Why does bad stuff happen?

Have you ever:

  • Been gossiped about…
  • Been injured in a freak accident…
  • Been dumped in a relationship…
  • Contracted a disease…
  • Lost a loved one…
  • Lost a job…
  • Just “lost it”…

If so, what is the common denominator in all these situations? Isn’t it that they hurt? When bad stuff happens, it hurts, and because we don’t like to hurt we ask why bad stuff happens.

The answer, in a single word, is “sin.” You won’t read that word on the op-ed page of your favorite newspaper or on a CNN newscast. Scientists won’t use that word. Philosophers won’t use that word. Politicians won’t use that word. But God does!

In the book of Romans we read, “Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). God is willing to identify the source of suffering and pain. It is sin. That’s why bad things happen.

But just knowing why is not real helpful. What we really want to know is what we are to do about the bad stuff that happens.

In that regard CNN, the scientists, the philosophers, and politicians will have something to say. They will offer a theory, a medicine, or a philosophy by which to live. Those answers to life’s problems, however, only create another problem. What do we do when the solution doesn’t work?

That’s when it is wise to turn again to God. He has something to say about bad stuff. He is willing and able to do more than identify the source, he has provided the solution. God has a plan for health and healing. God deals with sin–the source of hurt and pain–by removing it.

Romans 5:20-21: “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If scientists could wipe out diseases, they would…
If politicians could end war, they would…
If philosophers could create bliss, they would…

But they can’t, so they don’t, and we keep asking why bad stuff happens.

If God could wipe out sin, he would…

And he has. Where sin increased, his grace–the love he has for undeserving sinners–increased all the more. That grace came to all in the perfect life of Jesus, in the sacrificial death of Jesus, and in the resurrection to life of Jesus. Jesus brings us God’s grace, and with grace come spiritual peace and health and joy that last forever. That’s God’s good answer to all the bad stuff.

 

How Can I Be Safe in a Terrifying World?

There are scary people and scary events in this world. But terror is not really outside of you. It’s internal. Terror is being so afraid inside that you are paralyzed outside, unable to live a normal life.

Because terror is internal, the solution to it has to be something that works internally. Lots of people try to work out internal solutions, such as “sucking it up” or “lifting themselves up by their own boot straps.” But those don’t seem to work.

Experts will tell you that you have to go outside of yourself to feel safe. They suggest a network of friends and reliable diversions to take your mind off what’s bothering you.

Do you want to feel safe? Real feelings of safety come from actually being safe. That’s where Jesus comes in.

He’s not called “Savior” for nothing. He has actually made us safe from the devil (1 John 3:8). He has defeated the worst enemy of all, death (1 Corinthians 15:55), rescuing us from the fear of what comes after death. He has saved us from hell by winning forgiveness for us (Luke 1:77).

When you get to know the power and love of Jesus, you can say and really mean things like: “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. . .You will not fear the terror of the night. . .No harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent” (Psalm 91).

There are still scary people and things out there. You can still feel uneasy in scary situations. But when you have Jesus, you have real safety where it’s needed — inside.

Priorities

“Do you have the time?” That all depends. How do we answer that question …

  • If asked by the stranger on the street?
  • If asked by the PTA looking for a volunteer at your child’s school?
  • If asked by your supervisor to go on a business trip next week?
  • If asked by your five-year-old who wants to play some catch?
  • If asked by your soul that so desperately seeks some quiet time?

Do you have the time? In our day of cell phones, e-mail and social media, time has booked a jet ticket and flies faster than ever. There is no time for a handwritten note or for a home-cooked meal. There is no time for ironing dresses or polishing shoes. The list of deadlines keeps your palm pilot in your palm.

I have no easy answers for some days I feel just as tired. Thankfully, I’ve met one who made time. He made time to listen and laugh with people. He made time to hold and heal. Yes, he made time! Jesus created time and remains the master of time. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Yet at the fullness of God’s time he came into this world of time to free us. He took the most pressing demands of God and met them perfectly for you and for me. The deadline for punishment of sin he met on that cross. Now forgiveness through his blood knows no time limit. So our Savior invites us, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. You will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28).

Every day he invites you to experience rest amidst the hassling madness of modern life. Pop a Bible tape into your car radio and listen to his love. Buy a day by day Bible verse calendar and drink your morning coffee pondering God’s eternal love. Hold the hands of your loved ones and ask the Savior to help you find time for him and for each other.

Can God take my guilt away?

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“I wish I could take it all away,” Mom whispered to her suffering five-year-old son. He had the flu for a couple of days now, and Mom’s heart was broken. As he lay in his bed suffering from the chills and a fever, there wasn’t much Mom could do except give him some children’s flu medicine and just be there for him. Mom felt helpless and wished she could take it all away from him. She even wished she could have the flu instead of her son.

When children are sick, the love of Mom and Dad really starts to shine through. In a heartbeat, parents go to extra lengths to make sure their kids are feeling as comfortable as possible. If you’re a parent, you’ve been there. You make sure their pillow is extra fluffy. You bring their favorite juice box. You provide their favorite movie to watch. And any time you hear them call, you quickly respond with, “What can I do for you?” The love of Mom and Dad goes so far that if they could take the sickness away, even become sick instead of their child, they would. But they can’t, and it hurts.

Has there ever been a time when you wished you could take it all away? Not just a sickness of a child, but something you did that you really regret? Maybe it was something you did to end a close relationship with a friend. Maybe you said something to a family member that you wish you could take back. Maybe it was something that only you know about, but it haunts you each day.

It’s at moments like those that God’s love really starts to shine through. He knows your sin, your guilt, your regrets. But he doesn’t just wish he could take them away. He did take them away. He forgave them all! He took your sin and guilt away when he put them on his only Son. He loves you so much that he had his only Son, Jesus, die for your sin so that you wouldn’t have to. God forgave your guilt and now considers you right with him because of what Jesus did for you.

Wish your guilt and regrets could be taken away? They were. In their place he gives you forgiveness and eternal life. Now that’s a love that shines through!

Where is contentment to be found?

A farmer who had lived on the same farm all his life began to long for something better. He finally decided to sell it. He listed it with a real estate broker who promptly prepared a sales advertisement for the farm. The ad, of course, listed all the farm’s advantages: ideal location, modern equipment, healthy stock, and acres of fertile ground.

When the farmer saw the ad in the paper, he hurriedly phoned his real estate agent. “I’ll buy it!” he exclaimed. “It’s exactly the place I’m looking for!”

Contentment is a matter of perspective. How many times have you lived out the cliché, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”?

There is a place where contentment is found, and you don’t need to take a religious pilgrimage to find it. Look at the people, possessions, and pleasures in your life and see them not as your own but “on loan” from God. He gives them to you for a purpose. He wants you to take care of them, and to manage them faithfully.

Some people have received talents from God that are most appreciated by the company’s upper management. Other people have received talents that are noticed most by two-year-olds as they live securely in a loving home. Both kinds of people can be content.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” one Bible writer happily urges. “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:4,12-13).

Contentment is a happiness and appreciation that comes from God tapping you on the shoulder and saying, “I’d like you to do something for me. It’s not the same as everyone else is doing, but I know you can do it well. Here’s what I want you to use.”

Rejoice! No matter what the circumstances, you can be content when you see what you have as a gift from God. Part of that gift is the purpose behind it, an improvement project that improves not just the gift, but also the one to whom it is given.

Money Trap

Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

The secret to an effective trap is to keep your prey from seeing the menacing end that lies ahead. Instead of seeing a mouse trap that should scream DANGER, all the mouse sees is the piece of cheese. By the time the trap is tripped, it is too late. The mouse is caught. Its fate is sealed.

In this portion of God’s Word a seasoned pastor named Paul is warning a young pastor named Timothy about the trappings of wealth and having a lifelong ambition of being rich. Wealth can be like a piece of cheese. We want it so badly that we don’t realize what we stand to lose in getting it.

Do you know anyone who has given up too much in an attempt to get rich? How about the woman who lost her marriage because she was working 60+ hours a week in an effort to get the big promotion? Or maybe it was the man who always had time for work, but never for his family. Now his children resent him and won’t even talk to him. Perhaps you know someone like this, or maybe you know this type of pain firsthand. As bad as these consequences can be, an even greater pain would be to have riches destroy one’s relationship with God.

Paul’s words to Timothy are meant to warn us. But they also are meant to encourage us. We are encouraged to fight greed with contentment. One way to pursue contentment is to count blessings. We do well to remember that God takes care of all of our physical needs. He gives us food and clothing and provides all that we need for our body and life.

As great as it is to have our daily needs met, an even greater source of our contentment comes from the spiritual needs that have been filled by Christ. Every day as we consider the wrongs that we have done, even the sin of being greedy, we know that Jesus has forgiven it. He took all our sins to the cross and paid for them there. On a daily basis we can count our blessings of love, care and concern that come from our gracious God.

Take the apostle Paul’s advice and save yourself from a lot of misery. Be content with the blessings God gives to you in your life. Give thanks for the physical and spiritual gifts he gives to you. Pursue godliness with contentment.

Why Am I Suffering?

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.—Romans 8:18

This article is not for everyone. Rather it is for those of you who know what it is to suffer, because you are going through it right now.

Some of you have joints that are screaming from rheumatoid arthritis. Some of you are miserable from chemotherapy. Some of you have back pain so severe you can only stand, sit or sleep for short periods of time. Some of you get frequent headaches so massive that any kind of light or sound is a torture. Some of you are reeling from multiple surgeries, barely recovering from one when doctors tell you to get ready for another. And some of you possess one of a thousand other maladies–-physical or emotional. What they all have in common is that they all define what it is to suffer.

It’s often when our suffering is at its worst that the devil walks in, ready to attack our faith. Many times, he points out other people similar to us in age and circumstance. He leads us to think that they don’t seem to have anything near the suffering and pain that we have. And with that, he lets our sinful nature do the rest. He lets our sinful nature drag us away into the dungeon of self-pity.

But the Lord of your life has something to say about this. He speaks though the apostle Paul who knew all about severe suffering. He grappled with a terrible problem that appeared to plague him until he died. Instead of comparing himself to others who did not have to suffer as he did, Paul made the comparison that really matters. He said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

What is the specific reason why the Lord is allowing you to suffer? That is not for us to say. Perhaps it is to nurture within you a faith that is heroic and robust. Perhaps it is to give others around you a living, breathing sermon on Christian courage. Perhaps it is to bring you into contact with a lost soul the Lord will save through your witness. Perhaps it’s for an entirely different reason.

Never forget, however, the comparison that matters. Your temporary suffering is a droplet in comparison to the oceans of joy that await you in heaven. That’s why Jesus came. That’s why he suffered and died for your sins. That’s why he rose. That’s why he lives.

Harmony Accomplished By Humility

What does it look like when two people live in harmony? They might smile at each other. They might laugh a lot. If two people are in harmony with one another, you would never see them fighting. They would never avoid eye contact with one another. They would never use cutting sarcasm with, or say anything mean about, the other person. Harmonious relationships are good relationships. They can be a great source of joy, encouragement, and strength.

Relationships in which there is some hostility or friction, however, can be quite the opposite. And what are you supposed to do if you have a relationship like that, one that frequently fills you with discouragement or pain? Well, there’s one thing you should not do. You should not wait for the other person to make the first move.

God’s Word in Romans 12:16 gives you godly goal for all your relationships: “Live in harmony with one another.” And the instructions as to how you should carry that out all have one thing in common. They all focus your attention on your own heart and actions—not the other person’s. “Do not be proud.” “Be willing to associate with people of low position.” “Do not be conceited.” In other words, use your time and energy to love and to serve the other person. Or, to say it another way, do what Jesus did.

When God’s relationship with us became broken with sin, the Son of God didn’t sit in heaven waiting for us to love him. He came as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus lowered himself into the humblest of situations, associating himself at birth with the lowliest of families, associating himself throughout his ministry with the most recognizable sinners, and eventually taking the lowest position of all on a cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Why? Because he desired a harmonious relationship with us. And he knew that harmony could only be accomplished by humility.

Overcome Evil with Good

A Christian friend shared this story from his life. He was driving across town and irritated another driver on the roadway. That driver accelerated past him, yelled some choice words, made an obscene gesture, and sped on by. Not long after, the Christian man saw that same car stopped on the shoulder with car trouble.

What would you have done if that sequence of events happened to you? Would you have laughed at the other driver’s misfortune? Would you have said a prayer or even stopped to help?

Throughout our lives, people are going to say and do evil things that will cause us pain and hardship. Our sinful hearts will want to avenge these wrongs. Our sinful hearts will think that the best way to overcome evil is with evil. God tells us in his Word: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

This is only possible through a good God who alone can deliver us from evil and who has overcome the evil of our sin. This is only possible with a God of peace whose forgiveness allows us to live at peace with him and whose peace enables us, as far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone.

So, what did the Christian driver do? He stopped behind the other car. When the driver saw who had stopped, he feared that the man he had treated so poorly would now treat him poorly. But this Christian man hadn’t come to repay evil for evil. He came to offer help and assistance. He overcame evil with good. May our God equip us to do the same!

Romans 12:17-21
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Quality Time

A few years ago there was a statistic which claimed that the average American dad spent five minutes a day with his children. If that’s true, I sure hope those are five really good minutes!

I’m sure we can debate the validity of the statistic, but it does raise a question: How much time are you spending with your children and grandchildren? Perhaps the better question is: How are you spending that time? We certainly do lots of good things with the children in our life. We cheer for them as they run the bases in a little league game. We take them to the lake, to the movies and to the county fair. We read to them, laugh with them and wrap them up in great big hugs. Those are the good times.

What about the other times? Much of the time we spend with them is filled with impatience and frustration. We use harsh words and unloving actions. We fail to discipline and instruct with love and patience and compassion. Sometimes we are too busy for them. Sometimes we are too preoccupied to answer their many questions.

If we are honest with ourselves, too often even our “quality” time with our children is missing something. God reminds us of what we too often leave out of our time with the children who are important to us: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds…Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). Do the children in your life get to hear from you about the love their Savior has for them? Do they get to hear on a regular basis about the God who has created them and saved them and given them so many wonderful promises? If we don’t take the time to teach them, who will?

Thankfully we have a Father who gave us more than five minutes. Actually, our heavenly Father gave us much more than that: he gave us an eternity in heaven through faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. We will be with our Father in heaven forever. That same Father is with us every minute of every day in his Word. Get together with the children in your life and spend some quality time with God’s Word.