Updated: May 6, 2019
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
When I was a kid, I had a tendency to get in trouble on regular basis. Inevitably, I would get punished, learn my lesson, and move on to the next boneheaded decision. I found that it was easier to get into trouble when I was playing with friends or with my brother or sister. I would push the boundaries of the behavior acceptable to my parents knowing that, if I was caught, I would not have to take all the blame myself. Inevitably after such an incident, my parents would sit me down to talk to me about what happened, and my first words were always, “Ben wanted me to…,” “Cristina was…,” or “Mark said that…” Rarely, if ever, did it start with me. The ironic thing now is that I have seen the same exact behavior in my own kids.
We are so prone to shift the blame. Even as adults, we rarely, if ever, take responsibility for our own failures. Fully accepting blame for our behavior has to be one of the most difficult things in all of life. Former Vice President Hubert Humphrey said, “To err is human. To blame someone else is politics.” We would much rather rationalize, criticize, or downplay our mistakes than ever own up and feel the full weight of our decisions. That would mean admitting that we are wrong. And for most of us, that is the last thing we would ever willingly choose to do. In fact, one of the hardest things for me do is to address another Christian brother or sister’s persistent sin, not that I don’t see it as what’s best for them, we know it is, but because it rarely goes well. I’m called to love in this way, but because our innate aversion to correction those moments almost never result in repentance, at least not the immediate kind.
I was asked a few years back by a student of mine a timeless question that has been asked over and over again through the ages by well-meaning and not-so-well-meaning people: “Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people.” While I was quick to point out that there is no one who is good, not one, her question was more about why bad things occur. This is a question that gets to the heart of what many theologians believe is one of the hardest questions in theology. Why is there pain and suffering in the world? Why would a loving God allow tragedy, hardship, and disaster?
What I find bothersome is the insistence by those who don’t trust in God that He is the cause of the pain in this world. This is almost universally accepted. In fact, I find that many believers also talk about God in this way. They will say things like, “God put this in your life for a reason,” “though you can’t see it now it is for your best,” and “God is weaving a beautiful tapestry together with both light and dark colors.” These ideas and many like them have a kernel of truth and are well-meaning, but ultimately paint an incorrect view of pain. Specifically, they place God at the source of pain. This is simply not the case.
Imagine if I and thirty others witness a thief walk up to a banker on the street in broad daylight, beat him, shoot him, steal all of his money, and leave him for dead. Everyone knows who the thief is and knows what he did. It is an open and shut case. Then instead of the thief being put on trial, I am. Witness after witness comes forward to state that it was not me but someone else and every scrap of evidence points away from me, yet the judge rules that I am the one responsible. We would call that unfair, unjust, and inexcusable. Now imagine that in the judge’s comments on his ruling, he states that I’m a good guy and even thinks I was doing the right thing. He goes further to say that it all might work out for everyone’s best that the banker is dead. Does that make his judgement any better? Is it any less of a miscarriage of justice? No! I had nothing to do with perpetrating the crime.
This same ridiculous circumstance is repeated day in and day out in regards to who is ultimately responsible for tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, landslides, and wildfires, things that we incorrectly refer to as “acts of God”. What about birth defects, disease, and dementia, not to mention acts that people perpetuate on each other, like rape, murder, genocide, human trafficking, torture and the like. We either angrily shake our fist at God saying, “How could you let this happen!”, or we sit around and tell each other to “trust in God’s plan” or that “God is just testing your faith” or “God has a purpose for your pain.”
Instead, we need to start by admitting an ugly truth: we did this! It is our sin that has brought death, pain, and suffering to our world. This was never God’s plan and is not part of His plan today. In fact, by its very nature, sin and its consequences are outside of God’s plan. As my mom used to say, “Every time you point your finger at someone else, three are pointing back at you.” Our sin has broken our world; it is God who is repairing it and will bring about a complete transformation of his creation and of us. Once we identify who is at fault: us, we can begin to be thankful for at least two things. First, that we have any hope of salvation is a flat miracle, and second, how God takes all of these horrible circumstances that were never and will never be a part of His plan, will, or purposes and somehow makes them into something truly good for those who are His children is truly mind-blowing.
May we start today to speak in full truths about the source of our pain and suffering: us, and the source of all that is truly good both now and in the future: God.
 Luke 17:3; 1 Timothy 5:20; Galatians 6:1
 Rom. 3:10-12; Mark 10:18