Did God Do This?
Philippians 1:12 I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard . . . that my imprisonment is for Christ.
As miserable as my addiction and subsequent destruction was for me, it was that much worse for my wife. I got to go away to treatment while she was left behind in a mess. In her despair, several well-meaning Christians told her this was God’s will. God chose this for a reason. What she heard was, God did this and Scott cannot be blamed. This was not consoling. She was angry and had a right to be. Scott did this, not God.
Paul, in today’s passage, spoke of his imprisonment and insisted that God had used it for good. Though he was incarcerated, he shared the message of Christ with the entire guard. God used his pain for good.
Did God put Paul in prison? Does God choose everything or does He allow people to do bad things? Did God make me an addict or, am I responsible for my destructive behavior?
Paul’s words echo the words of Joseph to his brothers (Genesis 50:20), You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . . . Joseph’s brothers, jealous of him, had sold him into slavery. Years later, having miraculously ended up in a position of power in Egypt, God used Joseph to save his people from famine. Joseph’s brothers did an evil thing but God planned to use it for good.
Was God in control or did Joseph’s brothers choose to do evil? Yes. Though I cannot grasp how both can be true, these stories both reveal a world in which people do bad things while God is somehow still in control.
Though God is in control, I am still responsible for my actions. God’s sovereignty does not absolve me of responsibility. Knowing God is in control does not make painful things not painful. My wife was miserable and telling her that God wanted her to be miserable was not comforting. It just made God the cause of her pain. Pain still hurts. Having a husband lose his job and go to treatment is awful. Insisting that God did it is not comforting.
Looking back, both my wife and I can see that God’s hand was working in our misery. During the disaster, it was impossible to take this view. Now, through time and growth, we can see that though we do not wish to go through it again, we would not give up the work He did in our lives. I chose evil, but God purposed it for good.