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Friday, January 1, 2010

In Whose Hands?

"My biggest struggle is trying to see that this is God's will. Maybe once I understand that it is His will for me to face these challenges in the coming months, I will also understand that He is waiting to help me with them."

A close friend stood by my office window, an earnest look on their face as they shared their personal struggles and asked for prayer that they could come to terms with those challenges. I, however, disagreed with their conclusion.

It was not the first time I'd heard that phrase. "It must be God's will that I am suffering this hardship right now." Or how about, "It's God's will that my life should go this way." Ever heard this one? "I don't understand why I am not doing _____________, but it is God's will for me and I must follow His will and not my own." Prayers included the familiar, "May Thy will be done in whatever circumstances lie ahead." When faced with a tough situation where there were no easy answers, such as a dying relative, an abused child, or a job loss, the easy way out was to say, "God must have a plan and we will pray with you that His will may be revealed in the midst of this."

The will of God, a cliched phrase that Christians fall back on, has served as the catch-all phrase to heal all hurts and cure all ills. A cop-out, in a way, it has rolled off the tongue all too easily to truly mean anything to the one who hears it. It is not a new saying, by all means. Visitors to the Middle East recognize a version of it when they bid farewell to a national and hear the words "Insha'Allah" literally translated as, "God has willed it."

As my dear friend struggled to make spiritual sense of something that was troubling her, I stepped back in my mind and looked at it from a logical perspective. What I saw troubled me. Questions that had been tumbling around in my mind for weeks now began to harrass me for answers. Answers that could be not be answered with a soft, "It must be God's will."

Maybe, just maybe, not everything was God's will. But was that a sacriligious thought? Did not everything that came to us come from God's Hand, as we loved to sing loudly every Sabbath morning? Were we not to strive for more trust, less doubt, and never to question the difficult things that came, but rather accept them as testings and trials that would give us the opportunity to learn how to cling closer to God and prove that we were true Christians?

I begged to differ. Another good friend explained it as, "People say, it is in God's Hands, but maybe it isn't. Maybe it's in the devil's hands." This friend was speaking from experience where they saw others using the excuse that every situation in life was in God's Hands, therefore nothing bad could happen to them, and if something bad did happen, well, it must have been sent by God.

These are false beliefs and need to be recognized as such. God does have a will and a plan for our lives; that plan included perfect love and life and harmony, but unfortunately it was ruined in the very beginning. So now His plan is to teach us more about what we missed out on here on this earth but have the opportunity to experience in heaven: perfect love, life and harmony. His will is that we can learn more about Him and become more like Him. His plan never included struggles and hardships and challenges. Those are all consequences of sin.

We need to recognize and place blame where it is due. The devil is the one who laughs when we struggle, and is the one who sends as many trials, temptations, and difficulties as God will permit to touch us. Read the book of Job if you're not convinced. Throughout the Bible, over and over, we see God protecting, defending, providing for and loving His children. There were times He had to allow the consequences of sin to be played out, especially when His children chose to walk away from Him. But I refuse to believe that God ever wished any of His children to suffer. God is a God of love and every time we are in pain, I believe He empathizes with us deeply. If a parent suffers when their child disobeys them and must suffer consequences so they learn not to disobey again, how much more must God feel our pain as our Creator and Father?

The devil, on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to lose when he makes our lives miserable. He knows he's condemned to the lake of burning fire already, so he might as well go out with a bang and take as many people with him as he can. He goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), and he doesn't care who suffers.

My friend's particular circumstances dictated that the next several months would be particularly stressful. I knew that the added stress was not from a divine decree, but rather from other people's poor planning and choices not to take full responsibility for the current situation. This upset me, because while my friend attributed their distress to an act of God, His will no less, it seemed to me that God was not responsible. I tried to explain that I didn't think it was God's will that they should have to go through this, but they didn't want to hear me. Perhaps it made them feel better to think that they had to struggle to come to terms with God offering them assistance in their time of need.

Regardless of my friend's personal convictions, I left our conversation that day wondering why so many people blame God when it isn't His fault? Why must we always try to explain it as God's will when in reality it is the devil's plan all along to wreak havoc in our lives? Can we ever learn to see God for what He truly is—love—and can we accept that sometimes things that happen may not be His will, but that He will help us through the situation nevertheless?

I need to believe in a God Whose only Will toward me is Good and Perfect and Holy.

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