Last week, in GARDENING, Part 1, I told the
story of how God used gardening, an activity that I despise, to bring
something good into my life. We saw that negative circumstances don't
necessarily mean that God has withheld His favour, but rather, we
sometimes just don't know what we really need! But God does know, and
His favour is upon us, no matter what road we are forced to walk.
But wait a minute! Does this mean that every bad thing that happens to us is something that God allows, even orchestrates, in order to teach us lessons?
No. A loving God would never allow the horrendous atrocities that happen to innocent people for the sole purpose of teaching us lessons!
Let's go back to the gardening for a moment. Were all the weeds in my garden really God's will?
The first reference to weeds is found in Genesis 3: "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field." (Gen 3:17-19 NIV)
So, those weeds aren't there to teach me a lesson, they are simply a result of Adam and Eve's poor choice! Hum! That puts a different spin on things, doesn't it?
We also know that allergies, or any kind of infirmity, are a result of their poor choice.
And then there was the sunburn. God intended for the sun to give us life, but did He intend for us to get burned by it?
We know that sunburn is caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays, ones which God created the ozone layer to help filter out. Unfortunately, this "cloak" is thinning, and the result is more and worse sunburn, and increasing risk of skin cancer.
But God never intended for the ozone layer to thin! This is a result of chemicals that escape into the atmosphere from our cooling systems and aerosol cans!
And besides, sunburn is completely preventable, as long as you wear protective clothing and use sunscreen! Which I choose not to do when I went out to garden.
So my sunburn wasn't God's will! It was the result of poor choices!
Friends, we must remember that in this world, we don't always make the best choices. Adam's poor choice brought weeds to God's beautiful creation, as well as infirmity and illness into the world. Humanity's poor choices have caused the ozone layer to thin, and not putting on sunscreen was my own poor choice!
We must also remember that we live in a world infested by the devil and his evil entourage, a world where God has allowed each and every individual the power of choice. It isn't and has never been God's will for suffering to exist. But it does exist as the result of the poor choices humanity has made!
Could God stop the suffering?
Yes, He could.
But not without taking away our power of choice.
Remember that this world is caught up in a cosmic, supernatural war: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12 NIV). A better way to look at suffering is that we are caught in the line of fire, so to speak, and in many cases, we are simply casualties of that war!
The next time we find ourselves in the middle of something big and horrible, remember, it isn't because God has withheld His favour, and it isn't happening so that God can teach us a lesson! It is happening because we have become casualties of the cosmic war.
The good news is, throughout it all, God is there.
While here on Earth, Jesus spent most of His time helping those casualties of war: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matt 9:36 NIV)
And He is still here, ever active in bringing something good out of bad situations: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him …" (Rom 8:28 NIV). And often that "something good" involves us learning vitally important concepts such as faith, trust, and patience.
So in the midst of bad times, why not try turning to God, depending upon Him to bring us out of the valley, even thanking Him for the vital lessons He will help us learn as we pass through?
It's something I will definitely think about the next time I have to work in the garden!
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, and the Scriptural Nuggets website, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer ministries, www.answers2prayer.org.