Monday, June 01, 2009

What God Allows

The other day as I was talking with a friend the question came up, "Why does God allow these things to happen?"

It doesn't really matter what the specific context of our conversation was. You and I can fill in the blanks here and ask why God allows suffering, why God allows children to be abused, why God allows spiritual leaders to twist the Gospel, why God allows Christians to shoot abortion doctors on Sunday morning in Church?

It seems to me that if you made a list of the top 10 things God does not allow you'd have a hard time coming up with even one thing.

"How can God allow...?"

When we ask this question are we yearning for God to take more control over our reality? Are we hoping for the day when the Kingdom fully breaks into this world and His perfect will is always, fully accomplished?

Surely it's not that we expect God to prevent car crashes or divert bullets or ensure that no one anywhere is ever harmed or killed or endures suffering? Seriously? Is this the world we live in? Is this our expectation?

But, maybe the answer is "Yes." Maybe we do, in our heart of hearts, long for God to reach down and protect every life and heal every hurt and prevent every tragedy. And if so, then what we're really desperate for is the breaking in of the Kingdom of God into this world we live in now. This is exactly what Jesus wanted to see when he came and announced "the Kingdom of God is at hand."

The truth is that our world is full of suffering and pain. This is our reality. However, there is still hope for us to experience a reality where God's rule and reign is tangible. "The Kingdom of God," Jesus said, "is within you". It begins with our individual hearts and our actual lives. We must invite Jesus to be the King of our life first. We must surrender our rule and reign for His rule and reign. We must humble ourselves and trust Him with all that we have.

Now and again we do experience the breaking in of the Kingdom of God. Sometimes God does intervene and He miraculously heals someone. Sometimes God brings us through the car crash unscathed. Sometimes God reaches into this reality and corrects what is wrong and makes it right. I'm very thankful that in my life God has intervened on several occasions. I have personally seen and experienced His healing. I have experienced His Grace and His Mercy.

But sometimes, God does not intervene. In fact, God's intervention is the exception, not the rule. God often allows anything, and everything, to happen. He works through the pain, the tragedy, the disappointment, the tears and the wreckage to bring redemption, salvation, clarity, peace and reconciliation.

We recently said goodbye to a dear sister in Christ who struggled and suffered with brain cancer. God did not heal her of this, but He did work through her suffering to bring reconciliation to her son and daugther and brother and sister. Healing did take place, but not in the way we expected.

For now we live in a fallen world. God is still in control, but more often than not God allows things to happen and He works through the wreckage.

We are co-workers with God in this effort. He allows us the honor of extending grace to the sinner, comfort to the afflicted, and hope to the hopeless.

In fact, Jesus so identifies with the poor, the broken, the imprisoned, and the outcast that he says "whatever you have done to one of the least of these you have done it to me."

So, the next time we are tempted to ask, "How can God allow...?" we have to realize that God is permissive, but He is not passive. He takes what is intended for evil and turns it to good. He is in the business of turning darkness into light, and He calls us to the same ministry of reconciliation.

Maybe, when it comes to suffering and injustice we should ask ourselves, "How can we allow..?"

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." - Jesus, (Matthew 16:19)

"We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." - 2 Cor 4:10-12

"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us." - 2 Cor 5:20

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