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We Complicate EverythingWe Complicate Everything
by Randal Matheny

    Life is not what we would have it. Our personal circumstances seldom measure up to our expectations. Men pervert justice, commit atrocities, inflict injury, plot unspeakable evils.

    There may be nothing new under the sun, but people seem adept at new twists on the old themes of cruelty, egotism, betrayal, and hypocrisy. Just this past week, in a tourist city in our region, a man killed his two children to get revenge against his ex-wife. And six months after 9/11, horrors on a grand scale still chill our hearts.

    So even in the face of plentiful testimony of the Bible, people still have a hard time fitting it all together. The question is an old one. If God is good, why does he allow evil? New atrocities give new life to such doubts.

    Never are the questions so intense as when evil hits close to home.

    A friend swindles us out of thousands of dollars.

    A mate tells us it’s all over in order to marry a lover.

    A driver hits our vehicle and sues us for damages.

    A close associate finds new friends with an eye to advancement in the company.

    A new medicine causes side effects and leaves us with permanent physical scars.

    Where is God when disaster strikes? Doesn’t he care? Can’t he do something about it?

    As he created the world, God paused now and again to appreciate his work. He saw that what he had done was good. Having concluded creation, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 NASB). The Creator has always pursued his policy of goodness, so that, as we read through the Bible, more and more voices join the refrain: “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, For the Lord is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Jeremiah 33:11).

    James cautions us against attributing evil, especially in the form of temptation, to God, since he is unaffected by any effort to derail his goodness, nor does he desire to involve man in wrongdoing (James 1:13). We get ourselves tangled up (verses 14-15). Let us not get confused about this (vs. 16), James insists, since “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, nor shifting shadow” (vs. 17). If it’s good, it comes from Him; if it comes from Him, it’s good.

    Amidst convoluted thinking in an attempt to find answers on a worldly plane, the writer of Ecclesiastes still can recognize “that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices” (7:29). A Portuguese version gives a fascinating paraphrase of this verse, “God created us simple and upright, but we complicate everything.”

    And indeed we do.

    God gives us strength to work for our daily bread, and we get greedy.

    God gives us the gift of sex in marriage, and we prostitute ourselves.

    God gives us minds to understand his will and choose to follow him, and we explain him out of existence or delegate him to running celestial errands.

    God puts eternity in our hearts, and we drown out its cry with drink, drugs, RVs, or radical sports.

    Does a doubt persist? Why doesn’t God do something?

    Answer: He does, all the time.

    A key is Joseph. Nobody more mistreated, cheated, forgotten than Joseph. Hated and sold into slavery by his brothers. Taken into a foreign country by strangers. Tempted by his owner’s wife and set up when he resisted her wiles. Thrown into prison unjustly. Left to rot for years by someone he’d helped. And when the hand of God brought him out of his trials and he found himself well-placed for revenge, instead of revenge, incrimination, and resentment, he saw something greater at work.

    To his fearful brothers he said, “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

    God is so good, God is so powerful, that he uses even the evil that exists in the world to bring forth good for many people. The phoenix story is a myth, but a myth with a moral. From ashes rise strength, power, and beauty. The story of Christ is no myth, but reality. From the Cross comes forgiveness. From suffering comes victory. From death springs life.

    Perhaps the real question, then, is not, If God is so good, why does evil exist? We ought to chew on this one: If God is so good, why hasn’t he wiped the human race from the earth?

    And Scripture gives a clear answer.

“The Lord is not slow about His promise [to destroy the world], as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. ... regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation” (2 Peter 3:10,15).

    God is not ignorant; he knows what’s happening. God is not negligent; he works to turn us to himself. God is not impotent; he works even bad things into the fabric of his will. God is not ambivalent; he is totally devoted to the victory of good.

    We complicate things by discussing philosophical issues such as the origin and existence of evil. God makes it simple. Evil is here, he is responsible only for good, but the world continues so that we may turn from our personal wrongdoing to seek after him. Only one doubt remains: what will we do about it?

    Nothing complicated about that.

      Title: "We Complicate Everything"
      Author: Randal Matheny
      Publication Date: March 27, 2002

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