How is God in Control When Terrible Things Happen?

That’s the question that many who face life-and-death situations ask.

It’s only a hypothetical question for many of us. That is, unless you have nearly lost your life or you have lost a loved-one in some tragedy. It’s the question my friend Todd asks after the loss of his young boy. It’s the question that those who lost loved-ones on 9/11 ask. It’s the question I ask (and my wife asks) in light of the awful year we just experienced.

A year ago (February 2 is the one-year anniversary!), I nearly lost my life to an aortic dissection. Worse yet, my wife and kids nearly lost their husband and daddy. It was a horrific ordeal for Linda because after the initial surgery I developed respiratory complications that, again, threatened my life on a daily basis. I was in a medicated coma for four weeks.

Most would like to look at the positive of this and say, “Wow, God was so good to you for saving your life like that! He spared your family from such heartache!”

It sounds good to say that, and at many times I definitely agree with that sentiment. But then there are other issues that are raised in my heart-of-hearts:
  • If God is in such wonderful control of everything, then why did this happen in the first place?
  • If God was so good to us, then why did he put my wife through four weeks of absolute stress, not knowing if I would survive another day?
  • If God has a good plan for his children, then why was I in the hospital for seven weeks and then basically home-bound for the entire year while they awaited my ability to have a second surgery to re-do (!) the emergency surgery and to repair another aneurysm and to replace a faulty heart valve?
  • If God is soveriegn, then why is it that my ministry was placed at a stand-still for a year, right when it was starting to launch?

These are the issues that I want to face square-on.

Watch for more ruminations here at the blog.



RonMcK said...

I can think of someone who would love to have done all those things: Mr Saddun.

Ted Gossard said...

Bob, I look forward to your ruminations on this.

As I get older, it seems like Job is becoming a strikingly (for me) richer book. What you say here reminds me of Job. And even something like what he may have thought sometime after God restored him and gave he and his wife a new family.

There is no way we can see and make sense of everything, ourselves. If God ever grants us that.

RonMcK said...

This is an important topic. I think that Bob deserves more than just a couple of comments.

The Jesus that I know (a bit) does not torment women and children. He does not tell someone to do something and then foot trip him so he cannot do it.

On the other hand, I can see why the enemy would try to obstruct someone like Bob, who is on the cutting edge of the Kingdom of God. If your ministry is on hold for a year, he is the winner.

Should we all just roll over and accept this?

I can see that God will bring good out of this, but I cannot see that God was working this for good.

Bob, I am impressed that you are hanging in with God, but I guess there is nowhere else to go.

Ted Gossard said...

Ron, I so much agree with your sentiments. Though I don't think they answer everything.

For example, Why would the good and loving and all-powerful God, allow Satan to break through his hedge and do everything to Job, short of taking his life?

We certainly see that Job, in the end, has a new vision of himself and God. And surely a new sense of not knowing as much as he thought he did before- I believe.

RonMcK said...

Yes it is true that God allowed Satan to attack Job, but the situation was a bit different in OT times. Satan seemed to have freedom to enter into heaven an argue with God. I believe that the cross changed this. Satan was chucked out of heaven by Jesus. We have the blood of Christ to protect us and the wisdom of the Spirit that Job did not have.

The experience of Job does show that Satan used sickness as an effective weapon against the saints.

I have written elsewhere on Spiritual Protection. I believe that it is an area that the modern church is weak on. We have substituted a doctrine of covering for the real protection that comes appying the spiritual armour as part of a body.

sacred vapor said...

Sometimes, when my kids ask me questions (ages 5 and 8), I can’t really answer them because I know that they would not understand the answer. I get the sense that this is one of those issues. If God is really in-control of things, then there is some reason for why he allows suffering to continue.

In some paradoxical way though, it seems that christians who have suffered much are the strongest and wisest people I know.

Nevertheless, we may not know the answer why? But we do know that God takes our misery and suffering so seriously that he is willing to get involved with it himself. As I recall a Tim Keller sermon on this, he states that it is difficult to take this question of suffering to the cross and ask if God cares?

my prayers are with you man,

Bob Robinson said...

RonMck, Ted, and Vapor,
Sorry I've taken so much time to respond.
I hear what Vapor is saying, and, being one that leans toward Reformed Theology, this is the standard line of thinking.

However, it seems to not make a lot of sense when it is pushed to its logical conclusion.

Calvinists insist that God is absolutely soveriegn, and thus is in some way is behind evil while getting out of being blamed for evil...he "allows" it.

But the God revealed in Christ is the One who overcomes suffering and casts out evil. Yes, and the God revealed in Christ is the One who suffers Himself on the cross.

But my Reformed Theology that I've developed over the years (that is exemplified by the likes of John Piper, DA Carson and Tim Keller) seems to insist that God "has a reason for everything, even suffering." Having gone through what I've been through, this (to be honest) is less than satisfying theologically and doxologically. Most of all, it does not match my Christology!

Ted Gossard said...

Yeah, Bob. Good thoughts.

I really don't know. God seems to be at work to redeem our sufferings, in Christ. But there are a good number of Christians who seem bitter, at this point.

And we all struggle with bitterness or disappointment with God, some time, during our lives. But for some, life seems especially difficult.

I don't necessarily see any answers that will make sense for us here. But we do have "hope". And God's love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, even if everything seems lost.

RonMcK said...

Sacred Vapor
You said "christians who have suffered much are the strongest and wisest people I know."

This is only partly true. Strong christians seem to be made stronger by hardship. However, I know many Christians who have been crushed or had their ministries truncated by sickenss. I don't think that was God's purpose. You could say that they did not have the right attitude, but that is a bit trite.

sacred vapor said...

good point Romck,
I didn't mean to suggest that this be the case with all Christians, but those that have helped me and others in our struggles have been Christians wrought from the battlefield. Wounded and yet having survived.

Bob, that was the first time I have ever been accused of being a Calvinist (lol).

I have found some of Gregory Boyd's books to be helpful on this subject, particularly "Is God to Blame?". He has some good thoughts on this. He even applies some of this to Chaos theory...


Bob Robinson said...

Paul (Vapor),
I'll let you in on a little secret -
I'm reading Boyd's book while re-reading Carson's book at the same time. Interesting work, juxtaposing these two variances of theology, especially when it comes to God's soveriegnty.
I'll be posting soon about how the two have a majorly different starting point when they discuss suffering. Carson starts with sin as the source of suffering. Boyd starts with Satan as the source of suffering. I believe it has to do with their different understandings of atonement. Carson is a staunch proponent of penal substitutionary atonement; Boyd is a staunch proponent of the Christus Victor understanding of atonement. It plays out in how they see suffering. Very interesting.

sacred vapor said...

I'm looking forward to reading that Bob,


RonMcK said...

I look forward to reading you comments on these two books.

I have never understood why theologians push penal substitutionary atonement and Christus Victor apart. I have always seen them as two sides of the same coin. I wonder what view you get of suffering, if you keep these two together.