A series of recent events has propelled me to write this article. I won’t go into the details of those events right here, as that would be inappropriate, and neither will I reveal the players. Suffice it to say that some bad decisions were made and now the consequences are playing out, even as I write this.
When bad things happen, we often try to find a reason why it is happening. Today I began reading a book by Pastor Mike Wilkerson from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. The book is entitled, Redemption: Freed by Jesus From the Idols We Worship And the Wounds We Carry. In the introduction to the book, Wilkerson says, “We are meaning-makers, hardwired to interpret life.” In other words, we are constantly evaluating the facts of life that surround us and interpreting them, making decisions based on our interpretation of those facts. We see the facts and assign meaning to them based on how we understand life. Let me say this. If your understanding of life is not grounded in a Biblical understanding of the world, your interpretation of the facts will not reflect reality and therefore the subsequent decisions you make will not be sufficient to deal with reality.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life.” Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” You see, it is only by knowing Jesus, and knowing His word that we will know the path that He has prepared for us. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” If we are not constantly allowing the Word of God to renew the way we think, the way we perceive life, then we will not know His will, nor will we be able to discern what is good, acceptable, and perfect.
Most times when bad things happen, we search for an answer to “Why did this happen?” This is an important question. Knowing the answer to “Why?” will help prevent it from happening again. But let me highlight a few lies our fallen minds try to use to answer that question.
Lie #1: some people who have endured abuse may have convinced themselves that somehow they deserve bad things. This is a carefully crafted lie to keep you in the abusive situation. Through harsh words and painful fists, the meaning has sunk in to the consciousness of the abused person: you’re worthless and deserve to suffer. So when something bad happens, it reinforces the notion that it is something that was somehow deserved.
Lie #2: some people say that bad things are karma. If you do bad things, bad things will come your way. This is a deception that is similar to the Biblical principle sowing and reaping (Luke 6:38, Galatians 6:7), but it is focused entirely on human effort rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit. So life is spent trying to do good things and avoid doing bad things so that no bad things will come your way. This clearly does not match to reality. Sometimes people do good things and experience horrific evil. At this point, true believers in karma will say that you were evil in a former life as a scapegoat to explain the inconsistency.
Lie #3: some people believe that God is punishing them. I’ve done something bad, so now God is punishing me. It is true that God chastises those he loves. But this does not mean that every act of sin is returned with direct punishment from the hand of God. Most of the time God doesn’t have to lift a finger to punish us because the consequences of our actions are punishment enough. God’s chastisement comes through a combination of allowing us to suffer the consequences of our own actions and the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Besides, consider this: since Jesus took the punishment for our sins on the cross, why would God punish us for something which He’s already forgiven? Chastisement and conviction are the actions of a loving Father pulling us back on the path He has prepared for us. Punishment and judgment are reserved for His enemies, not His children.
The truth is that bad things happen to all of us. Sometimes it’s because of our poor decisions. Proverbs 17:20, “A man of crooked heart does not discover good.” Sometimes it’s simply because we live in a fallen, sinful world. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul describes troubles they endured in Asia as they traveled; troubles so bad that they wanted to die. Sometimes, it is a trial that God has prepared for us to prune us. Jesus says in John 15:2, “. . . every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” At times, God uses puts us through a trial so that we will grow to a new level of faith. Ultimately, bad things happen, and more important than “Why did this happen?” is the question “How will I deal with this?” The answer to that question determines your heading. Are you going to handle your situation through the power of the Holy Spirit or your own understanding?