More Things the Bible Does Not Say!
12 October 2022 Hits:2129
Last week, I posted a blog discussing three things Christians repeatedly say as if they’re scripture, except they’re not:
- God helps those who help themselves.
- We are sinners saved by grace.
- Love the sinner and hate the sin.
I welcomed feedback, as usual, and suggestions of other things we Christians say that are not found in the Bible. And so, here are three more to ponder:
Everything Happens for a Reason
I imagine you’ve heard this statement many times. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. I hear people say this, especially in times of distress or grief. And it’s okay if you want to tell yourself this as a way to self-soothe, but don’t say it to another person to move them on from grief and loss.
Everything happens for a reason was first said by the philosopher Aristotle in the context of everything having a cause. And that’s true. Everything happens for a reason because something caused it to happen. But that is not how this statement is intended. It is a cliché designed to dismiss someone’s feelings. It is ultimately unkind and untrue.
Everything happens for a reason. Tell that to a parent who has lost a child or a man whose wife was seriously injured in a car crash.
Everything happens for a reason. Say it to a mother in Somalia whose children are dying from malnutrition or a woman in Afghanistan (or Iran) who has lost or limited rights because of choices made by male superiority.
In God’s world, a whole lot of things happen for absolutely no reason whatsoever. For no good reason, at least. Most suffering people endure is because of the poor choices of others or sometimes their own.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God. Our God takes all the awful and weaves it into a tapestry of goodness. But that may not happen in this life. It may be one of those dreams that is only realised in eternity.
For more on this topic, listen to or watch my teaching on the good God and suffering.
God is in Control
Have you ever said, “Well, at least God is in control?” I have. And I’ve heard many people use this and other clichés in an attempt to find meaning in something awful. It’s an encouragement to ourselves that things will work out. But, sometimes, they don’t. Occasionally, our world remains out of control. What should we say about God, then? If God is in control, he isn’t doing a terrific job!
The fact is God doesn’t DO control. God created the heavens and the earth with the laws of nature and human free will. God does not usually control the laws of nature. When he does, we call it a miracle because it’s rare. God certainly does not influence human freedom. That’s why beautiful things happen in the world. That’s why awful things happen in the world.
While God doesn’t cause evil, neither does he use control to prevent us, or others, from doing wrong. God doesn’t control, but he does care. He loves and cares and wants to nurture those who’ve been wronged.
If God doesn’t DO control, how does he work? God works by consent, not control. Have you noticed that God will never force himself on you or manipulate you? God is loving and gracious, not violent and angry. As revealed in Jesus, God is neither coercive nor controlling but infinitely close and caring. Jesus will not force himself into your life or make you receive his love. But he does invite you to willingly consent to the offer of a relationship with God. He initiates, and we consent.
God surrendered control to natural law and human freedom when he created the universe. But God did not abandon his creation. He entered it by being born mortal. The man Jesus experienced all of life’s highs and lows. The Word became flesh to endure the depth and breadth of the entire human condition. In Jesus, God experienced our humanity, all of it.
Jesus completely identifies with your pain. He is present and co-suffers with you. He wraps your suffering with his divine love and brings healing to your soul.
God is not in control, but he is in charge. History is heading somewhere, and God is at the steering wheel!
God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle
Another platitude uttered by an uncaring soul who is uncomfortable with human suffering. Well, at least God will never give you more than you can handle. And the suffering one is left to ponder exactly how much more they can bear until God realises they can’t take anymore.
An appeal is made to 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” But this verse is about temptation, not problems, sickness, pain, or suffering.
“God will never give you more than you can handle,” is wrong for two reasons. Firstly, it infers that God is the author of pain and suffering: “God will never give you more…” But we must not be deceived into thinking that God is anything but good. He is NOT the author of tests and trials (Cf. James 1:13-17).
Secondly, people frequently experience more than they can handle; that’s why we need counsellors, psychologists, pastoral care, prayer, treatment for mental health and other caring professionals. Thank God for loving people who can step in and lift some of the load when we encounter something we cannot cope with on our own.
I love the honesty of the Bible writers. Consider these words penned by Paul to the Corinthian Christians, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (emphasis added).
The Bible is replete with examples of people of faith who suffered more than they could endure on their own. Some of them died because of it (Cf. Hebrews 11:35-40). I believe one of the fundamental reasons Jesus formed the church is so that Christian people can support one another when life gets unbearable. I am very grateful for my Christian community, which is the source of strength and encouragement for people when life is intolerable.