Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson made headlines on November 28, 2010, not for his receiving skill on the field, but for his Tweets off the field. After dropping what would have been the game winning touchdown catch against the Steelers, Johnson got on his Twitter account and typed:
“I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO…”
Within hours Johnson was being roundly criticized for having the audacity to blame God for his own failure. People from all walks of life recognized his perceived impudence for holding God responsible for his trouble. Yet the incident revealed a common sentiment among many that God should, in fact, remove trouble from our lives.
So, is God responsible for the trouble in our lives?
This is a trick question, I know. But your answer reveals much about your view of yourself and your view of God.
The very fact that suffering, trials, sickness and pain exist reveals that there is something not right with the world. A person who believes in evolution cannot say as much. For the evolutionist, these are just a natural part of the random nature of the universe as the process of blind natural selection grinds forward. An evolutionist, therefore, believes the world is exactly as it should be. To the Christian (and yes, I do set these as contradictory), there is something inherently wrong with the world, something that can be summed up in one word: sin. The sin of Adam that plunged all humanity into condemnation also brought a curse upon the world and everything in it. We are all, every one of us, born cursed into a cursed world.
If we dare object that this state of affairs is not “fair,” we must explain why. Most people who claim that depravity, the doctrine that every person is born in rebellion to God and completely corrupted in all aspects of his nature, is not fair, either believe that they are not depraved, or at least not as bad as the Bible describes us in Eph. 2:1-3:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
But if we object to this description of our depravity, then we have to explain why we choose to sin multiple times, maybe hundreds of times, per day. The problem is that we simply don’t reckon sin the way God does. We tend to see only the big, outward, and ugly sins as truly sinful. If we haven’t committed adultery, embezzled money from our company, or murdered anyone today, then we feel that we haven’t sinned. But God sees all! Every internal thought of petty jealousy is as much a transgression of the law of God as adultery. Every thought of fear when we should trust, every critical word from our tongue, every lustful thought, every deliberation of how superior we are to another person, every indulgence of resentment toward a past hurt, every act of anger toward another; these are all sins that we wrack up by the hundreds day after day. Our sin debt before God is wracking up condemnation faster than the national debt counter in New York City.
And so the question of whether God is responsible for the trouble in our lives is a little more complex than a simple yes or no. We are responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves. We deserve no good thing. We don’t deserve a happy life; don’t deserve to even live. The only thing we deserve is condemnation, the wrath of God and hell. It’s almost impossible to emphasize this enough. If we got what we deserve we would all be immediately plunged into eternal separation from God.
Ephesians 2:4-7 proceeds to tell us, however, that God did not leave us in our natural state, but reached down to us in the incarnate person of his Son who gave himself to atone for our sin by satisfying the wrath of God on our behalf so that we might be justified and forgiven:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
So is God responsible for the trouble in our lives? Before we answer that we must acknowledge that He is most definitely responsible for everything good in our lives. How ungrateful would it be for us to only ask the question about the bad without confessing loudly that every last thing in our lives that we enjoy is entirely of God’s good grace to us.
So what about the trouble in our lives? Part 2 of this essay will take up that question.