to confess sin. Glossing over things doesn’t work; we’re as sick as our secrets. It’s healing to say to God exactly what I did and why I think I did it. Then we allow space to hear this truth of God: “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.” We bask in this: Lord Jesus Christ, how merciful you are to me, a sinner! And, very importantly, we allow space for asking God about what our next step might be.

Lately, I’ve noticed something else. In general, the devotional masters and saints throughout the ages weren’t depressed by their sins. The closer they were to God, the more they felt their sin, but the more they focused on God’s greatness. They saw God as a Helper (Psalm 54:4) not as Condemner, picking out their sins. In monasteries, abbots didn’t allow monks to think obsessively about their sin. God’s purpose in revealing sins to us is to help us change, to give us power to change. God is like a craftsman, saying, “Here, let’s do this better.”

As a spiritual director, I have many conversations with people who are motivated by guilt. They are steeped in sadness and feel defeated. It destroys them and forces them to look at themselves and make their spirituality about their own (miserable) performance. I don’t think this is a work of God but a work of the enemy of our soul. This enemy paralyzes us with guilt; but the holy God of heaven invites us to repent, to change, to live in the deep gladness of being loved. This is the voice we listen to.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? The Problem of Evil

SOURCE:  Adapted from a post by Tawa J. Anderson


Why do bad things happen to good people? This is one of the most haunting questions facing modern man. Why does such seemingly senseless tragedy strike such seemingly innocent victims? Why are many babies born with deformities or handicaps? Why are young women in southern Sudan raped and beaten by armed militia from the north? Why are girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery to provide a few months income for their families and to satisfy the perversions of Western tourists? Why did an unimaginably powerful earthquake in Japan cause a massive tsunami and cause so much destruction and death? 

To put the question in another way, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there such deep and senseless evil and suffering on earth? David Hume, the eighteenth century atheist philosopher, stated the logical problem of evil when he inquired about God, “Is He willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

According to Hume, and many skeptics since, an all-powerful and loving God would not permit the existence of the evil that we perceive and experience. Indeed, since Hume’s day, the ‘problem of evil’, as it is known, has been the strongest challenge to Christian belief, and a key argument put forward in favor of atheism. The argument is basically thus: ‘if the Christian God exists, then evil would not be. Evil is, therefore God is not.’

We all struggle to understand why God allows horrible things to happen to people who do not deserve it. Tonight we are going to ponder this issue together. I want to suggest that we can come to a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people by identifying the who, the why, the what, and the how of evil and suffering. Who causes evil? Why does God allow evil? What does God do about evil? And How are we to respond to evil? As we search out an understanding of the who, why, what, and how of evil, I pray that God will illuminate our hearts and minds.

Before we delve into the who, why, what, and how of evil, we need to establish two preliminary facts. First, if Christianity is true, then there are no truly ‘good’ people. Second, if there is no God, then there are no truly ‘bad’ things to happen to people. We could spend an entire week talking about both of these fundamental truths, but we simply do not have the time. Thus, I am going to just touch on them briefly and then move on.

I. There are no “Good People”, only “Relatively Good People”


The Bible insists, and human experience confirms, that there are no truly ‘good’ people. Psalm 14:2-3 reads: The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Romans 3:9-20 quotes Psalm 14 and builds upon it, insisting that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. Verse 20 concludes: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  

The bad news of humanity, which must be understood before we can acknowledge the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that we are all alike sinners deserving of God’s just condemnation. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Only after acknowledging universal sinfulness can we proclaim that we are all justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The bad news precedes the good news. This is crucial when we consider why bad things happen to ‘good’ people. The bottom line is that no one is truly ‘good’; there are only ‘relatively good’ people. We are ‘relatively good’ in comparison to Hitler or Charles Manson. But none of us is ‘relatively good’ compared to God. God alone is good. We are good only insofar as we have the spirit of the living God within us. This truth has no impact upon our existential experience of evil and suffering, and it does not answer the question that we have asked. It just helps us to realize that we have to put good in quotation marks. The real question is ‘why do bad things happen’, period.

II. Outside of Christianity, there are no “Bad Things”, only “Things I Don’t Like”

Now consider this – what makes ‘bad’ things bad? To consider something ‘bad’, there must be some kind of objective standard to which it is being compared. As Christians, we certainly have this standard – something is ‘bad’ insofar as it falls short of the goodness and glory and perfection of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But what about others? Where does their definition of ‘bad’ come from? For most Eastern religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism, nothing is truly and objectively ‘bad’. Something may be maya, that is, illusory; but fundamental reality is one, Brahman, and transcends our categories of good and evil. There is not good and evil, there is only ‘is’. Evil is an illusion; suffering is an illusion. Thus, in those worldviews there is no point in asking the question ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’, because there are no ‘bad’ things.

How about the atheist? He fares no better. If there is no God, there is no objective standard of ‘good’ and ‘bad’. There is only ‘what I prefer’ and ‘what you prefer’; or what different cultures prefer. Without a transcendent source for morality, we are driven to some form of ethical relativism. But then the whole argument against Christianity based on the existence of pointless evil and suffering collapses. C. S. Lewis writes:
“My [old atheistic] argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

If there is no God, then there is no such thing as objective evil; but then there is no problem of evil to begin with. An atheist can rail against the existential unlikeability of things that happen, but he can hardly shake his fist at the God in whom he willfully disbelieves, and blame God for allowing evil to persist. Only the Christian can raise the question of why bad things happen to ‘good’ people, because we have a transcendent standard by which some things are indeed declared ‘evil’ or ‘bad’. Again, this does not minimize the reality and significance of evil and suffering—it only sets the framework for our discussion. There are no ‘good’ people, because we are all sinners by nature, and unless Christianity is true, there are no ‘bad’ things to happen to anybody. With that groundwork in place, let’s proceed to our discussion of the who, why, what, and how of evil.

III. Who Causes Evil? The impact of human sin

First, who causes evil? Where does it come from? Why is there suffering at all? In Genesis 1, God creates the universe and everything within it. In verse 31, we read: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. In the beginning, creation was good. There was no evil, no suffering. But in Genesis 3, the picture changes. Adam and Eve disobey God, rebel against God’s loving Lordship, and plunge all of creation into a state of fallen sinfulness. Their sin affects not just their own relationship with God, but the status of the entire created order. Where does evil come from? Quite simply, from the sin of mankind. Why are young girls in Thailand sold into sexual slavery? Because of the moral evil of men and women around them—their parents’ sinful decision to sell them off, the sinful institutions in their country which perpetually impoverish their families, and the sinful perversions of sex tourists who come to Thailand solely to despoil and molest enslaved Thai women. Why do deformities and handicaps affect many children? Because the fall of man introduced sin and imperfection into the created order, including the genetic reproduction of humanity. Evil exists because human sin exists.

IV. Why does God Allow Evil?

Second, why does Almighty God allow evil? Granted that evil stems from the sinfulness of humanity. Why does God allow it? If God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He stop children from being born deformed? Why doesn’t He stop women from being abused? Why doesn’t He protect New Orleans from being decimated by hurricanes and floods? Before I begin to answer this question, I want you to note the irony of this complaint against God. Atheists frequently want to be left alone to do what they want to do, morally and intellectually speaking. In other words, they want God to let them do what they want to do. If they want to have sex with a multitude of women, let them. If they want to think that words are a power game and have no intrinsic meaning, let them. They want to be left alone. They certainly do not want ‘God’ (in whom, again, they do not believe) to interfere in their lives and disrupt their plans. And yet they raise a howl of protest against intuitively-known evil, and insist that if there was an all-powerful God, He ought not to let such things occur. They want God to intervene and prevent other people from perpetrating evil (that is, from doing the evil that they want to do), but they forbid God from intervening and preventing themselves from perpetrating what others might perceive as evil. Which is it? Do they want a God who intervenes in earthly affairs, or not?

A) Human Freedom

Why does God allow evil to occur? Why does He permit relatively good people to endure incredible suffering? First off, we must acknowledge that if God so desired, He could eliminate all evil and suffering with one word from His mouth. After all, God is all-powerful. However, we might not like what was left of the world if God did that, as we will come to see presently. At any rate, we can point to three broad reasons that God allows evil to occur.

First, and most commonly and generally, God permits evil to occur because He has endowed men and women with free will, and does not intervene to prevent His creatures from carrying out their freely-chosen evil intentions. We are all consciously aware of having the power of choice – the ability to determine what we do today and tomorrow. To be sure, we are strongly influenced and directed by our particular genetic make-up, as well as our environmental upbringing. Nonetheless, we choose our course of action. [For example], one could decide to go out after church on Sunday and bring sandwiches and cold ice tea to the homeless people living on the streets of Louisville. [Another], meanwhile, could choose to slip thumbtacks into the shoes and hats of those same homeless people. One would be choosing to do good, the other to do evil. But both would be making a decision to act. God would not approve of  [the latter’s] actions. [This] would be acting contrary to God’s prescriptive will – that is, what God desires and directs to happen. [This] act would fall under God’s permissive will – that is, what God allows to happen, even though it may be contrary to His character and commandments.

The vast majority of evil and suffering we complain about is due to the sinfulness of mankind. The argument that God should not allow such evil to occur is really a demand that God should make man to be something other than what He is—that mankind should be compelled and forced by God to act rightly, instead of being exhorted, encouraged, and entreated to do what is right. A world without evil would be a world without free-willed men; a world of robotic androids, incapable of forming relationships, incapable of expressing worship, incapable of ‘doing good’ because they are incapable of choosing their path in any way. That is why we as human beings really do not want God to eliminate all evil and suffering—because if He did, we would cease to be conscious of anything. Removing the possibility of human-perpetrated evil also removes the possibility of human good.


B) Suffering as Discipline and Judgment


There are two other reasons that God permits evil and suffering. On the one hand, He sometimes allows us to experience a wake-up call—such as when a man who has been eating deep-fried fatty foods for years suffers a mild heart attack and ponders his need to alter his lifestyle and diet. God sometimes leads us through suffering in order to refine our character and will. Other times, suffering is a more direct judgment for sin, as when God judges His chosen nation of Israel in the Old Testament for their rebellion against Him, and sends them into exile in Babylon.

C) Suffering/Evil and the Greater Good

On the other hand, God often uses apparent evil to accomplish a greater good which we can not see because of our limited human perspective. Indeed, the comforting promise of Romans 8:28 is that we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. From my perspective (and I know there are many who disagree with this), God does not approve of or will the evil that occurs, but He does redeem it, working in the midst of great evil to accomplish greater good.

V. What does God Do about Evil and Suffering?

Indeed, that is part of the answer to our third question: What does God do about evil? Granted that mankind is the source of evil, and that God permits it primarily because He has divinely created us to be creatures with the freedom to choose good or evil—what does God do about it? Is He merely standing on the sidelines, cheering on the ‘good guys’ while booing the ‘evil ones’? Is He wringing His hands helplessly, weeping over His inability to rein in the forces of doom and darkness? In addition to working good out of evil, I suggest that there are four things that we can identify God as ‘doing’ about the evil and suffering in the world.

A) Grieves Over

First, God grieves with us over evil in the world. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus cries out:O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. Jesus is grieved by the unwillingness of the people of Israel to acknowledge and embrace His messianic ministry. Throughout Scripture, we see God expressing sympathy for those who are suffering, and promising to provide comfort to those who are afflicted. God grieves with us as we suffer, and carries us through the darkest times of our suffering.

B) Condemns and Judges

Second, God condemns evil. In Matthew 23:23, Jesus expresses strong anger and condemnation towards the evil of the religious leaders of Israel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. If you want even stronger expressions of condemnation for evil, check out the Old Testament prophets. A brief taste from Amos 2:6 – For three sins of Israel, even for four, I will not turn back my wrath. They sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed. Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. God judges and condemns evil in all forms, from whatever corner it comes. God’s Church is not exempt from condemnation—if and when evil is perpetrated by professing Christians, God can and will condemn it also.

C) Absorbs and Endures

Third, God takes evil upon Himself. God descends to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Though a righteous, sinless man, incarnate God suffers intense evil at the hands of sinful men. Whatever suffering and evil we have endured, Jesus has gone through similar or worse. Furthermore, when Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, He assumed upon Himself the evil that we have committed, and endured the punishment that we had earned. For example, 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As Jesus hangs on the cross, bearing upon Himself all of our evil and consequent punishment, God the Father judges the evil present upon God the Son. Jesus experiences this divine abandonment, and cries out: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Never lose sight of the fact that the suffering of the cross is real, and that Jesus takes evil willingly upon Himself. God does not just witness evil from the sidelines; He enters into human suffering and takes it upon Himself.

D) Ultimately & Finally Defeats
Finally, God gives His divine and certain promise that evil will one day be defeated and eradicated. We live as fallen creatures in a fallen creation, but God has assured us that He will one day remake creation and re-establish for all eternity a righteous, perfect order. Revelation 16-20 (like many other biblical passages) describe the future defeat, judgment, and demise of Satan and other workers of evil; Revelation 21 then opens with a beautiful picture of the paradise that awaits us when evil is eradicated. Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. God grieves over evil; He condemns it; He takes it upon Himself to redeem us; and He will ultimately defeat and demolish all evil and suffering.

VI. How are We to Respond to Evil and Suffering?

With all that in mind, then, how are we to respond to evil? Are we to throw our hands up in the air and cry: ‘There’s nothing we can do about it! We live in a terrible world!’? Or are we to take a shotgun and shoot whoever around us seems to be most evil? How does God desire us to respond to evil around us, and the evil that we ourselves endure. First, we need to have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, as Philippians 2:1-11 reminds us. We must grieve with others who encounter evil and experience suffering, and seek to comfort them and carry them through their trials. We must also condemn the evil that exists in our society—as well as the evil that exists within ourselves. We must not be content to accept the inevitability of evil and suffering, but rather are called by God to strive against it. In the Lord’s prayer, we pray: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We truly desire for God’s will to be done here, and thus we struggle and fight against evil, injustice, and sources of human suffering. 

Finally, when we experience evil personally, we must keep fresh in our minds the convicting, challenging, but comforting words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Yes, our suffering may be intense; the evil we encounter may be gratuitous, grievous evil. But we must keep in mind the victory over death and evil and suffering that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ won the victory over sin and death through His glorious resurrection, so too we are assured of our own victory over evil and death. Just as Christ was raised from the dead to eternal life with God the Father, so too we are assured of our own resurrection to eternal life.

Who causes evil? We do. Why does God allow evil to persist? Because He created us with the freedom to choose, for good or for evil, and allows us to act accordingly. What does God do about the evil that He permits? He brings good out of it, grieves over it, condemns it, takes it upon Himself, and ultimately defeats it. How are we to respond to evil? We are to grieve over it, condemn it, and keep our eyes focused upon the redemption of our suffering through our future resurrection.

HELL: Beyond The Worst Imagined Suffering

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by R C Sproul

We have often heard statements such as “War is hell” or “I went through hell.” These expressions are, of course, not taken literally. Rather, they reflect our tendency to use the word hell as a descriptive term for the most ghastly human experience possible. Yet no human experience in this world is actually comparable to hell. If we try to imagine the worst of all possible suffering in the here and now we have not yet stretched our imaginations to reach the dreadful reality of hell.

Hell is trivialized when it is used as a common curse word. To use the word lightly may be a halfhearted human attempt to take the concept lightly or to treat it in an amusing way. We tend to joke about things most frightening to us in a futile effort to declaw and defang them, reducing their threatening power.

There is no biblical concept more grim or terror-invoking than the idea of hell. It is so unpopular with us that few would give credence to it at all except that it comes to us from the teaching of Christ Himself.

Almost all the biblical teaching about hell comes from the lips of Jesus. It is this doctrine, perhaps more than any other, that strains even the Christian’s loyalty to the teaching of Christ. Modern Christians have pushed the limits of minimizing hell in an effort to sidestep or soften Jesus’ own teaching. The Bible describes hell as a place of outer darkness, a lake of fire, a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, a place of eternal separation from the blessings of God, a prison, a place of torment where the worm doesn’t turn or die. These graphic images of eternal punishment provoke the question, should we take these descriptions literally or are they merely symbols?

I suspect they are symbols, but I find no relief in that. We must not think of them as being merely symbols. It is probably that the sinner in hell would prefer a literal lake of fire as his eternal abode to the reality of hell represented in the lake of fire image. If these images are indeed symbols, then we must conclude that the reality is worse than the symbol suggests. The function of symbols is to point beyond themselves to a higher or more intense state of actuality than the symbol itself can contain. That Jesus used the most awful symbols imaginable to describe hell is no comfort to those who see them simply as symbols.

A breath of relief is usually heard when someone declares, “Hell is a symbol for separation from God.” To be separated from God for eternity is no great threat to the impenitent person. The ungodly want nothing more than to be separated from God. Their problem in hell will not be separation from God, it will be the presence of God that will torment them. In hell, God will be present in the fullness of His divine wrath. He will be there to exercise His just punishment of the damned. They will know Him as an all-consuming fire.

No matter how we analyze the concept of hell it often sounds to us as a place of cruel and unusual punishment. If, however, we can take any comfort in the concept of hell, we can take it in the full assurance that there will be no cruelty there. It is impossible for God to be cruel. Cruelty involves inflicting a punishment that is more severe or harsh than the crime. Cruelty in this sense is unjust. God is incapable of inflicting an unjust punishment. The Judge of all the earth will surely do what is right. No innocent person will ever suffer at His hand.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of hell is its eternality. People can endure the greatest agony if they know it will ultimately stop. In hell there is no such hope. The Bible clearly teaches that the punishment is eternal. The same word is used for both eternal life and eternal death. Punishment implies pain. Mere annihilation, which some have lobbied for, involves no pain. Jonathan Edwards, in preaching on Revelation 6:15-16 said, “Wicked men will hereafter earnestly wish to be turned to nothing and forever cease to be that they may escape the wrath of God.”

Hell, then, is an eternity before the righteous, ever-burning wrath of God, a suffering torment from which there is no escape and no relief. Understanding this is crucial to our drive to appreciate the work of Christ and to preach His gospel.

[Excerpted from Essential Truths of the Christian Faith.]


 

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