I suppose we have all asked God the "Why?" question a few times. "Why did this happen to me?" "Why did I get cancer?" "Why did I lose my job?" "Why did my wife leave me?" "Why did my son die?" We could fill several pages with "Why?" questions. It is often said that we will just have to wait until we get to heaven to find the answers, which is true. But, while we may not know the specific answers, there are some general principles that we can understand now.
The other day I saw a preacher on TV say he would be praying that God would pay off all of his people's mortgages in 2011. Here in America we have come to believe that God's purpose is to make our lives wonderful. We want God to give us a big house, a nice car, a good job, good health, a nice family, perfect children, good retirement, etc. Instead of being God's servant, we want God to be our servant. We want to tell God what to do and we get upset when He doesn't do it.
My personal opinion is, most people become professing atheists because God did not live up to their expectations. "If there is a God, He wouldn't have let my mother die." "If there is a God, He wouldn't let all those children starve." "If there is a God, He wouldn't let thousands of people die in earthquakes." You get the idea. In their thinking, since their imagined God did not perform according to their expectations, He cannot exist.
This world as it is today is not our final home. Everyone, saved or lost, will leave everything behind when they die. Whether a person lives to be ten or a hundred, compared with eternity either life will only be a speck of time. Therefore God is more interested in our spiritual welfare than He is in our physical welfare. His desire is that we might be conformed to the image of His son, Jesus (Romans 8:29). He wants us to be like Jesus and He can't get us there by giving us everything we want, any more than a child can grow up to be a productive adult by his parents giving him everything he wants and shielding him from all the bad things in life. Jesus had no bank account, didn't own a house or land, didn't ride around on a horse, and his family didn't believe Him. He was a servant, not a master and was humble not haughty. He even washed His apostle's feet. That isn't exactly the kind of life I had in mind.
Jesus said His purpose was "to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). That is God's mission, to seek and save the lost. Do you have any idea what it would be like to die and go to hell for eternity? Do you have any idea what it would be worth for one person to miss hell and go to heaven? Would it be worth a little suffering on your part for someone to be saved? I wonder what it cost others for you to hear the gospel and be saved?
Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins that all who receive Him as Savior might be saved. That part is finished, never to be repeated. However, for people to be saved they must first hear about this good news before they can put their trust in Him. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). That part of spreading the gospel, telling the good news, God has given to us, and this is where the rub comes in. God may allow you to get into some pretty rough situations and there use you to point someone toward Jesus. God does not cause bad to come but he always uses the bad for His purpose. Someone has said, "God plays hardball!"
If you claim to be a Christian, people are watching you. You may not be aware of it, but people are watching how we react to life. Our lives may draw them nearer to the cross or drive them further away from it. Anyone can be a "good Christian" when everything is going well. What the world wants to see is a what a real Christian looks like under pressure. We have no idea the number of people we influence. Someone may have seen us and desired to become a Christian. Or, someone may die and go to hell because they watched us and our actions drove them away. To illustrate, Mahatma Gandhi said, "If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today." He also said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
Another important point to understand is that God has given us the freedom of choice. In the news this week a man shot and killed six people and wounded fourteen others. That happened because the man, of his own free will, chose to do it. But remember, every action has its consequences. One person exercising his free will often negatively affects the lives of others. This one man, exercising his free will, has changed the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people. As has already been stated, God does not cause bad but He uses bad to make good come from it, but not necessarily good to the person to which the bad happened. A person may get drunk, drive a car and kill your daughter. That happened because God allowed a person the free will to drink and then the free will to drive drunk. The problem is, one person exercising his free will often negatively affect others.
Now for a biblical example. The Apostle Paul, like Jesus, did not own houses or land, ride around on a beautiful horse or have a nice family. On top of that he said that he was beaten five time with 39 lashes for a total of 195 lashes. He was beaten with rods three times. He was stoned once and left for dead. He spent a lot of time in prison. He was sometime hungry and thirsty and was even cold because he lacked enough warm clothes. Yet Paul understood what God was doing and was willing to undergo all these bad things that the gospel might go a greater distance. He said in Philippians 1:12, "But I would ye should understand brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel." If this is what happens to the best man God has, should we expect our lives to be a bed of roses?
I am not saying that God is not interested or concerned about even the small problems you face in life. He knows when you hurt. He knows when your marriage is falling apart. He knows when you can't make your mortgage payment. God says to cast all your cares (anxiety) on Him because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). It takes a lot of faith to give your problems to God and allow Him the freedom to work them out as He sees fit.
The point I am trying to get across is that our desires and God's desires don't always match up. Our desire is always to have good things happen to us. On the other hand God may need you to go through some deep waters in order to influence someone either to get saved or to get serious about serving God. Paul prayed three times for God to remove his "thorn in the flesh," but God refused. God said His grace was sufficient for Paul to bear the problem. The same is true for us. God's grace is sufficient for us to bear whatever comes our way.