Why Did This Have to Happen to Me?
A man has just been shipwrecked. All on board have perished in the disaster. Clinging onto a plank, he finds himself drifting toward a small island—the place that will be his home for some time. lii the course of the next few days, all the salvagable provisions washed ashore have been carefully stored in a small hut which the shipwrecked man has constructed. He was proud of his thatched roof, for it protected him from the sun in fair weather and the rain iii bad weather.
One day, after returning from a little fishing on the other side of the island, the man saw smoke; and when he had topped the little hill, he saw his hut going up in flames before his eyes! All of his provisions, his belongings and his work were going up in smoke. He cried: "Why in the world did this have to happen to me?"
Why did this have to happen to me? Do you recall the last time you asked that question? Let me refresh your memory. Do you remember the last time you had a flat tire? Remember asking, "Why in the world did this have to happen to me"? Well, the reason was very obvious. No doubt you ran over a nail. Or, as a housewife, after looking at some burnt biscuits, have you ever uttered this famous statement: "Why did it happen to me?" Again, the answer—there was a reason. Perhaps you did not have your mind on your business, or you forgot to set the automatic thermostat or timer.
We all, at times, have uttered this sentence, and the unusual thing about the sentence is that we make it a question and at times address it to God. All too often I have heard God being blamed for a failure, a temptation, or a catastrophe or the like. The fact is—God had nothing to do with it at all. Still, God is blamed for so many of the catastrophes that occur in life. He is blamed for the evil in the world; He is blamed for the failure of any project, be it in the home or plant. From the explosion in the mine, the sinking of a ship, the crashing of an airplane, or the resulting end of a temptation—God is blamed! God is NOT the author of evil, or that which is bad, etc.
This belongs to the realm of Satan—which is so beautifully expressed in our text, from the writings of James:"Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempeth he any man: But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death."
Let no man say when he is tempted, I ant tempted of God. God is tempting me to do such and such. When a disaster occurs—or in a tragic hour—there are those who ask why did it happen.
Several years ago, following a severe hurricane, the television camera was focused on a man who just hours before had had his home completely destroyed. He was seen and heard over television to ask: "What sin have we committed?" With a sweeping gesture over the countryside—the broken trees, the destroyed homes, etc.—he asked, "What sins have we committed that God would send this?"
Few people—very few people—have an intelligent and scriptural attitude toward natural or personal disasters, suffering and tragic occurrences. Of all the problems of the Old Testament, that of the suffer’ ing of the righteous is the most severe. If God takes care of His own, which He does, why do they suffer without apparent reason? God is not the author of disasters or of personal calamities which cause suffering!
ALL BAD THINGS ARE NOT PUNISHMENTS
FROM GOD, AS MANY SUPPOSE
Misfortune can come to any person. Do not be guilty of saying, "That one got what lie deserves, because I know such-and- such about him." This, of course, is playing the part of God and is judging.
Jesus, on one occasion, commented on a natural disaster. It was a local disaster but, I am sure, created national concern. Remember die tower that fell in Jerusalem and killed eighteen persons? Jesus commented on this disaster by saying, "On those 18 upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay!" This is a clear statement, an unusually clear statement, that not all calamities and all disasters are punishments, as many believe.
I think of many great and noble men of the Bible, yet they experienced suffering. They suffered, yet they were called of God. I think immediately of Moses — a man whom God chose, a man who was doing the will of God, but who had troubles and who suffered. It was not because God did not like him, for God had chosen him. Misfortunes fall upon all—all classes, all races and all creeds.
God does not operate a penal institution. God does not give one a corresponding penalty for a particular sin. (Of course, sin brings its judgment, and the wages of sin is death, and whatsoever a man soweth, that he shall also reap). But God does not operate a penal institution, as many believe.
One must have faith, instead of fear, when suffering comes, for it is only then that one can find it easier to discover a friend to help emotional stability.
Job’s three friends, Bildad, Aliphaz and Zophar, were men who lived in a day in which people believed that suffering and sin went hand in hand. It was the theology of the day to relate the two; to suppose that every bit of suffering was due primarily to a particular sin, it was the conviction that God punishes each act of sin with a corresponding penalty; that suffering was therefore a necessary evidence of personal guilt.
But the experience that Job encountered proved differently. The results of Job’s life and the experiences which he endured changed their phraseology quite a bit. His encoupters proved that a new view of suffering should include these points: That the innocent do suffer in this life, as do the wicked. That suffering may be, used as a means of showing the faith of a Christian. That suffering can extend the influence of a Christian and strengthen his faith.
Job’s faith was not insurance he took out in case trouble came; rather, it was that which sustained him when he would have been utterly defeated without it. The Book of Job, to some, hows a dualism, so to speak, concerning a righteous God and Satan who is not righteous. There is no dualism. Satan was not "over" God. Bear in mind that nothing happens in the world today without the Lord’s approval — or a better word would be "permission." The sin that enters our life, the disasters that come our way, fall into a realm "under the hand of God." God does not cause your suffering. God does, however, errnit your suffering, so that as a result of your suffering you can become a better person—you can thus extend the influence of Christianity.
Satan is the author of our evil, and perhaps Paul knew this, as certainly he did, when he wrote the words found in I Corinthians 10:13. That amid all the sufferings, amid all the things you will encounter, when your faith is at its low ebb, when you are at the end of your rope and you have even tied a prayer knot—still about to slip off, remember: "There hath no temptation taken you, but such is common to man. God will, with the temptation, make you a way of escape."
One has stated these words—because of sin in the world, "This makes it evident that in some sense God has consciously permitted sin to come into the world. This He made possible when He gave free will to both angels and men. Somehow in His infinite wisdom He found it better to create beings who could sin rather than machines that could not. We will all one day realize that only the present sufferings could make possible our future joys." Aptly put!
Both the Good and Bad Suffer
The rains that we experience from time to time in our commui 1ity fall on both the good and the bad; they fall on all! So it is that the good suffer because of the sin of the evil. This is too frequently seen in the result of an automobile accident. Due to the neglect of one, many suffer. In fact, many give their lives It is seen also in air crashes of our day. Oftentimes, because of the neglect of a pilot, many passengers pay with their lives.
From the Genesis account we have the story of the beginning of sin—because of their sin we have sin today; and because there is sin, oftentimes the good suffer with and/or for the bad.
Because we belong to the human race, we must share its burden of sin. (To carry a point farther—to belong to the church implies that one must bear its burden—but that is another message). You and I belong to the human race. The human race groans today because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and we share its burden of sin daily.
Not all Bad Things are Bad Things
How true this statement is! Do you recall the illustration of my opening message—of the shipwrecked man coming over the little hill on his island, only to see his hut going up in flames? He cried, "Why, oh why, did this have to happen to me?" Well, the next day when he was rescued, the ship’s captain said, "You, my good sir, are a very lucky man; if we had not seen your fire signal we would have sailed on by the deserted island." IF WE HADN’T SEEN YOUR FIRE SIGNAL—does this not say to our hearts that not all things are bad things? You will have to agree.
The things that occur, and make us utter how bad they are, may not be so bad after all. The point is, we see only today and a part of tomorrow. God, in His infinite power, wisdom and understanding and sight, sees not as we (and for that we are thankful), for He sees it ALL! God sees the entire picture, and because He sees the entire picture, He judges differently than you or I would judge. Truly, we see through a dark glass at times.
That a child is taken at the age of three or four to us seems bad. For those who are attached by love to this one—it is bad. But things may not be as bad as we think, if we would but see the outcome of that life. There are so many problems we could engage upon- at this point, but perhaps it would be best to just stop and say, as did Paul: "For we know all things work out for good, to them that love the Lord The omnipotent God has the affairs of the world in His hand. He makes the sun shine; however, if we had the sunshine all the time, do you know what kind of surroundings we would have? Simply a desert. That is why one was moved to say, "Through my tears I have my rainbow."
It is indeed wonderful that God does see differently. There was one minister who was trying to comfort a woman who had passed through many trials. He was failing in his efforts to cheer her, when he took up some embroidery upon which she had been working and said, "What a confusion of color threads! Why waste time on a thing like that?’
The lady turned the embroidery over and said, "Now look at it. You were seeing it from the wrong side." That’s it exactly," said the pastor. "You are looking at your trials from the wrong side. Turn them over and look at them from the right side—that is, from God’s side." The Lora is working out a design, a pattern for our lives, and we must attempt at least to look at things from His point of view and TRUST His workmanship.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of the blessings that come to us as a result of suffering. Sometimes it is the fire of affliction that thaws the songs of praise of people. When the Lord loveth, He chastens.
Surely, suffering is not the indication of sin or the indication of God’s disfavor, but it is a sure sign of the favor of the Almighty God. Notice some blessings, if you will:
- There is created a freshness, a spring of gratitude from which flows forth the stream of "Thank You, Lord."
- Suffering sometimes gets folks to church that have been out a long, long time. Some become pillars of the church.
- It at times deepens the well of sympathy and compassion for others. The eyes of many are opened to the needs of others around them.
- The faith of an individual becomes greater. By being on one’s back, that one is caused to look up instead of around. By looking up, one can have his head above the world and can in turn get and gain a perspective and see clearly the manifestations of God.
- Suffering sets the stage for the drama of experience— experiences with God. The suffering which brings an individual to say,’"I know in whom I have believed—that God is still running the universe, that He is a sinless God, and I am a sinful person."
The desire to have such an experience should be uppermost in our lives. You see, these are suffering’s blessings.
Transfer yourself to a large forest. A large oak attracts your attention. There is a small vine clinging to it. During the fiercest of storTus, the vine clings to the oak. Even though tTie oak may be uI)rootect, the vine winding around the oak remains in position. Picture the vine growing on one side of [lie oak only. Continue the picture with a tremendous windstorm approaching, and it is approaching the side of the oak on which the little vine is growing.
The storm will press the vine closer against the oak, and the oak becomes its security. But on the other hand, picture the wind coming from the opposite direction. If the vine is on the other side, opposite the wind, the great oak is its protection and security also.
IN. SOME OF THE STORMS OF LIFE, GOD INTERVENES AND SHELTERS US;
WHILE IN OTHER STORMS HE ALLOWS US TO BE EXPOSED, SO THAT WE
WILL BE PRESSED MORE CLOSELY TO HIM.
God is love, and although we can’t understand His acts of providence, we trust His acts and all other acts to Him.
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