No, This Isn’t All Part Of God’s Plan (So Let’s Stop Blaming It On Him)

No, This Isn’t All Part Of God’s Plan (So Let’s Stop Blaming It On Him) May 24, 2016

Pair of compasses with blueprint rolls building and architecture concept

Lately I’ve been thinking about life. A lot.

I’ve also been thinking about the the line we tell people when they’re going through sad chapters in life: “Well, this is all part of God’s plan.”

But is it, really? Is all this part of God’s plan? Looking back at the times people have said this to me in the midst of suffering, I find myself shaking my head that we’d believe such a thing.

Not only does that line fail to bring me comfort, it also seems to impugn God’s character. The idea that a loving God would have a “plan” that involved wiping out thousands in earthquakes and tsunamis, giving people cancer, parents losing children, car accidents, trauma, abuse, and all manner of pain and suffering, is an insane idea.

Think about it: if this is all “according to God’s plan” and every life event is being directed and controlled by him, he’s really bad at making plans.

In some of my saddest seasons of loss, people have come along side of me and said, “Well, we’ll never really understand God’s plan.”

And every time I hear it, through my tears and suffocating sadness I just want to reply, “No shit, Sherlock.” How could a plan that involves so much heartache be understood?

Sure, I understand what we’re trying to do when we say it. We’re trying to make ourselves or others feel better, and trying to make sense of sadness and suffering. The best way we know how? Apparently it’s to believe that our suffering was all planned by God, and thus must have some deeper, mysterious beauty we haven’t discovered yet.

Sometimes we’ll say God planned the suffering for our benefit. Other times we’ll be tricked into believing that God planned the suffering to chastise us for not measuring up. Yet, no matter how we try to rationalize or explain it, we end up at the same spot: if this is all part of God’s plan, God is the author and cause of evil and suffering.

As well meaning or desperate for answers as we may be, trying to fit all of the tragedies and sadness of life into some supposed master plan that God has, creates far more problems than it solves.

I am convinced that any belief or worldview that makes God the agent of causation for our suffering, ought to be rejected. This includes the idea that God has a giant master plan where everything that happens in life is divinely willed and ordained as part of it. In a world of such brokenness, this simply cannot be true.

Instead of saying that God has a “plan,” I am growing more fond of saying that God has a certain desire, a certain will– a certain heart. And that this will, this desire, and this heart, is always love. It’s never anything but love. This means that whatever God wills, and whatever God desires to bring into reality, is always beautiful and never evil.

God does not will our heartache and suffering. He doesn’t will our losses, and the broken chapters we experience in this life.

Those things have nothing to do with God, and are so far outside of his will, his desire, and his heart, that it’s indescribable.

Instead of trying to rationalize our suffering as being from the hand of God– thus making God an agent to be petrified of instead of a creator to be loved, I think we should be quicker to acknowledge that, no, a lot of what we experience in life isn’t God’s plan at all.

And honestly, we really need to stop blaming him, because we pin some really horrible and tragic life events on him. I can’t imagine it makes him feel good when we actually believe that he caused that car accident, sent the tornado, or gave the cancer in order to fulfill his own really twisted “plan.”

Instead, when we acknowledge that really hard and sad life events did not come from the hand of God, and were not in any way planned by or ordained by God, I believe we’re invited to get to know a God who joins in our suffering instead of causing it.

Because you see, if it’s outside of God’s heart and desires, God grieves that loss and brokenness with us– because it’s his hopes and dreams for our lives that end up getting smashed as well.

I don’t know how to have a relationship with a God who comes along side me in sadness and suffering and says, “You’re going to have to trust my reasons for making your world explode.”

But I am learning (I’m trying Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard), how to have a relationship with a God who sits beside me and says, “Yeah, man… this whole thing totally sucks.

Instead of this idea of God having a master plan that meticulously dictates and controls what happens in our lives (often referred to a blueprint theology), I believe that God has hopes, dreams, and desires for our stories. When those things come true, he rejoices and celebrates with us.

But when those hopes and dreams get smashed to bits, instead of saying “Oh, by the way– I actually did that,” I believe God sits in the dark and mourns those broken dreams with us.

And when the tears have subsided long enough to begin to hear his voice clearly, I’m convinced he’s also whispering, “And I know this can’t replace your loss, but when you’re ready I’d love to partner with you to try to make something good come out of all this.”

unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold.

Keep up to date with BLC! Visit his NEW site!

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  • You know, the one thing that Job’s friends did right when they came to visit him was when they decided to sit in silence with him for seven full days, waiting for him to speak. And as we all know, the instant they started speaking, they didn’t do anything else right for the remainder of the book, until God appeared in the whirlwind to chastise them.

    It’s just a shame that we all recognize their failure, yet fail to recognize how incredibly often we emulate it.

  • I have been thinking about this a lot recently. I have dear Calvinist friends who believe God has ordained every mouse fart, grey hair, and stray bullet. I have some friends who believe God does not control much but he did arrange for them to have a parking space close to the door at the mall. I know they are both wrong but I still cannot articulate exactly what I believe. But my view is a bit grimmer than yours though I think we end up in the same place.

  • Dr. Corey, I write this as a God-believer and someone who struggles with these same issues. But what you’ve written here is, I think, way too pretty. I don’t doubt that God grieves along with us. Nor would I struggle against the idea that God’s universal plan does not include every single moment of suffering. But I think the questions you ask lead to another question, does God have the power to put an end to our suffering? Take a simple example, one not (yet) loaded with emotional baggage: there must be thousands of people praying for an end to the fire in Alberta. God must hear those prayers. I’ll go along with you and surmise that God did not set that fire, and the fire is not part of God’s plan. But why doesn’t God respond to our prayers by putting out the fire? I mean, all it should take is a strong rain, right?

    And I’m sorry to say this. But if God just won’t make it rain on Alberta, then God is not suffering as we suffer. It’s a different kind of suffering to say, “man, it sucks that I won’t put out this fire.”

  • Skeptical Christian

    Yeah, I agree, tough stuff.
    Here in Edmonton, Alberta we received more precipitation on Sat and Sun than we did in the last 6 months. Fort McMurray….not so much, but some. However, it rained weeks after the fire destroyed part of the city and chased nearly 100000 folks from the area.
    As an Orthodox Christian, I’ll wonder why a miraculous icon can occasionally be the place of somebody’s healing, but years of a spouse suffering goes seemingly unanswered.
    Though God is always pursuing us in love, it sure isn’t apparent most of the time. I’m sure He would say the same about me, though.
    I do agree that trite little sayings and cliché’s are irritating and unhelpful, for sure.
    Well, I guess this is better than when I was a Calvinist where not only do you have the devil as an enemy but often God, too.

  • Iain Lovejoy

    Is there an issue between the specific and the general? God may not deliberately hit us with that car or infect us with that disease but God has placed us in a world which is hard and dangerous, and does not always protect us from being hurt by it and God allows us to hurt ourselves and others and often does not intervene to prevent appalling crimes being committed and great suffering being caused.
    It must be part of God’s plan that such things in general are possible and inevitably will happen, since that is the way he made the world. Even if you say human sin adds to or even causes all suffering it is God who chose to make us so that we were capable of and could choose to sin.
    If we accept that Jesus has redeemed the world it must also be true to say that God indeed has a plan to relieve that suffering, but part of that is not doing so forcibly right away, which as God he could.
    It is also the case that we see in the Bible God taking suffering that has occurred and (through divine planning) brings out of it good.
    Aren’t you therefore splitting hairs somewhat in maintaining it is entirely false to see suffering as part of “God’s plan”?

  • Dwayne Westermann

    The problem of Theodicy is irresolvable theologically and philosophically. Nor can it be rationalized in any way. “If God is God He is not good, if God is good He is not God; take the even, take the odd..” (“JB” – Macleish )

  • Erica Goldberg Senecal

    I believe my loving God is completely in control of all things at all times. I believe he does have a good plan for my life. It involves my surrender, my complete surrender to a God who is who He says He is. He is Truth. He is Love. He is Good. His ways and His thoughts are not the same as mine. They are Higher and Greater.

    This God who is completely in control of every circumstance of my life uses the good and the bad to shape me more and more into the image of my Savior. I want to look like Jesus. Even though it hurts. If you knew my story, you’d know I soak from a place of extreme heartache and death of hopes and dreams and things I planned and expected. I’ve wrestled with my God. Much, very much.

    And I conclude that He is Big and Strong and yet He is Gentle and Caring. I love Him because He loved me first. I continue to love Him (although I’ve had many moments/months/years of anger and bitterness towards Him) because He loves me. No matter what. He loves me.

    He weeps with me.
    He collects my tears in a bottle.
    He rejoices over me.
    He gets me.
    He holds me.
    He shelters me.
    When I am surrendered.
    When I am struggling.
    He knows me and he knows my heart and my motives and my thoughts.
    He promises to give back what the enemy has stolen.

    I don’t have the answers.
    I am trying to understand, just like all of us.
    But this has all been a part of my experience. I cannot share details here but letting go is near impossible…except when I ask for His help. Healing is nearly impossible unless I seek my Healer.

    I hope some of these words encourage you.
    Be blessed today.

  • James Letchworth

    ..sorry, you’re welcomed to your opinion (and that’s all it is), but if we look at God’s work as the un-fathomably complex miracle it is, and not from a selfish perspective, we gain some understanding of God’s nature. when we say it’s good that we are protected by our weapons of mass destruction, we mean it’s good for us, probably not considering the fact that, as a whole, it’s bad for children on the receiving end of those weapons. God decides who is blessed, often at the expense of others who are not so blessed. it’s nothing personal, folks, just business. imho.

  • Benjamin, this hits close to me right now. A person very dear to me passed away a few days ago from cancer. They were part of a large conservative evangelical group we left long ago, and our home is grand central for phone call, visitors, and other activities.

    There were many, many people praying for the person’s miraculous recovery, but once they passed the story changed to ‘This is all God’s will.’ And I have witnessed several discussions about how the complex events of the last couple of months were divinely orchestrated by God.

    I did not challenge those statements because it would be very inappropriate, but I no longer hold this worldview and cannot comprehend how they derive comfort from this perspective of God.

  • James, I am afraid I cannot agree at all.

  • hairfree hunk

    I’m the first to admit that no pain hurts worse than the pain that hurts right now. While I don’t believe that evil comes from God and that God does not tempt us with evil, in His divine foreknowledge, He sees the grander benefit of allowing pain and evil to touch us. I’m eternally grateful that I serve a multi-dimensional God who is not trumped by my heartache anymore than I am. Instead, he empowers my pain in all my broken places and uses it for His grand glory. Did he intend it? No. Did He allow it? Yes. He did allow it because He is sovereign over everything. And He is good. Always good. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

    Nasty things happen, ultimately, for three reasons, or coming from three sources. First, I have a sin nature and I do it to myself. Second, others have a sin nature and they do it to me. Finally, I have a diabolical enemy with an army of minions that do it to me. (But, mostly, it’s that first category.) The good news is because of the blood of Christ, washed over me and making me clean, all those nasty things can suddenly have purpose. The singular dimensionality of my life and pain is swept away by the blood of the Lamb. God alone has the intimate knowledge and loving power to make all things new and to empower my broken places, not only for my own healing, but also for the healing of others. I KNOW…because I am living it out loud, here and now. Over and over again, the most painful places in my life have become a testimony for God’s healing. I am in the habit of showing my scars because, in them, is hope.

    When I hear nonsense like a one dimensional scramble for hope like “It’s all part of God’s plan,” for some reason, in my mind’s eye, I see Tricia Helfer playing the iconic role of Caprica Six, from Battlestar Galactica, repeating that half dead mantra, with a smirk and a sneer, and halfway out of desperation that saying it enough will make it so. I’m grateful to God that there is real hope. It begins at the foot of the cross. It continues in the beauty of God’s grace unfolding in my pain and it will continue until completion when I’m face to face with my Savior.

    I often quote my dad (who now tells me he was quoting Dr. John MacArthur) when he says the most comforting of God’s attributes is His sovereignty. They’re both right. I don’t understand how it all works, but I’m glad it does. I take great comfort and hope in God’s great plan for me.

  • RonnyTX

    Sometimes we’ll say God planned the suffering for our benefit. Other times we’ll be tricked into believing that God planned the suffering to chastise us for not measuring up. Yet, no matter how we try to rationalize or explain it, we end up at the same spot: if this is all part of God’s plan, God is the author and cause of evil and suffering.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    Ben, I’m going to have to disagree with you some, on this one. The way I see it, God is in control of all things,that including evil and God will bring good out of all evil. Now we human beings, we can’t do that; but God is God, so God can.

    Now I’ve got to go look up that scripture, that I once posted on a Patheos evangelical group. Well, I tried to post it; but the fellow who ran that group, wouldn’t let my post show up. Why? I think it was because the scripture I thought of, said the opposite of what he believed and expressed about evil.

    “5 I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else.
    7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” Isaiah 45:5,7

    A good article here, on evil.

  • Larry Logan

    This is the most mature thinking and attitude I can imagine. Living with the negative self-talk and irrational thinking of Clinical Depression, I can only fantasize about walking with this level of maturity.

  • Larry, I know it is no comfort but I don’t think God manipulates nature. Rain is caused by the natural forces of weather, and I don’t see changing natural weather to put out a fire. Why would we expect that?

    Natural forces such as wildfire, rain, tornados, earthquakes, and so forth are simply the effects of a living planet. If those things did not happen, then the planet would be dead and lifeless. It seems to me that manipulating those forces does not really make sense.

  • RonnyTX

    Amen Erica, amen! :-) And here, I also know about how God has caused me to love some one, who I once wished dead and the sooner the better. And when I continued to hate this man, for the terrible sins he had committed against a much loved niece of mine, then out of the blue God simply reminded me, that Jesus Christ was on the cross for that man, just as much as he was for me. And I was also reminded, that Jesus Christ needed to be on the cross for me, as well. And he was and that for all of us. Which just shows us all, how greatly God/Jesus Christ, loves us, one and all! :-)

  • Dean

    Ah, the age old theodicy debate. For me, I think the best answer that still falls within the confines of orthodox Christianity, however you want to define that, is probably Open Theism. So for those of you looking for an alternative to the Calvinism v. Arminianism, you might want to see what Open Theism has to offer. When I read God of the Possible by Greg Boyd I think my brain almost exploded. Another very accessible introduction to Open Theism is by Clack Pinnock called the Openness of God. To provide a brief summary, Open Theism postulates that the future is partly determined and partly open, and that God knows the future decisions of free will agents as possibilities. So rather than a concept of the future as unraveling according to some divine plan, or alternatively, the future being know already by God, both of which result in us merely playing out a script, our free will actions actually matter, they actually result in a future that we participate in creating with God (does Genesis 1 come to mind?). Honestly, Open Theism explained a lot for me, it explains why there is something rather than nothing, it explains why God changes his mind and regrets thing in the Bible, it explains why some accept Christ and other do not, it explains why there is evil in the world, it explains why we are commanded to pray, and at the same time, it gives us hope that God, while not in meticulous control of the universe, is infinitely capable of responding to any challenge that we may present. Meaning, there is no eventuality that God is not prepared for, he knows the infinite possibilities of your life and this creation and he can respond to every act of evil or natural disaster and turn it into something good. I think that is much closer to the Biblical God than anything presented by Calvinism and you don’t have try to answer the question as to how God can justify decreeing for a child to be raped in order to accomplish some greater purpose.

  • No Flood? No splitting of the Red Sea? No sun standing still in the sky for Joshua? I should say, I don’t believe in the literal truth of the Bible, and I think that the three events I’ve listed are all myths. But in some sense, I DO believe in a God of creation, which is the ultimate in God-manipulation of nature.

    We might imagine that God began and ended God’s manipulation of nature with creation, and since then God has determined not to intervene in history (except, perhaps, to suffer with us). We might also decide that God is powerless to shape events now that the universe is in motion. But this becomes a very different God than the one we’ve traditionally imagined. For one thing, this is a God who has none of the traditional blessings to confer on us, except that God has “blessed” us to share in creation in a way that’s analagous to how God does it: in the good and the bad. Even this provides no more than a glimpse of an explanation.

  • Brian Kellogg

    I don’t think God is in control, He is in the response I think. This is such a hard question for me as any answer falls so short and just ends with exposing our ignorance, our limitations. It correspondingly exposes us to a lot of valid challenges to our belief as well.

    Maybe free will requires God to self-limit in order to allow chance to play such a large role in our reality; which may be required for, at the least, a limited free will to flourish. I don’t know. I continue to research but am not expecting an answer. But, I am expecting to join in with that response as best I can.

  • Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • Brian Kellogg

    “God decides who is blessed, often at the expense of others who are not so blessed.”

    Why must this be an either or? Why can it not be a both and? Why is what you state the only possible answer? Maybe its our decisions both individually and collectively that create this painful dichotomy? Maybe we need to step up and take responsibility? I think what you state paints God as this eminently practical overseer more concerned with making sure the books balance. Is this love? I don’t see where Jesus was ever at all concerned with pragmatism which in some ways scares me.

  • Larry, I agree with you that ‘this becomes a very different God than the one we’ve traditionally imagined.’ But I think the God we imagined is often mistaken.

  • Charles, if God is up to something that is beyond our understanding, then we can’t assume that God is building a palace … or that we know that over here is a new wing and over there is a new floor. We might guess that something like this is going on, but we can’t know.

  • Dean, if God can respond to every natural disaster and turn it into something good, then why doesn’t God do so?

  • Jesus called someone else ‘the ruler of this world.’
    He didn’t see Himself as controlling all events or all realms YET, and if your theology thinks that He is, then His commissioning of Holocausts, Child abuse, Tsunamis and Genocides doesn’t make much sense.

  • Tom Hudson

    As most of us would admit, this is a topic deserving thousands of words and lots of time. There is not 25-words-or-less or elevator speech that can adequately respond to this eternal quandary.

    When asked about “God’s plan,” I try to keep things simple. I believe that God created a universe with physical laws. When the engines on an airplane fail at 30,000 feet, gravity takes over and everyone dies, no matter how good or bad they have been, or how hard they pray going down. That’s the way God created a universe that is home for us. We could say that “it’s God’s plan” that gravity always works.

    When human cells mutate and begin to divide uncontrollably, they will eventually kill the host organism. We could say “that’s God’s plan” for how cells work. (And it is also part of the plan that, occasionally, the cancer dies, also quite naturally.)

    God also created quantum physics, so that, occasionally, the opposite of the expected outcome will occur. We just can’t predict when, or make it happen, nor can we explain it or take credit for it.

    What we cannot expect is that we can persuade God to override the physical universe that God created for us to live in. All the evidence around us tells us that the best people sometimes suffer, and the most evil sometimes prosper. So what, then, is God’s plan for us?

    I look at the telos – the end-point or goal. God has made it clear: that, when this life is over, as pleasant or hellish as it is for us, we will be united with God for all eternity. Life is a journey – sometimes smooth and other times rocky – and I agree with Ben that God is with us through it all. But I really believe that God’s only “plan” for us is the telos – that we are with God forever after this life. And yes, that means all of us. Love wins.

  • Tom, I think you’re describing Deism: God has created the universe but remains apart from it and permits his creation to administer itself through natural laws. (That’s the Wikipedia definition!) There’s nothing wrong with being a Deist. You might combine your Deism with the idea that God still cares what happens to us, and even that we can somehow experience this care. You might also decide that your Deism has or does not have a telos. You might conclude that this life has meaning, or is a meaningless prelude to the telos you describe.

    But in order for your theology to address the question here, you’d have to address why this pre-Telos life was engineered to produce so much suffering, and why some of us suffer so much more cruelly and (seemingly) unjustly than others. Perhaps this is just an unavoidable feature of a physical Creation. But then, why have it? It seems like an awful lot of fuss and bother if the whole point of God and us lies elsewhere.

    In any event, this post is focused on this life. To say that the next life will be perfect only begs the question why this life is not.

  • Mongox3

    I understand what you mean. It does not make sense to say we have to “pray in agreement” that someone be healed, then when they are not, to switch to “well, guess that was not God’s plan. This must be God’s plan.” Hard to believe in a God who requires us to pray just right, or for the right number of people to pray just right, or that they play bait-and-switch with “God’s will.” I am with you — I cannot hold this worldview or find comfort in that picture of God. Ben speaks truth, here, as well, possibly, as the “open theism” approach.

  • Mongox3

    James, with all due respect, how can we get comfort from a God who says “it’s nothing personal folks, just business.” Thankfully, that is not the God we serve. He is not up to “just business,” not at all. He weeps when His friends pass away, He crosses lines for those He loves (and it gets Him killed), He shows us again and again, that it is always, only, about love. No “business” in the equation. I don’t think I could believe in/worship a god who was “just business.” Sounds very American, but not very divine.

  • TLC

    Thank you so much for this. It has brought much peace to my heart.

  • Frankly Frank

    So, let’s toss out the book of Job, Genesis 50 (Joseph’s suffering), the predicted destruction of Jerusalem (a couple of times), the persecution of the prophets, the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment, persecution and thorn in the flesh, the sufferings and death of Christ for our salvation, I Peter (theme: “grace in suffering”), and so much more. Open theism teaches a God who is so limited, He is not worthy of our worship. This is a sad article and I guess being a formerly fundie means you don’t believe the revealed Word and will of God. This sounds more like, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner. I am suffering right now and my great consolation is that God is in control and will see me through. I think that JB Phillips was right, “Your God is too small!”

  • yes?

  • Larry I suffer from clinical depression have done all my life. so did my mother and father. we go down deep us depressives don’t we? I was lucky I didn’t kill myself before now or die an alcoholic death or OD on drugs. but what has really helped me cope with my suffering is being artistic and expressing it in visual arts, music and writing. here is something I recently found from reading quotes fr Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:
    It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • Larry I’ve been thinking about your post all day. lately I’ve been reading quotes from c.s. Lewis Mere Christianity. here’s one that seems relevant IMHO to our conversation:
    My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?
    C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • Charles, I don’t know Lewis all that well, but I’ve encountered that quote before and liked it.

    I struggle with this stuff. It is possible that our sense of justice is part of our inborn biology, or our sociology. Certainly, we see a sense of justice in peoples who have never been exposed to the Bible. But … I DO think I perceive something caring that animates the world around me.

    No. I can’t explain a God that has the qualities typically ascribed to God, in light of the world I see around me. But even with all the advances of science, I can’t explain the qualities of the world I see around me without God. Here, I’m not referring to a “God in the gaps.” I’m referring to a kind of beauty, order and genius of it all. It’s not a question of “intelligent design” for me. It’s just that the stuff I see around me is not quite haphazard enough, not quite cold enough, to seem God-less.

    So it kind of comes down to, it doesn’t make any sense to me either way, with or without God, but it makes slightly more sense with God, and I’m going with that.

  • I think there is a great mystery, here.

    On the one hand, you certainly can’t say that pain and tragedy are part of God’s “plan” in any kind of regular sense of the word. God’s “plan” is to have a world filled with people in His image – justice, compassion, forgiveness, reconciliation – and bringing healing and provision to a world where a lion wouldn’t even harm a lamb. The idea that God is out there volitionally dropping tree limbs on children because it’s part of the “plan” seems really… crazy.

    On the other hand, Paul tells a persecuted church that God will take up their suffering and use it for good. Peter tells us that horrible, unjust martyrdom of Jesus Christ did not thwart the purpose of God, but rather advanced it in a way that undermined Jesus’ enemies and made a show of them.

    On the one hand, God does not cause our suffering or dispassionately decree it because it’s a small cog in a larger machine. On the other hand, our suffering is not meaningless and, in ways we may or not be able to fathom at any given time, our Father can use it to reconcile and restore the world, crushing our accuser.

    I trust God. I trust that my pains are also His. I trust His dream for the world, and I am sold out on that dream. And I trust that no suffering, pain, injustice, or atrocity that happens along the way is a meaningless waste that is beyond His capacity to redeem.

    Hell if I can work that out in a satisfactory way for all examples, though.

  • Bones

    I doubt God has a plan..

    I’d say God exists in all God’s creation.

  • Matthew

    Is it an over-simplification to say that God is certainly not the author of suffering, but God does allow suffering?

  • Realist1234

    Probably one of the biggest questions, which noone can fully answer, this side of our face-to-face meeting with Jesus. When the author Adrian Plass was going through a particularly tough time, he felt the need to meet with an Anglican church leader who was known for being ‘charismatic’. At their meeting, he simply told Adrian God’s word to him ‘Nothing is wasted’. Even though it all looked meaningless and pointless to Adrian, God was telling him He was in control and it all had meaning. He would bring ‘good’ out of it.

    I dont think you can argue suffering of any kind is never God’s ‘will’. When Paul asked God to remove his ‘thorn in the flesh’ which, whatever it was, Paul viewed as causing him to suffer, God did not remove it. It was God’s will for Paul to continue with it. Perhaps it was to ensure Paul would remain humble in his attitude and continually reliant on God – given his spiritual experiences it would have been easy for him to become big-headed etc. Who knows. God clearly ‘allows’ alot of suffering to happen, though I suspect much of that is down to our own bad choices and the subsequent consequences, but we cant always see a simple cause and effect.

    In the end, this question often comes down to trusting the Lord fully. Something I struggle with. ‘I believe, help my unbelief !’

  • RonnyTX

    Frank, just thinking about that part about Joseph suffering. How most of his brothers meant to kill him and then decided, to simply sell him into slavery. Then years later, his brothers were confronted with a Joseph, who had the power, to have them killed. But then Joseph simply told his brothers, what they did to him and meant for evil, God meant for good. He told them, God brought good, much good, out of the evil they did. Then I think about it, us human beings can’t do evil and then bring good out of that; but God is God and God can do and does do just that. :-)

  • Realist1234

    Jesus ‘manipulated nature’.

  • Realist1234

    True but are you expecting God to intervene in every single ‘natural disaster’ that ever happens? It may be that such wild fires become more common due to climate change. If that general increase in temperature is primarily due to man, is that not just an inevitable consequence of destroying the planet?

  • Realist1234

    I dont think we do have a God who ‘requires us to pray just right’. If that was the case, we wouldnt have the Holy Spirit ‘groaning’ with us.

  • Realist1234

    Just another thought. When suffering comes, which it does to all of us, the best thing to have is genuine friends who stand with us in that suffering regardless of the outcome. It is often in such times we discover who our real friends are. As Christians, we are supposed to be the body of Christ on earth, and He expects us to act accordingly.

  • Bones

    Given the Indian Ocean Earthquake and tsunamis swept away 230 000 people in 2004 that would have been a good place to start.

    Christians were too busy thanking God for giving them a car park….

  • How is your view grimmer than mine? You’re a universalist, which makes you one of the most optimistic people I know.

  • Realist, we might say that climate change is due to the size of the carbon footprint created by an overpopulated planet. Who told us to “be fruitful and multiply”? Might we expect God to rescind that particular commandment when it is no longer applicable?

    But that’s not really my point. As Dean pointed out above, we’re debating questions of theodicy, which strictly speaking is the effort to justify God in light of the existence of suffering and evil. I think that the effort is important and that it can’t possibly succeed. In this sense, I am an antitheodicist. I don’t expect God to put out the fire, but I do think we should note that God hasn’t done so. This says something in response to Dr. Corey’s assurance that God suffers along with us. What it says, I’m not sure, but it makes it impossible for me to confidently imagine God the way Dr. Corey does.

  • Bones

    I’d say so….

    The consequence of your statement is that God allows child rape, mass murder, suicide, wars………

  • I agree, Mongox.

  • RonnyTX

    Frank, you’re right that it is a great comfort, that God is in control of all things. :-) And I can’t understand the hows of it; but I know God/Jesus Christ, can and will bring good out of all evil. :-) And you mentioned the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, for our salvation. What greater evil could there be, than Jesus Christ being tortured and murdered on a cross?! :-( Yet God/Jesus Christ planned it, meant it for good and good came out of it and that for all people! :-) Now it’s simply a matter of time, till God shows each person that, on a One on one level. :-)

    “22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2:22,24

  • I also would say that.

  • Matthew

    Let´s take war as an example.

    God could stop a war if God wanted to, but if God doesn´t, doesn´t that mean that God allows it to continue? God´s sovereignty must mean something — or is it all a matter of free will?

  • Bones

    God could stop a war but he won’t…

    Yet we pray that he’ll bless us and get us a nice job and girlfriend and heal our headache.

    I don’t believe in free will.

    Where is the free will of the 2 year old who is being raped? Or the free will of 230 000 people washed away for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

  • Completely unrelated to anything, but when I saw your opening “Amen Erica, amen!” my brain went and smushed it together a little bit, coming out with “America, amen!” And I thought that was a very odd way to begin a comment, and wondered what I had missed.

  • Dean

    Well, like I said, I didn’t say Open Theism solves the problem of theodicy, but in my opinion it does provide the most satisfying framework. I do appreciate that the answer to your question, however, is probably going to be similar coming from any theist, particularly a Christian.

  • Matthew

    Thanks Bones.

    What do you believe in?

  • Realist1234

    Not sure thats what he meant?

  • Realist1234

    So basically blame God for everything, including climate change? It would be interesting to know if humans had fulfilled God’s command of only having sex and therefore children within a life-long relationship between a man and a woman, would the population be as it is today? But thats something for the sociologists to work out.

    From what I can see, much of mankind’s suffering and evil comes from mankind, the fact that we live on a ‘fallen’ planet which was not God’s original plan, and the existence of satan and the demonic realm. But I think its also important to put everything in context. Our current experience is not the end of the story. One day, the Lord will renew this earth, and all that evil and suffering will be a distant memory.

  • one of the biggest breakthroughs I had when I started in AA recovery program was the concept of ‘working with others’. some of the experiences one suffers as an addict going through the pattern of abuse of alcohol and drugs are applicable to any addiction or relationships that are co-dependent and this includes addiction to religion or Fundamentalist obsessions of any kind IMHO. one of the greatest moments in my recovery was when I realized how important it is to be willing to share my recovery experience, healing, understanding & empathy w those who are still suffering. because I have walked in their shoes and can offer my real-world experience of recovery (years of sobriety and serenity) I can & do encourage the ones I encounter, whom God sends, to hope for inspiration to apply to their hopelessness and powerlessness over their addictions.

  • Bones

    Dunno. I no longer have a system of belief as a system of belief requires discounting anything which refutes it less the whole house of cards falls down.

    Negative theology defines God by what he isn’t and that’s how I’m in the process of defining God.

    And that’s OK.

    I have never believed in a god who controls events as when I hear that and see the crap in my life I wonder what sort of a God is that?

    What sort of a God decapitated my best friend and the father of three little kids leaving them to be raised by my sister and us……or has a young guy on the eve of his birthday visiting his family on his first holiday to find his dad with his brains blown out ( that’s me btw)….and yeah I’ve buried my mum since after she had a massive heart attack taking her and my kids on a fun vacation…….

    I’ve come to hate that verse that God works for the good of those who love God. …because it’s bs.

    I do prefer panentheism.

    Ie God is in his creation.

  • Realist, I don’t seem to be making myself understood. I’m not trying to absolve humans of responsibility for the world’s problems. But it doesn’t exactly work to say that God’s failure to alleviate suffering and punish evil can be explained by our failure to do the same. Theodicy is an effort to justify God based on divine standards, not human ones.

    The question on the floor is how to justify the goodness of God in light of the existence of evil and the nature of human suffering. If your justification is that we brought it on ourselves, and if this works for you, fine. If your justification is that one day God will make it all better so that this evil and suffering does not matter, and if this works for you, fine.

    But neither explanation works for me. Perhaps we all DO suffer, all of the billions of us who are and ever were, because 5700 years ago one couple disobeyed God and ruined things for the rest of us. I can’t imagine the system of justice that would allow for this kind of collective responsibility for the sins of two people long dead. And if it’s not a question of collective guilt but is a consequence of a world physically broken by these sins, then I’d have to ask what sort of a good God would consign us to a world designed so that its goodness could so easily be shattered. Surely God as imagined by the world’s great religions could design a world that would not fall apart as soon as one or two people ate a piece of fruit.

    I also have to ask, what kind of justice is it that excuses the infliction of pain and the prevalence of evil on God’s promise to make it up to us in the future? That’s not even justice under human standards, let alone divine standards. Under any just system of law, including that found in the Bible, the promise to do great things to someone in the future does not justify one’s hurting that someone in the present. None of us can say, “I’m going to treat you like a king for the rest of your life, but first I’m going to break your leg.” True, our system of justice DOES provide a way to assess responsibility for certain wrongs we inflict on each other, and require the payment of compensatory damages. But this system is not seen as excusing the wrong. It is instead seen for what it is: the assignment of responsibility and the assessment of consequences for the commission of these wrongs.

    I believe in God, notwithstanding my personal certainty that there’s no way to explain the existence of evil and suffering alongside a God that is all-powerful, all-caring and all-merciful.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Awesome, heart of God reflections on the unfortunate ways Christian tradition has often (usually?) dealt with the tragic consequences of what we call our “fallen world.” Nope, not God’s will. Thanks.

  • Bones

    I’ve always found Luke 13 interesting…..

    13 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had [a]mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you [b]repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse [c]culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

    The impression I get is Jesus is basically saying shit happens to us all or the rain falls on the good and the bad….

  • Matthew

    I’m so sorry Bones.

    I suppose nothing I have to say about the problem of evil and suffering and God will really make much of a difference.

    How can we know what God isn’t when all that has been revealed is what God is?

  • RonnyTX

    Snommelp to Ronny:
    Completely unrelated to anything, but when I saw your opening “Amen Erica, amen!” my brain went and smushed it together a little bit, coming out with “America, amen!” And I thought that was a very odd way to begin a comment, and wondered what I had missed.

    Ronny to Snommelp:
    That sounds, like how I can read, at times! :-)

  • Realist1234

    The issue of suffering and evil, and an all-powerful and loving God, will never be resolved, at least this side of death. In trying to reconcile the problem, I have no easy answers, but I would argue that it appears God has delegated mankind much authority and responsibility, as shown from Genesis. Regardless of how one understands the ‘fall’, the reality is that human beings often inflict suffering on others, often out of selfishness, which is the opposite of God’s design and purpose. Logically, if we asked God to wipe out all evil right now, we would all be wiped out. I dont think I said that the current ‘evil and suffering does not matter’. It does, very much so. But it has to be seen in the light of the whole story, not just part of it. I think it does matter that this life, with all its difficulties and joys, is not the end of the matter. The fact that we should have hope for a different future, when He renews everything, makes a difference.

    Regards justice, many receive rightful justice now, but for those that don’t (for example, if someone murders another and the murderer is never convicted of his crime), justice will ultimately be delivered. In the end, I dont think anyone will be able to say to God ‘its not fair’.

  • Noah

    You don’t know they’re both wrong. You may believe it, but you don’t know it. As soon as you pigeon yourself down to one belief that can’t be challenged with open minded reason, you’ve lost.

    I think God is in charge of everything and ultimately controls everything. This may be passive or active. Kind of like us. For instance parents – do they control every aspect of their kid’s life? No. But yes, they make decisions for them, both big and small.

    I’ll stay vague as I’m not sure how much we do ‘surprises’ God. Someone once told me it’s like watching a game you missed, knowing the end score, but not knowing the details.

  • gimpi1

    One of the hardest things to accept is how random life is. My neighbor just died of ovarian cancer. She had no risk factors, it just happened. I have rheumatoid arthritis, and it may disable me. No one knows why I got it. My friend lost her job, and has not been able to find another. She may lose her home. She’s done nothing wrong, it just happened. I live in earthquake territory. Other people live where tornadoes or hurricanes are common. Disasters just happen.

    I can’t believe in a God who targets tornadoes for political reasons, or moves tsunamis due to one man’s prayer, and lets others drown, ignoring their prayers. But life as random, with a God that doesn’t direct our suffering, but endures it withh us, that makes more sense to me.

  • Barry

    Benjamin, I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and love your work. My understanding is different in regard to this post, though.

    I think the primary problem is in the spirit of the objectifying, God-feigning, do-gooder who is regurgitating the cold, formal line that “it’s God’s plan” to the person who is suffering. The false consoler is in the same family as the guy who wears the billboard by the high school that says, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

    Now, do I factually believe that a change of heart can bring the kingdom of heaven into a present reality? Yes. But I can believe the billboard wearer’s FACT without believing his TRUTH.

    In the same way, I don’t believe in the truth of the guy standing beside the patient saying, “it’s God’s plan for your tumor.” Go get a billboard and stand on the corner, bro.

    However, do I believe we can lay it all – every single thing that befalls us – at the feet of God? I do.

    I think the biblical record aligns with that.

    [DISCLAIMER: As you well know, everybody can and does go to the bible to prove “untruths” all the time, so I know it’s beware of Barry time! For example, there are many who use Scriptures to say same-sex, monogamous relationships are forbidden. I do not believe that is truth. Best article I’ve ever seen on that is thisone:

    Back to suffering and starting with the plagues (Exodus 7-12). The Egyptians greatly, greatly suffered throughout all the plagues, and time after time the Scriptures attribute the suffering to God, specifically saying it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

    And take Job, Satan (however you want to conceive of thatentity) brought the pain, but Satan had to run everything he did through God, and God set the parameters for the pain and loss that Job would experience.

    Isaiah 45:7 – I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster; I,the Lord, do all these things.” (King James version says: … I make peace and create evil…”)

    Amos 3:6 – When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? (Some of our televangelists have lived off this one. They, too, are in the same family as the billboarded guy standing down at the high school. :-))

    Moving to the New Testament, look where Jesus puts the blame at the climax of his suffering: “My God,My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

    Paul, starting in 2nd Corinthians 11:23, uses his extensive suffering as “proof” that God is WITH him.

    From beginning to end of the biblical account, it seems that evil and suffering stop at God’s door.

    I read somewhere of 3 words that summarize our story with God, and they’ve served me greatly: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Thesis – God / us in God from the beginning. Antithesis – the subjection to that which is opposed to the Goodness of God. Synthesis – the greater glory in God that would not be possible except
    for antithesis.

    Who allowed or set-up the season of antithesis – isn’t it God?

    In a way, God is like a drug mule. He allowed sin/evil to be carried in his
    body, until it had done its full work and is then removed. The sin/evil is encapsulated such that it doesn’t “change” or “impurify” the goodness of God, but it is present nonetheless.

    So, how do you take a belief that God is the causal agent for suffering and apply it to the sufferer? By emptying yourself to one sufferer at a time, knowing every situation and set of circumstances is different. By immersing yourself in a real, spirit-led role of helper, consoler, encourager, and nurse. By being able to
    hear cussing rants, screams and rages at God from the sufferer and not feeling
    any need to pardon or excuse God with some trite statement about how God
    wouldn’t let you suffer beyond what you can bear. By being sensitive and loving, attentive and present. By being God’s vessel, one to another, knowing that suffering is from the hand of God and healing is from the same hand.

    And when healing is not seen from that hand in this lifetime, we’re left mystified. And it’s hard. And it’s a day at a time.

    And, ultimately, isn’t it faith that although we haven’t seen it clearly, nor have we heard it discernibly, and God knows we don’t know what to think it is, that we believe the synthesis is far, far greater than the antithesis?

  • RonnyTX

    Barry, I sure liked your post. :-) And I’ve had things happen to me in my life, that as I’ve said, I would not wish on my worst enemy. But this I know, before all is wrapped up and done, when time is no more and we have all entered eternity, God/Jesus Christ will have made all things well and that true for every person, from Adam on down! :-) Ah, as the old song says,What a day, glorious day, that will be! :-)

  • Barry

    Thanks so much, Ronny, and amen and amen! Indeed, what a glorious day — I’m singing with you now! Be well.

  • RonnyTX

    Thank you Barry. :-)

    And I want to thank you too, for including that link to Justin’s article! It was really good! :-)

    A part of it, below.

    I wrote this essay in response to those of you who wanted to know why I believe what I do. But remember, this essay is only a human opinion, and although my views have been shaped by years of prayer and Bible study on this issue, they still remain a flawed human interpretation of things.

    If this is an issue that matters to you, please don’t base your views on something like “Justin says this” or “Justin believes that.” Take your time to study the Bible for yourself. Read the passages I mentioned, in their context, to understand them better. Read arguments on both sides of the issue, and don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions.

    Most of all, pray. Pray every day for God’s guidance in your life and for the wisdom and humility to admit when you’re wrong. If you find that you disagree with fellow Christians, remember that they are still your brothers and sisters in Christ. And they may yet have something to teach you.

    Ah, that is so good and so true! :-) And it follows the best advice I once got, from a well known Baptist preacher. Where he said if you’re not sure of something, if you want to be sure of it, then pray and ask God, to show you the truth of a matter. And that is exactly what I did, when I wanted to know if my being gay was self chosen and sinful or not? And in the end, God simply let me know, that it wasn’t. :-) Of course, I’m sure not many preachers and preacher followers, would agree with me. Especially so here, in my small town, rural part of NE Texas. But then, I don’t follow preachers any more and look up to them and their words, as if they were God speaking to me. I don’t idol worship some preachers any more, as I was taught to do, in the church I grew up in. And I don’t doubt; but that, that in itself, would get me in a lot of trouble, with some local preachers. I hope not all; but I suspect it would, with more than a few. (ha) But my, how much better it is, just to depend on and trust God/Jesus Christ, for all things! :-)

    Follow Christ at all costs. Nothing matters more than that.

  • Barry

    Man, Ronny, I don’t know if I could agree with you any more completely! Thanks so much for your follow-up and your kind, thoughtful disposition.

    I happen to be a fellow Texan living north of Dallas. I’m also a former “pastor” and actually officiated a gay wedding ceremony just over a year ago. May not have been “legal,” at the time, but we live by the Spirit and not the law, amen?!

    Thanks again,

  • RonnyTX

    Barry, just wanted to post this one too, for you, me and everyone here. :-) Hope this is a good recording? Can’t check it this morning, as I would have to turn up the sound too much and my oldest Sis is home and on the phone with someone. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Barry to Ronny:
    Man, Ronny, I don’t know if I could agree with you any more completely! Thanks so much for your follow-up and your kind, thoughtful disposition.

    Ronny to Barry:
    You’re welcome Barry and thank you too. :-)

    Barry to Ronny:
    I happen to be a fellow Texan living north of Dallas. I’m also a former “pastor” and actually officiated a gay wedding ceremony just over a year ago. May not have been “legal,” at the time, but we live by the Spirit and not the law, amen?!

    Thanks again,

    Ronny to Barry:
    Amen! :-) For we are not called to follow preachers or any person; but we are simply called, to follow Jesus Christ. :-)

    And glad to hear about you officiating at a gay wedding. :-) I have a much loved niece over in Rowlett, that married her female spouse, 3 years ago. :-) Of course, it wasn’t legal here then, either. I think it was New Mexico they went to then, to get married? And just glad they made it out of that tornado storm, that came in Rowlett, a few months ago! They did loose their house, that they had bought not long before. When the storm hit, niece said they got in the small bathroom. And that was the only room in the house, that was left standing, after that bad tornado hit!

  • Barry

    Good stuff, Ronny!

  • Snooterpoot

    My dad lived with Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade before he died. His mental decline was a sad and horrible thing to witness.

    One day my mom told me that she didn’t think God caused my dad to get this disease, but he let him get it. I was astonished. I asked her why a god that so callously allowed someone to suffer so horribly deserved to be worshipped. “There’s only one God” she replied.

    “Apparently not, because the God I know is loving, and a loving God would never let someone suffer.”

    I think she died believing that God let my dad get Alzheimer’s disease. I still don’t understand why she thought that god was deserving of worship, and I never will.

  • Bones

    Aussies are thinking of the US and our gay brothers and sisters after the terrible shootings in Orlando…….

    We will not be moved….

  • otrotierra

    Remember, Bones: if Australia doesn’t arm everyone with a gun, the terrorists win, or something. More guns always solves the problem, just like Jesus said!

  • Bones

    Apparently this guy was a known terrorist threat and just bought himself an assault rifle and a handgun.


  • otrotierra

    The NRA and GOP work very hard to make guns easily available. Remember: more guns is the only solution, just like Jesus said!

  • Beth Rich

    That is exactly how I believe God feels. I see him looking down with love, hoping we all choose one path, but giving us free will to accept another. And when one of those random choices becomes significant and leads to pain, he mourns the loss of what could have been, and keeps rooting for us all to just get through it and find love and peace again. Psalm 23 says he is with us in the dark valley. But it takes our determination to keep walking to get us out.

  • Mary Hanner

    I think people say things like “Well, we can’t always see God’s plan for us,” because they are lazy and do not want to approach our grief or even share in it. They want to deny it because grief and tears and painful feelings are messy. When I first heard the words, ‘God weeps’, it changed how I saw pain and tragedy. Suffering is not a ‘bad choice’ we made. Suffering is part of being human. We aren’t alone in that suffering.

  • Rose Rye

    DOOD…my 2 1/2 yr old grandson just passed away after a lifelong battle with leukemia. his dad, my son, raised in Calvary Chapel as a PK, then rejecting God after his dad & I divorced, had a renewal of faith through it all…but is now left to grapple with the emotional remains. thank you for this perspective…it’s spot on, i hope he will read it and be able to take great comfort, as i have.

  • Battynurse

    Yes! The whole idea that something awful was God’s plan was part of the reason why I tried to be an atheist for several years. It didn’t work but I just couldn’t get past the idea that God planned suffering. Plus when you look at the concept of humans having free will, that sort of cancels out fate or God’s plan theory.
    On the other hand I also have a problem with the idea of God handing out miracles. Such as healing one persons sick child but not another or any number of small things. I once had a friend that stated God found them a refrigerator when their other one died.

  • chesterminit

    ..we all have our opinions on subjects like this. you’re lucky that God gifted you with this particular one, but some of us he did not.

  • curioussavage

    Free will does not mean you are in total control of what happens to you. It means you are in control of how you respond to what happens to you. It doesn’t mean you can bend the world to your will.

  • JannaG

    What about the free will of the rapist?

  • Bones

    What about the free will of the rape victim?

  • Lisa Martinez

    Ben, you know about the death of my son 15 years ago in the car accident. So you know I’m in on this. But, very honestly, what about the death of Jesus? And what about Isaiah 45:7 that says God causes good times and bad times (NLT version)? I’m not trying to argue, I’m just trying to make some sense of it all.

  • Alioth Fox

    I think you’re mistaking “plans” and “control”. Just because things happen outside of God’s will doesn’t mean he allowed them (or worse, they were “part of his plan”).

    I just did my taxes and found myself owing $600. That wasn’t in my plan, and it wasn’t something I allowed, but because of my ability to adapt, I was still able to control that situation. And any of my abilities are feeble compared with God’s.

    One can still take comfort and consolation in the fact that “God is in control,” even without assuming that every bad thing that happens is “part of his plan.”

  • Kurt Hinkle

    I’m not sure I follow. So when something bad does that mean that Satan won that battle and God isn’t in control?

  • Yes. Because the only events that could possibly happen are events that come from direct, supernatural, first causes from either God or Satan. Those are our only possible options when we consider the problem of evil. Either God made it happen or Satan made it happen.

    Because, otherwise, we might think that bad things happen just because bad things happen and do not require the direct control of a supernatural being, but that’s just silly, obviously.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    I am seriously concerned that some individuals think they can comprehend God’s plans. God is so far beyond us that even the smartest of us have about as much chance of understanding God’s intentions as an amoeba has of understanding String theory. God plans for the whole of the Universe, not us. We can neither comprehend God in the slightest (outside of knowing God exists) nor understand God’s plans for anything. We just don’t have the smarts. When bad things happen to us, they’re purely mundane in origin and nature. Blaming God is just a means of escapism.

  • Kyllein MacKellerann “

    Satan has always had some control over things. If God is all powerful, then Satan is doing what God allows Satan to do. If God is not all powerful, maybe we need to find the deity who is.

  • WayneMan

    The case is obvious, if people open their eyes and use rational thinking. Assume a God did create the universe and everything in it. It is an extremely dangerous “design”, with constant random indiscriminate suffering from natural disasters and diseases, that kills or harms people and animals by the millions. A child under 5 years old dies about every 6 seconds nonstop.
    Created a horrible design then simply left, which at best says God did not think this through, or at worst says God is a sadistic evil entity. In either case here, a deity faith is valid and all theism is false.
    Designed everything and is actively involved with our earth. In this case there is no logical conclusion other than a sadistic evil God, even if you ignore the evil that humans do to each other. there is plenty of random misery from natural disasters and diseases to go around. In this case a deity faith is false and some theism is valid, except the only valid one seems to be Satanism.
    Simply does not exists.

  • James B

    It’s impossible to blame something that doesn’t exist.

  • Philip Bourdon

    Silly that random “bad things” can happen? Why not?

  • Philip Bourdon

    Well said

  • Philip Bourdon

    What is so difficult in simply saying that we don’t know “why” something happened? IMO the most effective and human act is be with others in their pain. If it’s our situation, all we can do is respond honestly looking for strength, faith and wisdom. Leave the figuring out to others.

  • Joseph O’Neill

    Yes, persecution of the Palestinians is not God’s plan, but man’s evil actions.

  • Matt Muldoon

    So…did God permit your dad suffer Alzheimer’s because He was unable to stop it? Or did God choose not to for some reason? In the former case, He is not omnipotent; in the latter, He “let” it happen.

  • Dave Swartz

    The only times in Scripture that Jesus weeps is when we suffer…well thought out and written.

  • Bill Norton

    On what does the author make his claims about God or what he thinks God is like? Solid claims come from solid foundation. I do not see any foundation for his reductive characterization of God. What I see is a “God as I understand him” formula. Those work well in 12-Step groups. I know. I’ve had one. But this god often is used to inspire character development rather than worshipping God, the Father of Jesus. I have no doubt God’s plan is to work all things together for good for those who love Him. I, too, wrestle with the idea of God’s plan. I have friends who insist God either allows or causes everything that happens, good, bad or whatever. Personally, I don’t want that idea to be true. I think that calls for a God who has allowed some heinous stuff. That gives God a bad rep. Who wants to be known in our culture as professing faith in a God others condemn? Personally, I’ll take my chances with the God of Scripture, the One who gave us Jesus.

  • I too believe that God sits with us in the dark and grieves with us. That he sets no time-limits on our grieving, no expectations on how we grieve, no demands that we “forgive and move on” so we can get back to living the “victorious christian life”. He sits with us for as long as it takes. And then, when we are ready to hear, he offers us the hope we crave to take those broken pieces and re-fashion them into something beautiful and good. Because as far as I can see, that’s the God who looks like Jesus.

  • no one who gave us Jesus gave us you!!

  • You left out nobody really knows for sure about any of this.

  • WayneMan

    Constant random indiscriminate disasters and diseases, causing death or mayhem to millions is a fact. Land animals and sea creatures must brutally kill and eat another poor creature for their very existence. It is a blood and guts “design”. Believers can tap dance and spin all they want, and it does not change these facts of our reality. God either does not exist, or is a sadistic evil entity. Or a possibility I just thought of, had nothing to do with designing and creating the universe, and has nothing to do with our life experience on earth, so may be a good God, but for all practical purposes is indistinguishable from nonexistent.

  • I feel somehow that your explanations just doesn’t cover it!! To directly know God’s intentions and plans/ know Satan’s intentions and plans. This smacks of a control I don’t have or presume to ever have. I rather think it’s possible to feel the presence of either and I have!! When st. Francis prayer expresses becoming an instrument of his peace this is what it means to me. under all circumstances and in all ways to be returning everyday in constant contact to that special place that resides in the core of my being: a deep love / Juliet: ‘the more I give the more I have for both are infinite.’

  • C_Alan_Nault

    “The idea that a loving God would have a “plan” that involved wiping out thousands in earthquakes and tsunamis”

    Are you familiar with a book in the Bible titled Genesis? Wiping out? Ever hear about Noah? Sodom and Gommorah?

    Earthquakes? Numbers 16:31-33 Isaiah 2:10-22, 5:25 Micah 1:3-6

    “giving people cancer” 1 Samuel 5:6-9 ( tumors from god) Numbers 12:1-10 ( leprosy from god) Numbers 25:9 ( plague from god, 24,000 killed) 2 Samuel 24:15 ( pestilence on Israel that kills 70,000) 2 Kings 5:27 (Elisha curses Gehazi and his descendants forever with leprosy.) 2 Kings 6:18-19 ( god strikes the Syrians blind

    “parents losing children” In Exodus god kills all the first born of the Egyptians because pharaoh wouldn’t free the Hebrew slaves. Pharaoh didn’t free the slaves because god hardened pharaoh’s heart & kept pharaoh from freeing the slaves. So much for free will..,..

  • billwald

    First chapter of Job describes this world as a (computer) game between God and Satan. That makes as much sense as anything.

  • Snooterpoot

    God had nothing to do with my dad’s having Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Yeah, I was being sarcastic with that answer. :)

  • I was being sarcastic.

  • rtgmath

    So, God’s promises of blessings are merely pie in the sky when you die, bye and bye. Yep, I’ve suspected as much. The bad things are not part of God’s plan, but he has no plan to make them better, despite the promises in Scripture. Almighty, all-knowing, but unwilling to stop the carnage.

    I’m sorry. But the only way to not blame God for the bad things is to not give him any credit for the good things. The only way to not blame him for not keeping his promises is to recognize that he isn’t really there.

    Good things happen. We make them happen, and they happen by chance. Bad things happen by the same operations. But if God wishes to get praise for the good wishes to avoid blame for the bad, He’d better start answering the prayers for protection in the firestorms. He’d better start taking care of people and putting down the charlatans who prophesy in his name.

  • rtgmath

    Pie in the sky when you die, bye and bye. If God can’t keep promise in this life, then what makes you think he can or will keep them in the afterlife?

  • If it’s not all part of God’s plan, then God is either unwilling to prevent natural disasters or incapable of stopping them from happening, in which case, he is either an evil god, or he’s unlikely to be the supremely powerful force that set the universe in motion.

    But let’s face it, there is no god. There’s no evidence that such a being exists, so no reason to believe. Even if you believe despite the lack of evidence, you run into contradiction after contradiction, and God is faced with dilemmas piled on top of dilemmas. Eventually, you just have to accept that such a being cannot exist.

  • Ejaz Naqvi

    It is one of the most difficult concepts to grasp- God’s will, especially when it comes to comprehend the “rationale” for sufferings. I wrote a post on this very subject back on July 15 on the Muslim channel. I did make references to the Abrahamic Scriptures that we will be tried. So maybe it is not God’s “plan” per se but the Scriptures are clear that we will be put to trials and tribulations.
    “Where they strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God. Acts 14:22
    “….Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?…” Job 2-10

    “Verily, We shall put you to test with some fear, and hunger, and with some loss of wealth, lives, and offspring. And (O Muhammad) convey good tidings to those who are patient, who say, when inflicted by hardship, “Verily we are of God and verily to Him shall we return;” upon them is the blessings of Allah and His mercy.” The Qur’an 2:155
    Rather than repeating the whole post, “Why Does the Kind God Let Us Suffer?, here is the link.

  • Any evidence that any of your assertions are true?

    Rhetorical question – of course there isn’t. You’re just making it up because you want it to be true.

  • I don’t quite see the sarcasm… But if you say so!!

  • Bill Norton

    Brilliant. I am stupefied by the depth of your insight. And the writing? Superb.

  • Matt Muldoon

    So I wonder why God, if he has the power to change things such as Alzheimer’s disease, declines to do so.

  • Linguagroover

    There’s isn’t a god so there isn’t a plan. Life makes a lot more sense once you dump the woo and realise that. I used to be a Christian, wondering about the psychopathic, capricious deity of the Bible and whether he would turn up in a given situation. Of course he never did because he ain’t there. Reality is scary but liberating.

  • Dang auto-correct boo-boo! I meant to say the ONE who gave us Jesus gave us you!! How can I tell? Cuz yer a lovely piece of work!

  • Assuming God exists, he had everything to do with your dad having Alzheimer’s disease. God created the genetic flaws and the environmental factors that lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Then, when it started affecting your dad, God did nothing to stop it.

  • Bill Norton

    Hey, you’re right. I was wrong to throw some shade on you. I’ll not do it again. I must have been responding to the little devil who whispers in my ear. Thanks for the cartoon. I saved it. Be well. Have the kind of day that you will enjoy.

  • Thanks I truly appreciate that!! Wasn’t sure at first about the cartoon but you seem to like it.

  • Delane Krause

    Which god is he talking about? The one that is all mighty and created everything or the not so all mighty one? The all mighty one could stop a mass shooting if He/She/IT wanted to, the not so all mighty could not. So it must be that one he is talking about. OH wait, is´nt there only suppose to be one??

  • Any evidence that any of this has any relationship to reality?

    It’s a rhetorical question. Of course there isn’t.

  • Hope Ferguson

    This essay is really muddled, theologically. It says nothing about the fall, nothing about human agency, nothing about the promise in Revelation of a world where suffering will no longer be. It is very simplistic just to talk about God’s love (God is love) without also talking about free will, justice and the results of living in a fallen world.

  • MindWarrior

    Omnipotence has the power to change anything….indeed, theoretically it was all foreseen–yet it continues unabated Belief paints itself into a corner–as usual.

  • singingsoprano

    That’s the point, IMO. Stop with the platitudes