Like Button

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

God is Good All the Time

Some fifty years ago a 17-year-old girl jumped into the Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck, making her an instant and lifelong quadriplegic. Joni Eareckson Tada wrote a piece entitled Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident. Worth the read.

Something she wrote really struck me.
Back in the ’70s, my Bible study friend Steve Estes shared ten little words that set the course for my life: “God permits what he hates to accomplish what he loves.”
So true. Oh, you doubt it? Well, let's start with an easy one. Do you suppose He "loved" sending His Son to die? Not at all. But He did more than permit it; He planned it (Acts 2:22-23) ... down to the last detail (Acts 4:26-28).

Joni has made her life a ministry, especially to the disabled, all while living in a wheelchair. She was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer and suffers continually from excruciating pain. And yet she finds reasons to praise God not in spite of her condition, but because of it. We -- even those of us who dislike the "your best life now" theology -- want something different. We want comfort and comfortable. We want health and wealth, even though we reject the "health and wealth" mindset.

Joni told one college-aged volunteer, "I thank God every day for my wheelchair." She is not practicing our common "I thank God when He makes things go well for me." She is practicing basic Christian obedience -- "give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thess 5:18) -- from a mindset that says, "God is good all the time." We need that adjustment in our thinking. Not "Is what God is giving me good?" but "Whatever He gives me is good and I will rejoice in it." It would solve all those pesky, "Why me, God?" questions and ease a lot of painful circumstances. Most of us are not there yet.


Eternity Matters said...

I was just thinking about that the last couple days. Loved the recent updates about Joni. When I went to Kenya a few times they would often say the common, "God is good all the time, and all the time God is good." But they would add this at the end: "For that is his nature." I liked that part, especially when the children said it in their delightful accents. And they really seemed to mean it, despite living in an area with challenges about food, water, AIDS, etc.

I also thought about it in light of my latest chemo treatment (today). I'm completely content and trusting that it will work, but God is good whether I get fully healed or die a painful death.

Anonymous said...

The Weather channel just showed an airport worker getting hit by lightning. He is in the hospital with third-degree burns and brain bleeding. We can hope that the fullness of time will reveal why our Lord arranged for this to happen.

Should we view Him as proactively steering people into diving (like Joni Tada) because he has spinal injury as a goal for them, or into golf, say, because he wants them to be struck by a bolt of lightning? I think our answer has to be "Yes."

Stan said...

Neil, a comprehensive understanding of God as fundamentally good and absolutely sovereign is the structure that gives me peace in an insane world.

Stan said...

Anonymous, the comment sounds sarcastic. Is it? Do we have to argue that God pushes people into lightning bolts in order to strike them ... that Joni would not have jumped into the bay if God hadn't forced her to? Is that really the position you want to take or think that I am? I would hope that's not your position; it's not mine.

Anonymous said...

My comment above was intended to spark just a little bit more on this complex topic.

I have read that golf and swimming are the two most dangerous activities in the context of lightning strikes, because an angular object is protruding into the air from a featureless plane, creating an easier ion conducting path. We know that Father is an Overcomer, and so He could arrange that those activities would be SAFEST from lightning. He has that kind of power over natural law. The fact that He has not done so is telling us something important. I gave my opinion above, that He uses those natural occurances to achieve a purpose involving humans, specifically by subtly arranging events in an individual's life to make the individual think she is using her own free will to get into an activity such as golf. But it is all part of His overarching plan, and we have to trust Him.

I am eager to be corrected by anyone who has rightly divided the Word to come to a different conclusion.

Stan said...

Clearly God uses unpleasant things to produce the good that He wishes, as evidenced by the most unpleasant murder of His Son. But to conclude from this that Man has no free will is a bit of a stretch, despite some who try to make that point. There are two (biblical) issues here. If Man has no free will and God actually causes everything, then God is the originator of sin (versus James 1:13-15) and Man is not culpable for the sin that God has caused him to commit. Jesus died for no good reason sin no one is liable for their sin and we've pretty much deconstructed the entire Christian religion.

Biblically, we see Man's free will (not in capital letters because we are not totally autonomous) affirmed and God's Sovereignty affirmed. The Westminster Confession puts it this way (not because the Westminster Confession is the authority, but because it says it well): "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established." God's Sovereignty without doing violence to the will of the creatures. (Look it up sometime. Most references include the biblical proofs. Right there under "God's Eternal Decree.")

Anonymous said...

It might be helpful to imagine a scientist in a laboratory. He designs and builds a system which includes some electronic circuits and a glass bottle of poison gas and a solenoid-triggered hammer aimed at the glass. He is clever enough to calculate that if he presses a button to start the experiment, 24 hours later when a colleague is scheduled to be working in the lab the solenoid will break the glass and release the poison, killing the colleague.

We imagine the scientist is brought to trial for premeditated murder. The defense attorney admits his client designed the apparatus and formed an accurate theory of how it would operate, but pleads that the jury find his client not guilty of murder. It was the apparatus which did the killing, see. The designer/builder is not to be held accountable.

How much sympathy would you as a juror have in this case?

I will meditate further on the Westminster Confession, but I have to say that right off the bat it strikes me as analogous to the scenario I've just described.

Stan said...

Alright, then. As I thought, you do hold that God actually causes sin, that free will is a myth, and that God is personally liable for Man's sin. His execution of His Son would, in this case, the highest evil, allowing the Son to pay the bill that the Father had accrued.

Of course I and the Bible and believers throughout history have disagreed with that position.