This is a question that we often ask when calamity befalls us. Nor is it out of order for us to so enquire, provided we are honest in it, and not just trying to pass the buck for the real guilt of sin, which may be the real cause of our troubles. The sweet singer of Israel asked this question in Psalm 74:1. And even our blessed Lord cried out with such a question while upon the cross (Psalm 22:1-3). Yes, we too are allowed to ask this question, but like our Lord, we must honor our Father’s reasons for allowing troubles to find us (Psalm 22:3).
Some seem to enjoy complaining and so may ask such a question without any real determination to try to correct the reason if they find out why troubles come upon them. Such people are hopeless cases so long as they maintain this attitude. They are spiritual masochists (people who get pleasure out of pain). We shouldn’t ask any question about why we are troubled unless we really want answers.
There are no “accidents” with believers, just as there is no “luck” with them, for God is in control of everything, and He makes all things work to the fulfillment of His purposes (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 1:11). He who beholds the fall of the sparrow and who numbers the hairs of our head (Matthew 10:28-31), who so clothes the grass of the field which lasts but a day that it has a beauty surpassing Solomon’s regal glory (Matthew 6:28-30) shall control our circumstances that they will be for our best interests if we submit to them. There is a reason for everything that happens to believers; troubles may be for chastisement, for correction, to test our faith, to warn us from dangerous practices, to fulfill God’s purposes, to teach us to trust Him more, and many other reasons. Let us consider some troubles that may find us, and the possible reasons for them.
I. CONSIDER THE “WHY” OF DESTRUCTION
Sometimes the Lord must destroy some prized possession of ours because it has become an idol that stands between the heart and God. The sin of selfishness was the first sin that man ever committed and it is generally at the heart of all other sins. Let it be recognized that sin is always at the root of any bad thing that comes to any of us, but our sovereign God knows how to overrule sin and bring good out of it. He could easily have stopped sin from entering the human race in the Garden of Eden, but He chose to allow it that He might manifest His grace in overcoming it. If God takes away some cherished possession of ours, there is a reason: it may be that that possession had become an idol, usurping His place in our hearts. Many people allow boats, campers, cars, homes, farms, yes, and even other people, to stand between them and God. This is sin and He must destroy it.
A father once confessed that his first child had died because he loved her too much. We know not the details, but obviously that father had made that child an idol of his heart. God interdicts any love for anyone that supplants our love to Him (Matthew 10:37). That which hinders our love to Him does not endanger Him: it is a danger to us, and His love for us requires that He destroy that which would destroy us. Often He must destroy our romances because, if we were left to our own wills, we would marry someone who would destroy our effectiveness as servants of God, and would hinder our love to Him. Bless God that He loves us enough to destroy our unwise romances.
Also, God often destroys something of ours in order to replace it with something much better. God once destroyed a church building which, though it was majestic in its antiquity, was becoming a detriment to the church because it required a continual upkeep. God burned that building down in spite of all that three fire departments could do, and the first was on the scene within two minutes of the fire being discovered as a minor blaze. In the place of the old building, God gave a brand new, commodious building. Yet many could not understand “WHY” at the time, and even later, one member, in acknowledged veneration for the old building, said “I’d trade that new building for the old one any day.” That is idolatry!
II. CONSIDER THE “WHY” OF DISEASE
Once again, had there never been any sin, there would have been no disease, for disease is the result of sin, and so we must ultimately trace disease back to sin. However, do not misunderstand: specific illnesses may not be due to personal sin. Sometimes they are, but sometimes not. Sometimes they spring simply from carelessness of habits or diet, so that we must take the responsibility for them, and not blame God. But every case of disease ought to first be examined as to whether it is a chastisement for sin. This is implied in God’s prescription for illness in James 5:13-16. Note the order: 1. Pray for recovery (verse 13). 2. Call for the pastors of the church that they and the church might pray for healing (verse 14). 3. The anointing has at least a two-fold significance: a. It symbolizes the Holy Spirit, who is to dominate the Christian’s life, and who will lead him away from sin. b. It was also a first century medicine (Luke 10:34). Hence, for illness the Bible prescribes prayer and the best medicines available; neither is to be used to the exclusion of the order. 4. There is to be an examination for sins, and the confession of them, (verse 15; Proverbs 28:13). These things must all be considered in determining the “Why” of disease.
Sometimes sickness has a purpose apart from our sin or carelessness. It may be permitted so that God may be glorified in healing the disease (John 11:1-4), or in sustaining the sufferer under it. Sad but true, God can get no glory from many people except when they are flat on their backs. Thus He may cause them to be sick much of the time that He might be glorified in them. Perhaps if we praised God more when well, we would be sick less.
Disease also is a constant reminder of our native mortality, and it constantly witnesses to us of our need to daily depend upon the Lord for strength, health and life. Too much self-sufficiency and self-reliance may cause God to have to bring us down so that we will look to Him instead of to ourselves. Why are you sick? It could be for any of these reasons, or for others, but all for your eventual good and betterment if you submit yourself to God’s almighty hand.
III. CONSIDER THE “WHY” OF DEATH
There is an intimate connection between death and sin, as is declared in Romans 5:12. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, FOR THAT ALL HAVE SINNED.” Universal death testifies to universal sinfulness in man. In all time, only two men have escaped death: Enoch and Elijah, and God had a specific reason for exempting these two from death, a reason that He does not have for the ordinary person. They typified and symbolized that generation of believers which shall be exempt from death at Jesus’ return.
But for the ordinary person, physical death is the heritage of every son of Adam because all are born sinners, and all choose to remain sinners until God’s grace changes them into saints. Physical death is therefore a constant reminder to us of our sinfulness by nature. And if Jesus tarries His coming, we shall all come to physical death: it is our natural debt that we owe because of sin. However, no one has to die spiritually. All who do so, die because they choose death over life because they love their sins more than they love the Savior.
Physical death, however, should not be a fearful thing for the Christian, for it is but a portal through which we pass into the immediate presence of our gracious Lord and Savior (II Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:23). And while no one desires to be separated from loved ones by death, yet we know that if both we and they are saved, we shall be reunited on the other side of death, and this comforts us in the loss of loved ones to death, and our separation is but temporary. When death comes, let us not accusingly ask God “Why?” but rather praise Him that He has released a loved one from the sorrows and sufferings of this life, and has taken him home to be with Him.
Again, death teaches us our natural mortality so that we may look to our gracious Lord more and more, and anticipate our going to be with Him. It is a blessed thing to Christians to die. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)
IV. CONSIDER THE “WHY” OF DAMNATION
Damnation means judgment, and judgment always implies the desert of punishment because of evil-doing, so that once more we are brought face to face with sin as the first cause of death. It is often asked, as the writer, when unsaved, did, “Why does there have to be a place such as hell. Why can’t men just die and that be the end?” Some whole denominations have eradicated hell from their theology because their beliefs give them no assurance of cleansing and forgiveness of sin.
But the very earliest record of God’s dealings with man assured him of a time of judgment and a place of punishment. “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof THOU SHALT SURELY DIE.” (Genesis 2:17) That this has to do with spiritual death (separation of the soul from God) and not with physical death (separation of the body and the soul) is clear, for Adam did not physically die when he ate of this forbidden fruit. Indeed, he lived to be 930 years old. But spiritual death most certainly did take place immediately, as Adam and Eve’s own consciences revealed to them (Genesis 3:8) for they hid themselves from God, knowing that they were now sinners in His sight. And this is that death which is threatened to all sinners (Romans 3:23; Revelation 20:14).
Damnation, which is this spiritual death, comes because man has sinned against his Creator, and he refuses to repent of sin and to trust in Jesus Christ, Who is his only hope and remedy. Jesus Himself said: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise PERISH,” (Luke 13:3). The Greek word rendered “perish” is the verb form of the noun which is rendered “perdition.”
Unbelievers who are unwilling to be parted from their sins often ask, “Why does God send people to hell?” And many even deny the reality of hell. Many say, “O God is too good to send anyone to hell.” But while God has certainly ordained hell for all those who die in unbelief, yet in a very real sense God does not send men to hell: their sins send them there, yea, they themselves choose hell over the only alternative: a holy, sinless heaven peopled only by true saints. Actually, hell originated in the sin of a fallen angel. “I will bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee.” (Ezekiel 28:18) Hell was originally prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), but when men take sides with the devil against God, their fate will be the same as his.
No one in hell will ever raise his voice in accusation of God because of being in hell. On the contrary, all will be compelled there to confess God’s perfect justice, and that they went to hell simply because of their preference of sin to the Savior. Therefore, let no man now accuse God by implication that He is the cause of hell. Its cause lies wholly in sin, and God’s grace is all-sufficient to overcome all sin. Is Christ your Savior?
V. CONSIDER THE “WHO” OF DELIVERANCE
As we’ve already shown under each of the previous points, sin is at the root of all man’s troubles, and he is responsible for that sin. God cannot be blamed for it, for He has erected all the obstacles and hindrances to sin that ever have been raised. Indeed, God has raised up the cross with the bleeding, dying Son of God upon it, as the one and only antidote to sin, and men must actually stumble over Christ in order to go to hell. After considering at length all the “Whys,” now let us look at the one and only Remedy for them all, Jesus Christ.
Only Christ Jesus is our hope of deliverance from any trouble, for God the holy and blessed Trinity delights to deliver man from trouble when man calls upon Him in faith. “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.” (Psalm 50:15-17) Clearly then this promise is not to the unbelieving and rebellious, but only to those who by faith have entered into the covenant of redemption that God wrought in eternity past.
Christ is our hope in any problem. Are we troubled with destruction of some possession? Then let us turn to Him Who is the source of all good (James 1:17), Who can therefore replace anything taken from us with something better. Are we troubled with disease? Then let us turn unto the Great Physician (Matthew 9:12; Luke 4:23), He who “took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (Matthew 8:17). Are we troubled concerning death? Then let us turn to Him of Whom Scripture witnesses that He is life itself, yea, that He is the One Who said: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen, and have the keys of hell and of death,” (Revelation 1:18). Are we troubled because of damnation? Then let us consider Him in whom alone there is deliverance from sin and its condemnation.
But we must realize that we can only call upon Him on His terms; it is not a negotiated surrender: it must be an unconditional surrender. But it is a very dangerous thing to wait until the last minute to seek for God’s deliverance. See the very solemn warnings against delay in Proverbs 1:24-28; 27:1; 29:1. Delay in repenting gives sin time to work, and it deafens, deceives and deadens until deliverance is impossible. Let us remember that Jesus’ very name means “Savior,” and a savior is simply a deliverer. “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” (Acts 4:12).