That feeling when you’re just going about your business, having a nice life, and all of a sudden you get that twinge in the back of your throat. Oh no. You’re getting sick, and now it’s up to every remedy you can get your hands on and frantic prayers to God to keep you from going down for the count. (It’s not just me, right? It’s not just me.) I hate getting sick. I’m uncomfortable. Food doesn’t taste the same. I begin to forget what life was like before this. And then just when I think the cold is over, it’s like jk, I’m sticking around for another five days. It makes me so mad! Mad at my body, but also mad at God. I wonder why He didn’t prevent this. Like, how dare He?
While they are an effective punishment for me, monster colds are not listed in Leviticus 26 among the curses God promised to send on His people if they did not “listen to Me and carry out all these commands” (verse 14). These punishments intensify in levels. First, God promises to send disease and famine to the Israelites if they sin against Him. If they still don’t listen, then He will allow them to be defeated by their enemies. If they still don’t listen, then the famines will intensify. If they still don’t listen – well, you see where this is going. Ultimately death, capture, and an overall miserable life are the rewards for sin. On the contrary, if the Israelites obey Him, God promises fertile ground and abundant crops, peace and safety, successful campaigns and long lives. Not a hard decision, is it?
The Treasures Within:
Lie Number 1
What is difficult is rationalizing this chapter. Like so many other chapters in the Bible, it’s easy to read these words and draw conclusions from it that are just wrong. Or it’s easy to come away from it with a twisted view of God. For example, the first and nicest part of this chapter seems to be in perfect harmony with a popular notion called the “Prosperity Gospel”. Simply put, if I believe in God and serve Him, then my life should be pretty great. Some people take it even further – not only will your life be problem-free, but you’ll be extremely rich. Everything you pray for will be given to you. Sunshine and daisies will brighten your path forever and ever, world without end.
Even those of us who feel wise and superior for not falling prey to that particular deception believe in the prosperity gospel on a smaller scale, and it shows. When we get angry at God for allowing something bad to happen. When we accuse God of not being fair. When we wonder if God can truly be real or truly be loving if He allows evil in this world.
It’s a tempting lie. God is supposed to love us more than anybody. If you love someone, you don’t want them to be in pain ever, right? But where in this passage, or in any passage of the Bible for that matter, did God ever say that if we believe in Him, love Him, and even obey Him, that our lives would be perfect? That we would never struggle? That we would never hurt? He literally says at one point in the Bible (John 16:33) that “in this world you will have trouble”. So why does it surprise us when bad things happen? Why do we find ourselves blaming God so easily?
Lie Number Two
So God never promised to make our lives perfect. The lack of a promise to remedy something unfair doesn’t automatically make the circumstance fair. Bad things still happen. Life still knocks us off our feet. We still turn on the news everyday and see more tragedies that bring tears to our eyes and dig pits in our stomachs. It just doesn’t seem right, when God, as stated over and over again, supposedly loves us. So when we are faced with evil, we are shook. Our faith weakens or we reject faith all together or we simply shake our heads, run through the trite and unsatisfying responses we’ve learned, like “God knows best”, and force ourselves to move on. We don’t know why bad things happen. And that’s the second lie.
Because that’s what the second half of this chapter explains: bad things happen because of sin. Sometimes, like the Israelites, it’s our own sin. I stayed up late and I ate food that would hurt my body, therefore I got sick. Getting angry at God is such a wild response, because it was not only my fault, but God literally told me this would happen when I broke His laws (1 Corinthians 3:17). Sometimes we get sick, or we lose our jobs, or our relationships fail because of the sinful things that we did. We blame God when really we should be blaming ourselves.
And then other times, bad things happen because of the sins of others. Billions of people have died throughout history – African slaves, Jewish people in the Holocaust, innocent children in third world countries, soldiers in wars, and more and more and more. They died because of the sins of others – because a Hitler or a plantation owner or a corrupt leader or someone else decided to follow the law in their own heart, rather than the perfect law of God. So many suffer from injustice, oppression, racism, sexism, violence, and poverty because someone decided to sin. Sin is why bad things happen. It’s always been why bad things happen.
God’s Message To Us:
“I am teaching you a lesson.” But even if we accept the real reason why bad things happen, an unanswered question lingers over everything. If you love someone, you don’t ever want them to be in pain, right? God doesn’t thrill at seeing us suffer. He doesn’t laugh when babies die. He doesn’t rejoice when people get what they deserve. Jesus weeps when we weep. Our agony is His. The pain we feel is the pain that He feels and has felt and will continue to feel for every person who draws breath on this sordid planet. But His true love is this: that He is willing to allow us to suffer if it means that one day suffering will end forever. From the first moment a created being decided that his way was better than God’s way, God knew that He would allow the results of that terrible decision to play out. And it has. From Lucifer’s fall all the way down to our reality, sin is playing out and proving, once and for all, that this is not the way to happiness. Listening to me and only me is not the way to happiness. The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the evil we blame God for all scream this truth to us: Turn your backs on sin! Follow Jesus. Some of us will listen. Some of us will believe. Some of us will one day have eternal life. And that, that hope, that chance, that possibility is why bad things happen.
What do you think? Why do bad things happen?