Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

That’s a question that gets asked frequently and if I’m honest, I struggle with an appropriate answer to that question.

Why did my friend die tragically even though he followed Jesus?

Why is my friend barely hanging on to life even though he’s a pastor leading people to Jesus?

Why did that child die even though we know Jesus loves her?

I truly wish I had the ability to understand the universe as God does, to know how everything works out, ultimately for good.

But I don’t. I can’t always see it.

What I do know, through the storm, when sorrow like sea billows roll, is this:

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.

Lamentations 3:19-26 NIV

We sing songs around that part of Lamentations…probably the best known section of the lament because of that. But the lamenter continues:

For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.

Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV

Did you notice that last part? He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. God isn’t diabolical and just eager to bring destruction on people. He doesn’t willingly bring these troubles to anyone.

I still don’t understand why we suffer, but I know that it’s not something God’s wants. He doesn’t willingly want us to suffer these afflictions and grief. And I do believe that his unfailing love brings compassion. Yes there is grief, yes there is suffering, but not every day is that way. Not every light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. Sometimes it’s his compassion made new every morning.

Trust in the Lord. Hope in the Lord. Rest in the Lord. His mercies are new every morning, and he does not willingly bring affliction and grief.

May the Lord grant us all peace today.

These Old Boots

These old boots are my favorite pair, though they are not my most comfortable boots. They are my favorite, even though I don’t wear them daily. They are my favorite, even when they make my feet hurt. Why, you might ask?

Though I can’t remember what year I bought them, I know I’ve had them at least 20 years. I graduated from high school wearing these boots. They are part of my memories and decision-making that influenced the course of my life. I wore them while driving my first and favorite car (1967 Ford Mustang). I wore them in college as I dated my fiance, performed recitals and concerts, traveled to Germany for mission work, and stood at the altar marrying my wife.

I’ve worn these boots as a band director, receiving awards, performing some of the best music with some of the most wonderful people. I’ve worn these boots playing in bands with friends of all kinds. They’ve been part of music festivals, church services, jam sessions, and our beloved Corona-concerts.

They have been part of every ministry I’ve ever worked in. They’ve been on my feet for every wedding I’ve ever officiated, and every funeral I’ve ever preached. These old boots have been torn up, patched up, and polished so many times I’ve lost count. Yet they still serve me well every time I put them on my feet.

I guess these are my favorite boots for what they help me remember. You see, these are my favorite boots, because God has led me through so much while I was wearing them. They aren’t special, they aren’t magical, they aren’t particularly valuable. But they remind me of my journey through life with God.

To remember is one of the major calls of Deuteronomy. Moses wants the people to remember what God has done for them. His hope is if the people remember their God’s provision and blessing, they will seek to bless Him with their faithfulness.

“…do not be afraid…remember well what the LORD your God did…”

Deuteronomy 7:18 NIV

“Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”

Deuteronomy 8:2 NIV

“But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”

Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.”

Deuteronomy 24:18 NIV

Moses makes the point that we should not merely bounce through life day after day like a pinball, nor keep a checklist of rules. Instead, we remember. We should remember what God has done in the past, and expect his faithfulness and provision in the future. But we must remember to walk daily with him.

We must do this now more than ever. With the ever-increasing craziness of this world, it’s easy to get distracted and forget why we are here. We must remember. This is why every Sunday we stop to remember.

“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 22:19 NIV

Remembering once a week isn’t enough, though. If we spend an hour a week remembering Christ and his sacrifice, there are 167 other hours each week that we forget.

There are so many ways to remember what God through Jesus has done for us. These old boots are simply old boots. But they help me remember.

So what helps you remember?

Excuse me, are you a pastor?

This post originally appeared on my Facebook page and sort of went viral. I decided to post it here for my readers who don’t follow me on Facebook as well. Blessings.

“Excuse me, are you a pastor?”

That question has always bothered me, especially when it comes out of the blue. I never know the motives behind the people who ask it, and I still don’t know what prompted a random woman in the airport to ask me that question. But for some reason, in the middle of the night, in an airport, as I tried to eat my dinner, there it was.

I was feeling grouchy yesterday as a day full of excitement and weeks of planning continued to fall apart all around me. It started with a rental car getting canceled, with no options to rebook. What was supposed to be a fun drive (and anyone who knows me knows I love road trips) turned into a last minute flight paired with a friend’s kindness to pick me up and drive me to my destination.

Everything started well. I had a fine morning, visited with friends, played my favorite new guitar, and talked with my wife as she dropped me off at the airport. Terrific lunch, read a book as I waited for my flight. And then something delayed our ability to take off on time. Once we boarded we were informed that severe weather was causing us to be rerouted around the storm. Instead of an hour layover in Chicago, our new path around the storm put us on the ground 10 minutes after my connecting flight was in the sky.

No worries, the flight attendant informed us, as we had already been rebooked on a flight that would take off about an hour after we landed. Upon landing in Chicago, we learned that that flight was delayed, and we were rebooked on another flight at 5pm. Then another at 7. Then at 9. Then at 11. Then 1am. Then 3am. And finally, canceled.

Did I mention I was grouchy? As much as I wanted to ignore this stranger in the Chicago airport, something made me respond in the affirmative. Not knowing what this woman’s motives were, I was relieved somewhat when she replied, “Thank God!” and sat down at the table next to mine. Over the next 45 minutes, she unloaded a lot of baggage she had been carrying (no pun intended) and how she had been struggling with her faith since moving to Chicago. She really needed to talk to someone, and I guess I and the other random stranger sitting at our row of tables fit the bill.

I still have no idea why she asked me that question, but I was able to use my gifts to help this weary traveler make a plan to return to church this Sunday. I then proceeded to customer service and stood in the never ending line behind all the angry and sleepy people in the wee hours of the morning who would now spend their night trying to sleep in the airport.

And then it happened again. This time, a lady much younger than me, tears streaming down her face, asking what she should do. She had been estranged from her family for some time and had made arrangements to fly cross-country to visit them and make amends. And now the welcome home plans and meetings looked like they might not happen because a flight had been canceled. While waiting in line to receive complimentary blankets and tooth paste, we visited about life, canceled flights, relationships, and a few minutes later she thanked me for being “the only kind and decent human I have spoken to all week.”

Did I mention I was grouchy? Well, I had been, but not so much any more. The next was a young man trying to get home and was frustrated that he couldn’t reserve a rental car (tell me about it brother), a woman next to me on the flight to the next city who was troubled while reading about the Holocost, and then a kind stranger who invited me to cut in front of them in the breakfast line.

As I get ready to board my next flight that will arrive at my original destination 20 hours behind schedule, I wonder who God will put in my path this time.

I don’t share this story to pat myself on the back, nor to encourage air travel or rental car use (did I mention I was…nevermind). But I encourage you to be who God has called you to be in the places he has placed you. Our Christian life does not exist solely within the walls of the church building. And regardless of if we are at work, at home, in a Bible class, or trying to sleep on the world’s most uncomfortable airport seating (looking at you, O’Hare International), we’re still called to be representatives of Christ and His Kingdom wherever we go.

Now, I wonder who God will put in your path this time?

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”

1 Peter 3:15-16 NIV