The good and bad

I’m cautious about using God-protection language. For good reason, when we know a situation could have taken an ugly turn, we are grateful it didn’t.

Let’s say you’re involved in a car accident. When the first responders tell you that an inch could have made the difference between life and death, you’re thankful to have been on the right side of that measurement. Most of us thank God. This is when we say God protected us or that God was with us.

On several occasions, I’ve heard people talk about such situations. Replace a car accident with some other dire situation that involved several people. If we made it out alive, we might say, “The man upstairs was looking out for me.”

Again, I understand and affirm turning our attention to God. I encourage people to do so.

But I also want to think about the implications of things we’re used to saying.

So, if you survive a tragic accident because God protected you, does that mean God didn’t protect the others? If the only possible explanation for how you made it through was that God was with you, was God not with the other people?

It is important to acknowledge things do not work out well all the time. Not even for people of God. Ecclesiastes reminds us that good and bad happen to all. How many of us have unanswered prayers or experienced some great trauma? I cringe when I hear people suggest God takes away all our life’s problems. That’s a false gospel.

And that kind of belief doesn’t help us walk through our difficulties. It doesn’t even align with what we see in the life of Jesus or the apostles. The Israelites, of course, also knew this. They endured much as a people. Often, scripture wants us to know much of what they experienced was a result of their disobedience. But not all of the Bible does that. Job, for example, brings to mind this whole conversation.

In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites lost a battle to the Philistines. The Philistines were superior in every category. When the Israelites lost, the elders wondered why God allowed this to happen. Their response was to bring the ark of the covenant to their next battle. The result was the same. Not even bringing something so important, so God-filled ensured their victory.

In a weird twist, the Philistines heard about the ark and were afraid. As a result, their sense to fight harder against the Israelites increased. Their victory also allowed them to acquire the ark of the covenant for themselves. 

One of my favorite movie lines is from the 1987 goofy comedy “Adventures in Babysitting.” The line comes when the group of kids gets stuck on stage with a blues band. They want to leave, but the singer tells them, “Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues.”

That might be a good way to think of our life. Nobody leaves here without facing difficulty or tragedy. God does not remove those elements of life. Our faith tells us, though, that God walks with us as we endure them.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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