Many a time when a disaster or private calamity befalls someone, people would console him or her by saying “It was the will of God. That is how God destined it.” Many sincere people ask: “If God is love and He is just, how come this world is full of pain, hate, diseases, loss, and injustice? Are these all from God?” The answer to these questions may not be as simple as we think, but having the right answer goes a long way in the way we view God. Therefore, our answers must be based on Scripture.
In addressing this issue, I disagree with the islamic fatalistic belief called kismet; the blind machinery of the Hindu karma or the views of some Christian theologians such as A. W Pink who stated: “God fore-ordains everything which comes to pass…God initiates all things…” (Sovereignty of God, 240) or of Edwin Palmer: “God is in back of everything. He decides and causes all things to happen…He has foreordained everything ‘after the counsel of his will’ (Eph 1:11): the moving of a finger…the mistake of a typist- even sin” (The 5 Points of Calvinism, 25).
According to this theological view, if a child is raped, or a family is murdered in their sleep or an entire population is sent off to the gas chambers – these are not really the acts of evil men, but are things directly ordained by God. Frankly, this doctrine maligns the character of God. And this explains why some young, intelligent Christians raised with this repugnant beliefs have drifted into Atheism.
The evidence that not everything happening on this earth is God’s will can be seen from the fact that the Bible contains several examples of people defying God’s will and disobeying Him. The Lord Jesus instructs us to pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Mt. 6:10). Why this prayer, if all that happens is God’s will? God said “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me” (Is. 1:2). This shows God didn’t foreordain sin, because it is a violation of His commands.
Now, Ephesians 1:11 doesn’t say everything that happens is according to God’s will, but according to “the counsel” of His will. There is a difference. The counsel of God’s will has given man the freedom to either obey or disobey Him. There is no other explanation for sin. In Luke 7:30 Jesus said “the pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God.” Again, in Matthew 7:21, Jesus will say to some people that only those who have done the will of the Father will be in heaven. That means, not everyone on earth is doing God’s will, and it’s therefore wrong to teach that God ordains all things.
In Jeremiah 7:23-24, God says “…Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people and walk ye in all the ways I have commanded. But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart…” Was this evil in Israel “the will of God”? Absolutely not. It came as a result of people following their evil hearts. Why then do many bad things happen to many good people? We do not have all the answers why God allows certain unpleasant things to happen to us and decides to exempt some people.
But from God’s word, we know that He allows these situations but He is not the author or originator of them. Some of life’s problems come as unforseen occurrences (Eccl. 9:11); the consequences of the fall of man (Rom. 5:12); as a result of the wrong choices we have made (Gal. 6:7) and also from the Devil and his imps (Rev 12:12). However, God in His sovereignty is able to use to His own purposes what He doesn’t foreordain and originate. He uses unfavourable situations to work out His will. “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God…”(Romans 8:28). This is why unexplainable hardships should not make us blame God or get angry at Him. He has the power use that situation to accomplish His own will.
When Joseph saw the complete picture, he could say to his evil brothers “be not grieved nor angry with yourself that ye sold me…for God did send me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5). Notice that Joseph didn’t say God caused the evil, but that He used the evil his brothers committed to accomplish His purpose. Satan attacked Job and he lost everything, but he couldn’t take away his love for God and God restored him because of his faithfulness. God was not the cause of his calamities, Satan was, but He allowed them to test his loyalty and he came out better.
As a Christian, there are terrible situation one can be stuck with. Failures, rejection, a terminal disease or loss of something precious. But you can trust in the love and sovereignty of God to use that unpleasant situation to work out an exceeding good one. This is how we learn life’s lessons and become mature spiritually.