Yes, you are right; we must do as you say!” Ezra 10:12
Recently, I’ve been challenged to answer the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” The question came from a brother, a member of our military, who participated in multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and witnessed human atrocities no individual should have witnessed in 10 lifetimes, let alone one. Being presented with such a question would likely generate a myriad of responses… all of which would address this young man’s circumstances in various ways, but at the core of his question was deep pain… the kind of pain that transcends expression in words… and yet, the heart seeks answers.
My engineer brain wanted to devise a plan to prove God’s love, to convince this young man that God is good… that these and so many other horrific acts are not of God. But that wasn’t what this young man needed… to be true to my faith and to be as transparent about my imperfections and inadequacies at explaining such things, I responded simply, “I don’t know…”
I don’t stand in God’s shoes to give a complete answer to the question posed. I don’t have God’s mind… nor do I see with God’s eyes. First Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”
So when we’re asked about specific events and why such events occur, what is likely the case is that we won’t get the full answer in this world. Someday, perhaps, we’ll see with clarity, but for now, things remain unclear, resulting in questions posed by my brother. We can’t understand everything from our finite perspective. And frankly, the people suffering from and through worldwide tragedies don’t need a big theological explanations; any intellectual response is going to seem trite and inadequate. What is needed is the very real and comforting presence of Jesus Christ in their lives… an approach that has more to do with speaking to the heart than to the head.
In John 5:6, Jesus approaches a paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda who was suffering for almost 40 years and asks the question of the man “Do you want to be made whole?” What kind of a question is that? Of course he does! But I believe that Jesus’ question to the man at the pool was much deeper than what it appears to be on the surface… Jesus wanted to deal with the man (and us!) completely… He doesn’t want to fix a messed-up outside… the physical and our circumstances, and leave a messed up inside, centered on a problematic heart. We need to do the work needed to address the heart before Jesus will hear and respond to our prayers more fully.
In a practical sense, we can point out the errors of someone’s ways, but we can’t change a heart. It would probably be a lot easier to force a horse to drink than to change the human heart. Our hearts are stubborn creatures, bent on doing our own thing whether it’s good for us or anyone else.
Some initial work has to be done before our hearts can change. We first need to hear that we’ve done wrong, and then we need to accept it. Finally, we need to commit to do things differently before we actually begin to move in the right direction. Those are some significant changes to make before visible change really takes place… towards Jesus! Seeing and accepting our failures are perhaps the two toughest steps in the process because a rebel heart often wants to remain rebellious.
For all their sins of intermarrying with pagan nations, the Israelites did well to turn their hearts back to God when they, along with the prophet Ezra, understood the depth of their wrongs. With eyes opened, they grieved for how they’d messed up their lives. Then they took action to rid themselves of sin. As a result, they made changes that pleased God and moved them back to Him.
No matter how much we love God, we’re in the same boat of humanness as everyone else since the first sin in the Garden of Eden. Those who have accepted Christ as Savior still sin and need forgiveness and change in their lives. Every now and then, we all need our eyes opened to ways God wants to heal, grow, and purify our hearts. When He opens ours, we must keep ourselves tuned to His voice, and thank Him for not letting us continue on a path that doesn’t lead straight to Him.
God, sometimes I’m blinded to areas that I need to work on. Please open my eyes wider so I can see myself as You do, and open my heart to welcome Your changing influence, as You are the only true path to peace. Amen!
P.S. Please pray that my brother turns his heart to Jesus to find the peace he needs!