I recently saw the following statement on Facebook:
If things aren't turning out how you expected, don't worry, they're turning out how God wants. Amen.
This sounds very spiritual and even pious when you first read it. But does everything really happen because it's "turning out how God wants?"
Did God really desire for a teenage girl, who loves and serves Jesus, to be beaten and raped, and get pregnant as a result?
Is it God's plan that thousands of women and children should be working as sex slaves in the red light districts of Calcutta, India?
Is a young wife and mother of three dying of breast cancer at 30 really God's best intention for that family?
Looking to the Bible, did Adam and Eve disobey God and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 3 because that's how God wanted it (even though it was in direct opposition to the command he had given them)?
In Jeremiah 19:5, God says of the people of Judah:
They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings to Baal—something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind.
So I really don't think things were turning out how God wanted in that situation, if it was the farthest thing from God's mind.
In Matthew 23:37, Jesus says:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
God's sincere desire was for His people to return to Him. But it didn't turn out that way.
The words in the quote at the beginning of this article may seem like a good answer to someone saying them, when they themselves are not going through a life-altering, traumatic crisis. But they're totally unhelpful to the person who is suffering, no matter how well-intentioned the speaker of such words.
What we can say with confidence, though, is found in Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
While God doesn't send every thing that happens to us our way, He can and does take all the junk and garbage that life throws at us and turn it around to use for our good and His glory, when we hold tight to Him instead of shaking our fist at heaven and blaming God for our circumstances.
Now, I don't pretend to believe that in one short blog post I can answer all the questions regarding the problem of evil and why bad things happen to people who are trying to follow Jesus. Many, many people much smarter than myself have discussed and debated this issue for ages. There are no easy answers.
And that's exactly my point. We need to stop giving platitudes and easy answers rather than wrestling with the nitty gritty of life in a fallen world.
A good recent discussion on this topic took place on The Holy Post with guest Dr. Kate Bowler, author of Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved.