“God has a plan.”
Has anyone ever said that to you? Perhaps something didn’t work out the way you wanted, and someone told you not to lose heart because God has a plan. Maybe someone has said this phrase to you when you were suffering and in pain. Or, as you grieve a loss somebody said, “God has a plan.”
Do these words bring comfort?
In my experience they often don’t. It doesn’t comfort me to hear that God planned for me to suffer. Often, I don’t find comfort in knowing that God planned my life. I want to know why he has allowed me to suffer. I want to know why God has allowed not just me but also the world to experience so much suffering, sickness, injustice, evil, and death. The past year has given us more than enough awful situations and events to ask, “Why, God?”
- Why did God plan for COVID-19 to sweep the globe taking lives and crushing economies?
- Why did God plan for Ahmaud Arbery to be chased down and killed while he was going for a jog?
- Why did God plan for George Floyd to be killed by a police officer who knelt on his neck for over eight minutes?
- Why does God’s plan include rioting, looting, and murders in cities around our country?
I could keep going. But you get the picture. Our nation and our world are experiencing multiple, serious crises at the same time. This means that many of us are feeling worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, sadness, and more.
In the midst of these feelings we cry out to God: “Why is this your plan?”
Would you like to know the answer to this question?
Here it is: I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows.
God has not and does not reveal to us all the reasons behind his plan. He doesn’t tell us why he allows the suffering, sickness, injustice, and death that we see and experience. But God does reveal to us that he is in control over all events. Psalm 135:5—6 says,
For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
God is sovereign. He is all powerful, second to none. His will is totally free. No creature can tell him what to do, God does whatever he pleases. His dominion extends over all creatures, from the angels in heaven to the fish deep below the ocean’s surface and everything in between.
That is not to say that God causes evil or injustice. God is sovereign over all, but he is not the origin of evil. God allows humans to use the free will he has given us. When we fail to live the way God designed us to–when we fall short of perfection–we commit evil. God is not the author or cause of the sin we choose to commit. We have made a mess of this world by rejecting God’s plan and design in the quest to be sovereign over ourselves, rather than submitting to God’s sovereignty.
As we reflect on the mess that sinful humans have made of the world, it is good to remember that God is sovereign. God’s sovereignty is good news because it means he has the power to undo, fix, and heal the mess that we have made of ourselves and of his world. You see, while we don’t know why God allows the evil, painful, and unjust things that he does–the Bible does tell us what God can do with those things. God can take what we do out of sinful and self-centered motives and use it for good. Remember Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers, an act of incredible evil, hatred, and injustice. Yet through what Joseph’s brothers intended for evil, God brought about salvation from famine for multitudes of people. Romans 8:28 tells us that this is how God always operates, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
How do we know this? How can we know that, even when we don’t have an answer to the question of why God allows sickness, pain, evil, and injustice, things will work together for good?
Here is how: God has proven to us that he can take all the evil in the world and use it for good. God the Father sent his beloved Son to earth to proclaim the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand. Jesus Christ, truly divine and truly human, was the only man to ever live a life of perfect obedience to God. He perfectly loved God and perfectly loved all people. Jesus was the only truly innocent human being, the only person to deserve eternal life and not death. Yet, what happened to Jesus? He was falsely accused by the Jewish, religious courts. They turned him over to the Roman authorities and, despite personally finding Jesus to be innocent, Pontius Pilate allowed him to be crucified. This was a travesty of human justice. The only man who truly didn’t deserve death was condemned and executed.
But this is not the end of the story.
God takes this great moment of evil, the moment that humanity rejected and violently killed their creator and uses it for the good of the entire world. It is through Christ’s death that salvation from sin and eternal life comes to people of every tribe tongue and nation. If God can bring such incredible blessings out of the crucifixion of his only begotten Son, how much more can he, in his sovereign power, bring good out of the sufferings and evils we see and experience?