I refuse to believe that everything happens because God has some reason for it.
I refuse to believe that God wanted David to have an affair with Bathsheba and then have her husband Uriah killed in order to cover up his mistakes. (2 Samuel 11)
I refuse to believe that God wanted Dinah to be raped (Genesis 34) and then have her siblings trick Dinah’s rapist into being circumcised so that they could kill him and his family.
I refuse to believe that God wanted King Herod to create a genocide my massacring Israelite children under the age of two because he was afraid of Jesus. (Matthew 2:16)
I refuse to believe that couples lose a child because of the “sins of their past”; that somehow God is punishing people.
I refuse to believe that cancer kills over 9 million people a year because God wants to punish people.
I refuse to believe that hurricanes, like Katrina and Harvey, hit certain areas because God wants to get rid of sinful people.
I refuse to believe that everything happens because God has something to teach us or tell us. If that is the way this all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God we worship has to interact with us, then we worship a very mean God.
In the book of Ruth, we meet a character named Naomi. Naomi and her husband Elimelech had two sons name Chilion and Mahlon. They lived a pretty good life until famine hit the land of Bethlehem and they had to move to Moab. Moab was good to them for the ten years they lived there. Unfortunately, Naomi finds herself having to go back to Bethlehem after her husband Elimelech and her two sons died.
After she returned to Bethlehem, we are told that all the women of Bethlehem were surprised to see that Naomi had returned. As she begins to tell them about her experience in Moab she says to them: Call me no longer Naomi, call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full but the Lord has brought me back empty (Ruth 1:20-21).
Every time I read this part of the story, I cant help but wonder a couple of things. Did the Lord bring her back empty, or did her sons and husband die because of a disease or illness that still had no cure? Did God punish Naomi for her past, or were those events just an unfortunate part of being human? Did God take away her family, or is that the only way she can explain such pain in that moment.
This morning, I received an email from the Louisiana Conference informing us of the death of a pastor here in Louisiana. The news took me by surprise. He and I called each other roommates because at my very first annual conference, he and I shared a room. That day, we shared about our struggles with depression, ministry and even shared with each other our future dreams and plans. Every time we saw each other we checked in on each other and it was such a joy to spend time with him. As I read that email this morning and reflected on his premature death, I couldn’t help but ask why something like this happened.
While I can’t answer why this happened, I do know without a doubt, that God did not let my friend die in order to teach us something about my own struggles. I know without a doubt that God did not let Naomi’s family die because of her sins or that God caused any other terrible things that happens in this world. God does not cause these things to happen.
I believe that we just live in a world where terrible things happen. People die. Natural disasters destroy. War breaks out. Freak accidents take place. We live in a world where every new day could be our last.
But it is not all bad. If you agree with me that this is not the way things are supposed to be, I promise you that you are right. Things were never meant to be this way. This is actually good news.
You see, the good news that we as Christians believe is that it won’t always be this way. There is a day that is coming in which all pain, sorrow, sickness, famine, war and everything else you can think of will be no more.
Revelation 21:1-4 says this:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. As I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them, he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.
As Christians we believe that there will be a day when everything that causes us sorrow, pain, mourning, crying and even death will no longer be a part of this world. Until then, we trust. We trust that God is with us on the most difficult of days. We trust that God is with us every time we cry or mourn. We trust that God journeys with us through sickness. And above all we trust that even if we have to say an earthly goodbye to a friend or loved one, that our loved ones are resting in the hands of God until we meet again.
We trust, because one day, we will be reunited. And on that day, we will never cry, mourn, suffer or say goodbye every again.
So does everything happen because God has something to teach us or tell us. I choose to never believe that. But I do choose to believe that even when horrible things happen, God is still in control. And nothing, not even death, can shake God out of being in control.
I trust this today in light of my friends death. And I hope you choose to trust this too in light of your own struggles and trials.
Together on the journey, Pastor Fernie