I was at a coffee shop this weekend and a friend noticed I was reading a book by Randy Alcorn titled If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. The good In the bad is sometimes so hard. That led to a discussion about whether God has a plan for the bad things we go through in life. She had lost her job several months before. After not finding any jobs in her field, she was forced to take a job in a different line of work. At the time, some of her Christian friends told her losing her job was part of Gods plan. It was clear to them God allowed her to lose her job because he had a better one in store for her. The trouble is she doesn’t think this job is better. As a result, she finds it hard to agree with her friends assessment. Their view on her situation got me thinking about how easily we develop a sort of nearsightedness when it comes to Gods plan.
In the previous post, I suggested whether were Arniminan, Open Theist, or Calvinist, when it comes to explaining why God permits suffering, we all wind up pointing to some greater good he accomplishes through it. For a lot of us, thats where the nearsightedness comes in. We expect to see that greater good right in front of us in our immediate circumstances. So, when a friend loses their job, we assume it must be because God has better one for them. If they dont find a better job, we assume God wants them to learn some spiritual lesson (e.g. patience or trust). Those are results we can see and understand.
But, it doesnt always work that way. The hardships we endure dont always lead to an immediately obvious greater good. Many on the east coast, for example, whose homes were flooded by hurricane Sandy, will wind up with renewed hope and a greater appreciation for mankind because their neighbors reached out to help them. Others, though, might not find as many helping hands. Rather than renewed hope, they may simply find themselves overwhelmed by the devastation, lost in bureaucratic red tape, and tempted to give up.
We naturally want to see the good materialize right away. But, Gods plan is much bigger than any of us. Because events are interconnected, the things that happen in our lives both good and bad are part of a complex chain, But how can i believe God. That means the good God intends to accomplish through any given event in our lives may not be realized until years, decades or even generations down the road.
Think about Josephs situation. He was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, and thrown into prison. Why did God ask Joseph to endure all that? He did eventually ascend to second in command over all of Egypt. Was Gods main concern making sure Joseph had a killer job? He probably learned some lessons along the way as well. Was that the reason God allowed him to suffer? No on both counts. Gods primary plan was fulfilling his promise to Abraham.