When a pastor tells you that your child’s death is “God’s will”, does that bring you comfort? Or anguish?
Is there truth in it? Is everything, whether good or bad, God’s will?
A friend posted a question on Facebook the other day.
Now admittedly, the question wasn’t asked of me, but I happened to be in the neighbourhood, dropping some eaves.
The question was this (I’m paraphrasing here):
“Does the saying, ‘If He brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it’, mean that everything is God’s will?”
So many thoughts flooded my brain at once and I tried to type them all down. Partial verses that I could see vaguely in my memory, promises I could remember reading somewhere (thank you Google and biblegateway.com), and this ever nagging voice telling me, “you know not everything is God’s will, Catherine. So what makes you so sure?”
It wasn’t until I read my own response, hours later, that I realised how much I was talking to myself, too.
IF it is something that God has actually brought us to Himself (eg. understanding His truth), then He will most certainly bring us through everything that is associated with that (eg. He will reveal His truth to us in a way that we understand, He will strengthen us through opposition, He will show His love for us, He will bring people into our lives who are His arms of support, He will refine us, etc.).
However, there are a multitude of things that are not brought before us by God. Broken relationships, death etc. are not the will of God. But in these instances He makes the promise to us that if anything comes before us, He can do something positive with that experience (eg. grow us in compassion/patience/empathy) (Romans 8:28 [And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose]).
He promises to be with us through anything that comes our way (whether He brings us to it, or whether He allows it to come to us – and that is where the difference lies) – Joshua 1:9 [Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go]; Matthew 28:20 [teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen]
There are so many instances in the Bible where God had a plan and people chose not to follow it. So God gave them a sort of ‘number two’ plan. It couldn’t be as wonderful as His original plan, but He set it in place so that the people had the opportunity to be blessed still.
His plans for us are never for evil – Jeremiah 29:11 [For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope]
So the saying, “If God brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it,” is Biblically sound.
I think maybe the best support of the fact that God brings us some things, but ‘allows’ other things is found in James 1:2-5 & 12-18 [My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him; Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures]. It’s basically saying God brings trials, so that we may grow spiritually. He does NOT bring temptations, but they are still something that can be endured successfully. 1 Corinthians 10:13 [No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it] is a great verse to remind ourselves of too.
I think it’s important to remember that God isn’t the one who brings us death and brokenness. Those things are all Satan’s work – those are the things Satan brought to us through his own disobedience and mistrust.
So when those things come to us, it is not God saying “yes, I want for this to happen, but don’t worry, I’ll bring you out the other side.”
It’s God saying, “I never wanted for you to EVER experience this, and I see how awful this is for you too. I will never leave your side as you hurt from this. I will remind you how much I love you and I will let you know how much worth I place on you, every step of the way. This is a horrible thing to have happened in your life, but I will not let satan’s purpose be fulfilled in you. He wants to discourage you, to steal your happiness, and kill your passion for life. I don’t want you to shrivel up from this, I would rather use this awful thing as something to have you grow from. I want you to learn more about who I am through this. I want you to understand how my promises relate directly to what you are going through right now. I want you to learn how these bad things don’t change my deep, everlasting love for you (Jeremiah 31:3), I want you to deepen your trust of me. I want you to know that I will get you through this, if you will let me.”
Those awful things needn’t serve an awful purpose.
Let Him take your experiences, your choices, and turn them around.
He can, if you will let Him.