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Friday, July 15, 2016

It's Not His Intent

She said, "This is what the Lord has done for me when He looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people." Luke 1:24,25

It was never God's intent.

It's not His intent that I am in my mid 30s and still single when I would love to have a family. It's not His intent that I come from a broken home of divorce. It's not His intent that I don't have a home country to return to. It's not His intent that I've had struggles through the years.

Elizabeth and her husband John had done the right things all their lives. They were righteous people, descendants of priests, and there was no apparent reason why they should have not been blessed with children. Yet sin still ruled the world and it was Satan's intent that they not experience that joy. This is what makes the verse above so beautiful.

At first glance, it would appear that God was the one Who put the disgrace on Elizabeth. The verse The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away rings in my ear as just one example. But in verse 6 of the same chapter it is clear that Elizabeth didn't deserve to be disgraced. Her barrenness was not a result of her disobedience to God's law. It was the result of sin. Not her sin but sin's effect on the world.

After Elizabeth finds out she is pregnant, she gives all praise to God. Interestingly, she doesn't say God has given her a child because she obeyed His law. No, she says God has given her a child because He has been gracious and kind to her (Merriam Webster definition 3 of favour). In doing so, in making it possible for Elizabeth to conceive, God has taken away the disgrace she had to endure for so long. God did not place the disgrace on Elizabeth but He did remove it.

This is the God I love. Many people ask why God allows bad things to happen. A famous cliche says that He won't allow things to happen to you unless you can handle it (which I think is quite inaccurate and untrue because He doesn't want us to suffer). Another one says that everything goes through God first, as if He filters the horrible things, choosing which ones will pass Him to get to you.

I don't think God is up there, arbitrarily or randomly selecting which bad things can happen to you. While this does jive with the idea that He is judge and ruler above all, it clashes with the understanding that God's role is to mitigate the effects of sin in our lives. Sin is like black paint. Once it splatters on something, you can see it clearly and even if you scrub it away there are still black specks that linger. The effects are permanent. . .at least in this life.

Until Jesus returns, we have to live with the reality of this sin. We have to recognize that Satan's sole purpose is to make our lives as difficult as possible so we will renounce God, possibly give up on life, and adopt a laissez-faire attitude. Sin is deadly and its insidiousness makes it harder to spot or name.

So when bad things happen, instead of asking why God allows them to happen, we can shift our questions to how will we see God taking these horrible things, like the truck massacre in Nice, the airport bombing in Ataturk, or the plane explosion in Sharm el Sheikh, and somehow give us the strength to carry on.

We are in a war. Today, the literal effects of this war are being seen more and more, but figuratively speaking we are in a war. We are the foot soldiers and there are two captains, Satan and Jesus. Satan is fighting to keep his territory and as many prisoners of war as possible while Jesus is fighting to free as many as possible from Satan's deadly influence. Satan is the charmer; Jesus is the winsome one.

As we live life, we are choosing to fight for one side or the other. When tragedy strikes and we are wounded, we often find ourselves limping through life, questioning why we have to endure such things. If our eyes could be open, we would perhaps understand a little more why. We can be fighting for Jesus' side but the battle we are fighting is in a large open area where Satan's bombs of death, divorce, addiction, pain, fear, jealousy, grief, hatred, and more are falling on us daily. Jesus cannot shield us from all the bombs just as in any war, there are casualties of that war. If He were to shield us, then Satan could accuse Him of throwing the battle so that we would naturally gravitate to Jesus' side since there would be no threat to our lives while fighting on Satan's side would guarantee battle scars.

Here is where my God's character is fully revealed. During and after the explosions, He is there to support me. I may be wounded, because life will do that, but He will not allow me to be conquered if I give full allegiance to Him. I think it breaks God's heart to see us suffering. He longs even more than I do for the 2nd Coming so all this horror will be over. But until then, God in His wisdom brings joy, love, and peace into our lives despite the tragedies we must endure.

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. ~Psalm 18:19

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