Somewhere along the way in my ministry I picked up a daily devotion book written by Phillips Brooks. Brooks was a famous Episcopalian pastor in the Boston area in the 1800s. In the devotion for May 2, he writes:
Faith says not, “I see that it is good for me, and so God must have sent it,” but “God sent it, and so it must be good for me.”
When I first read that quote years ago, I wrote it down and stuck it in my “preacher files” because I thought it was an interesting line. I have to admit, though, that when I read the quote now, I can’t get fully on board with it because I’m not sure exactly what Brooks meant by the words: “God sent it.” If he simply meant that everything that God sends into our lives will somehow be good for us, I can go along with that. If, however, he meant that God sends everything that comes into our lives, I would beg to differ on that.
As I understand spiritual matters, everything that comes into our lives is decidedly not sent from God. Satan (the serpent) and sin came into the lives of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-24), but those things weren’t sent by God. An unjust death came into the life of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11:1-27), but that death was sent by King David, not by God. John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1-12), but it was Herod’s wife Herodias, not God, who orchestrated (sent) that death.
On and on the list goes. God didn’t send that drunk driver who killed that innocent victim in the car crash. He didn’t send that rapist who had his way with that innocent young girl. He didn’t send that temptress who stole that other woman’s husband. He didn’t send that crazed gunman who took the lives of those people in that shopping center. He didn’t send that con-man preacher who swindled all those church people out of their money. He didn’t send that sadistic dictator who ordered the executions of those thousands of people. He didn’t send that person in your life who has caused you so many problems and so much grief. Don’t blame God for the actions of people who aren’t submitted to Him, and don’t label something as His will that He didn’t order.
You say, “But God is sovereign. He could have stopped it all from happening.” Yes, He could have. No argument there. It must be noted, though, that allowing something is not the same thing as causing it or sending it. To be blunt, if God was going to prevent anything bad from ever happening to humans, He would have taken Satan and the other rebellious angels out of existence the moment they fell, rather than allowing them to reek their havoc on Adam, Eve, and all their descendants down through the eons of human history. When He didn’t do that, He was giving us His method of working, a method He continues to employ today.
Rather than prevent anything bad from ever happening, what God does is take the bad stuff and use it to accomplish His purposes. I often think of life as a great chess match between God and Satan. Even though God might sacrifice some ground — and even some pieces — in the match, He is a great enough tactician to always remain one step ahead of Satan. The end result of the game is never in doubt, but you can’t always tell that by looking at the board.
So, as you are reading this, you should consider the fact that it is somebody’s move right now in regards to your life. Either Satan is about to send something (oftentimes sent through someone) your way, or God is about to countermove what Satan has recently done. I wish there was a third option, you know, the one where you and I aren’t pieces in an ongoing spiritual game of chess. Unfortunately, though, that option hasn’t been offered since Satan decided to turn rebel. Such is the world in which we live.