What Do We Do When Bad Things Happen?
Probably the greatest challenge to our faith is trusting God when bad things happen. There are so many questions that rush through our minds! Probably the most common ones I hear are:
- “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
- “If God is really sovereign then why did this happen?”
- “How could a good God allow them to suffer like this?”
- “How can I understand this?”
Just the other day I had someone ask me many of these questions as they tried to sort through a trial they were facing in their own life. As a pastor, these are some of the most difficult questions to answer and, honestly, the ones that many times challenge my own faith. I thought about this again the other night as I read Genesis 45. Go ahead and read that section of scripture.
In case you aren’t familiar with the backline of this account in scripture I’ll give you the short version. You may remember Joseph as the boy who had the coat of many colors that was given to him by his father. You may also remember that the coat made Joseph’s brothers quite jealous! It didn’t help matters any when one night Joseph had a dream that he would rule over his brothers and father. He told his family about this dream and things didn’t go so well! He ended up thrown into a well and sold off to Egypt. In Egypt he arose to prominence in the house of a man named Potiphar until Potiphar’s wife, who was evidently a freak, tried to seduce Joseph. When he wouldn’t have anything to do with her she framed him and got him arrested. Back to prison he went! However, God wasn’t finished with him and he would eventually rise again. This time he would be ruler over all of Egypt and in charge of everything that belonged to Pharaoh. The Lord told Joseph that 7 years of famine would strike the land and Joseph made preparation by storing up food in Egypt. The great famine touches everyone including Joseph’s family. They, like many others, come to Egypt looking for food. This is where Genesis 45:3-11 picks up.
After all that the brothers had done to Joseph and all of the heartache and pain he had been through he was able to utter the words we read in verse 5.
And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
In Genesis 50:20 he also says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Is it as remarkable to you as it is to me that Joseph could have this attitude after all that he had been through? Think about all the wasted years! The lonely nights in dark, death infested prisons! The fear of not knowing what would happen the next day! The disappointment of rising to prominence one day only to lose it all the next because of a slutty woman who tried to ruin your life because you did the right thing!
Often times we read accounts in the Bible and think that the people we are reading about were superhuman. That’s just not the case. Joseph, like everyone else other than Jesus who walked the face of the earth, was imperfect. So how did he come to the place of being able to say, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” How did he reach that place of maturity and trust in God? How did he get through the tough questions like the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this blog?
As I’ve grown in my faith and continue to grow (I have a looooong way to go!), I have become increasingly comfortable to say, “I don’t know!” For years I felt that I needed to have all the answers. Now I realize that is impossible to have all of the answers, especially in the area we are discussing today. God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that His “thoughts are not [our] thoughts, neither are [our] ways [His] ways.” He continues, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This brings me a lot of peace now that I have simply accepted the fact that I CAN NOT understand everything about God nor can I understand all that He does. When it comes to life and things that happen sometimes the answer is simply, “I don’t know why!”
Rather than focusing on what I don’t know I try to turn my attention to what I do know. While I can’t understand everything about God there are some things that I do know and can hold onto everyday. I want to share four questions that I hope will help you find answers.
- Is God good? Yes. Sometimes when things happen in our lives it is easy to doubt this or maybe question His goodness. If this is a struggle for you I would say look at the cross! The cross is the pinnacle of God’s goodness that stands higher than all of man’s calamity! We cannot look at the cross, remember God’s innocent Son hung there for our sins, and then question God’s goodness or desire to work all things for our good.
- Is God faithful? Yes. Here’s the amazing thing. Since the day you were born you’ve been inhaling and exhaling. Who gave you that breath? God. Last night none of you went to bed wondering if the Sun would come up this morning. Who causes the Sun to rise and set? God. Who has brought you through the difficult times in your life? God. Who has worked good, is working good, or will work good from the most difficult times in your life? God. He IS faithful!
- Is God sovereign? Yes. God is in complete control. There’s never been one day that He woke up worried about what was coming. There’s never been a time when He wondered what needed to be done or lacked the power to do it! He is in control of our lives. Here’s some good news for you! A good, faithful, and sovereign God is in control of your life! That thought, not the thought of maybe being able to manipulate God to get what you want, brings incredible peace and hope!
- Can you trust Him? Yes. In fact, in light of numbers 1-3 the better question to ask is, “Why wouldn’t I trust Him?” He is good, faithful, and sovereign. There is no doubt that you can trust Him. But will you? Will you lay your cares, hurts, anger, and disappointment at His feet and trust that He cares for you? Will you let Him take your anxiety and worry about the future? Will you hold to Him through the dark nights trusting and knowing that He is holding you?
My encouragement to you today is to focus on what we do know rather than what we don’t! Focus on His goodness and faithfulness! His sovereign power! And rest in the fact that you CAN trust Him!
Love you guys! Heart and Soul!