One of the greatest difficulties we face as human beings is to try to figure out why something bad has happened. We really want to know why tragedy has struck. We need to believe that there is a reason behind it.
I want to walk you though one (of many) Bible passage that helps give me some sanity when there are no answers. Here we go.
There was a drought in Israel. It lasted for years. It was absolutely devastating. Insert your crisis, then we can use the Bible narrative to get some insight. Take a look at what leads up to the drought.
1Now Elijah the Tishbite said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” -1 Kings 17
Elijah is one of the most celebrated heroes in all of Judaism. He runs into the king’s palace and clearly announces calamity. As soon as the prophecy leaves his lips, he runs off into the wilderness and disappears. Picture King Ahab and Queen Jezebel looking at each other and saying, “What was all that about?!” It stops raining immediately, just like Elijah predicts.
THE BACK STORY
For times’ sake, here’s the summary of the political situation in Israel. “In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel… Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” – 1 Kings 16
That’s really bad! To be the worst behaved king of Israel was quite an accomplishment. There are some lists the Bible gives with the activities of various kings which include, but are not limited to, throwing their own children in the fire as a sacrifice to foreign gods. With those activities in the mix, to be the worst was significant. In fact, Israelites were so far from their roots that they literally do not know who the real god is… when asked to choose between the God of their ancestors or handcrafted idols, they are silent.
The point is, Israel as a nation had completely lost its way. There were many warnings that had been ignored. God eventually intervened and, through the voice of Elijah, made it VERY clear exactly what was about to happen.
Let me sum up the rest of this story from 1 Kings 18. Through an incredible act of calling down fire from heaven, Elijah turns the heart of the people back to their God. Then, God restores the land with rain after a prayer offered up by Elijah. The whole thing was done to RESTORE Israel, not to punish them.
Here is the dominant Biblical pattern for when God causes a calamity:
- There is a pattern of reckless behavior for years, amongst many clear warnings.
- There is clarity before the calamity strikes, with precise language. When it happens, there is no doubt it is initiated by God.
- The calamity is usually redemptive in nature; it calls people back to relationship with God.
Clarity is key! If you have to ask the question, “Why is God doing this?” it’s almost certainly not a punishment from God. In the Bible, God is clear and intentional. He does not say, “You should know why!” He does not say, “I’m going to do this thing and let them figure out why.”
Using those guiding principles above, if your setback doesn’t come with clarity from God, it’s probably natural causes or the result of living in a free world where people can be effected by the decisions of others. Sometimes bad things happen simply because we’re not robots.
NO, EVERYTHING DOENS’T HAPPEN FOR A REASON
I hate to ruin the thing grandma always told you… but if even one person can do one action from their free will, some things must result apart from divine will. If a kid can leave his shoes at the bottom of the steps and I can choose to go down those steps at night… bad things can happen! “Why did I break my ankle? God must have a reason?” The only reason is that my son chose to kick of his shoes and I chose to go down the steps.
Do you want to live in a world where God forces robots to do everything He’s determined? Me neither. This is a topic for another post! I do want to call your attention to one more scripture: Romans 8:22. “…in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” With or without a reason, God will use everything for your good. He will take the situation and bring something good out of it, even if He didn’t cause it.
My suggestion is that, rather than try to frivolously search for meaning or cause, you instead ask, “How can God use this for good? How can I use this to honor Him?” That’s a much more productive quest. At the end of the day, it’s the outcome that matters more than the cause or reason anyway.