Out of the Ashes
Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. Acts 8:4-5
Early in recovery, when life was still quite a disaster, someone trying – I think – to ease my guilt, told me that my addiction was God’s plan for me and that I really had no say in it. At the time, I was wrestling with taking responsibility for my actions and so, I completely rejected the idea. I’d made my destructive choices and there was no way I was going to let myself off the hook by blaming God.
Looking back, I’m not sure I was 100% right. I do absolutely believe that I was responsible for my behavior and that I couldn’t blame God for the mess I’d made. If, however, God is in control, if he does allow addictive pills to exist, and if he does allow some of us to have an appetite for those pills, then at some point I’ve got to admit that God created me with the propensity for addiction. If he truly is omnipotent, then my addiction happened on his watch.
So, did God directly cause my addiction? I don’t know. That thought used to horrify me, but now, I can certainly say I’m thankful for what God has done with my addiction. I have a spiritual life now that I never would have had if I’d never struggled. God took my struggle and made something beautiful of it.
Today’s passage tells a similar story of God making something good out of something horrible. In the narrative, the church in Jerusalem came under great persecuted, which scattered the apostles. One follower of Christ, Philip, was displaced to Samaria, where he proclaimed the gospel to a people whom the Jews considered to be half breed and infidels. Out of the persecution, God spread his message farther than it would have been, if the apostles had remained comfortable in Jerusalem.
Does God cause our pain or does he allow it? I’m not sure it matters exactly how I say it, as long as I understand that somehow he is in control and that I’m responsible for my choices. In this life, we will know hardships and pain. If we desire something good from the trials though, we must believe that God can transform any disaster, but that we’re also responsible. Philip could have simply run from persecution and stopped sharing the gospel. It’s often through our obedience that God brings something good out of the ashes.