Pick your tragedy – a terrorist attack, an awful weather incident, a major health crisis like COVID, an economic collapse – and it’s a good bet that right after it occurs, you’ll get the clichéd stream of the, “where was God?” question. Behind it, if we’re to be honest, is an angry attitude directed at the Creator of, “we don’t deserve this!”
Not so fast.
Believe me, I get the irate confusion that comes from looking into the eyes of a small child at St. Jude who’s just been diagnosed with leukemia or the exasperated feelings of powerlessness that arise when a loved one who’s a joy to everyone is killed by a drunk driver. My goal here today is not to address the issue of theodicy which I’ve already done several times (see here, here, and here).
I’m certainly not saying every bad thing that happens is a particularly directed divine judgment handed down to us. However, I would like to reverse the question of, “why do bad things happen to good people?”, to have you think instead about, “why do good things happen to anyone?” Given our historical track record, we deserve judgment far more than we deserve blessings.
And when it comes to judgment, God doesn’t seem to be nearly as concerned as some Christians in trying to extricate Himself from terrible events. Instead, He tells us clearly in His word: “I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these” (Is. 45:6-7).
Throughout Scripture, there are both clear and subtle examples of God’s judgment, some of which you may have missed.
For instance, the parables of Jesus – they aren’t the supposed “sermon illustration” many people think, but rather a form of a judgment given immediately after Israel formally rejected Christ as their Messiah (see Matt. 13:10-15).
Or take the miracle gift of tongues. They aren’t at all what many portray them to be today, but rather are a judgment given by God to unbelievers and God-rejectors as Is. 28:10-13 and 1 Cor. 14:20-22 spell out.
Today, I think it’s easy to make the case that both large and small judgments of God are everywhere, but we’re too dull to notice or afraid to admit it. Let me provide just a couple of examples.f
So you want a king?
The book of 1 Samuel tells the story of how Israel rejected God as their King and instead demanded that a human monarch rule over them. You’d imagine that God would reject their request, right?
“The Lord said to Samuel, 'Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them…listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the…king who will reign over them.'” (1 Sam. 8:7-9)
You’d think that once Samuel told them the realities of having a flawed human, narcissistic, autocratic dictator reign over them vs. the always-righteous Lord of the universe, they’d reconsider their plan, right?
“Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, 'No, but there shall be a king over us.'” (2 Sam. 8:19) So, God gave them a king.
And what kind of king did they get?
They got a guy who looked great on the outside, but inside he was a cowardly, inept, unrighteous person equipped with only enough intelligence to work as a lost donkey finder. When his rule was all said and done, he would be found visiting a witch’s house at En-dor to get advice (1 Sam. 28:7).
In other words, Saul ended up being a judgment of God on Israel, just as Scripture says: “I gave you a king in My anger” (Hos. 13:11).
This same judgment, I believe, is covering our land today with respect to our choice of politicians. You can almost hear God saying, “So, you want to reject and cancel leaders who honor me? Fine."
I’ll have you elect officials who call evil good and good evil. Who, like a lost donkey finder, do and say things so stupid you wonder how they get up in the morning and tie their own shoes. Who enshrine criminals as victims and paint their victims as evil-doers. Who take away your protection from felons while using your money to pay for their own private security teams. Who prioritize gender-neutral toy aisles over keeping criminals in jail and businesses safe from theft. Who robs your wallets by pursuing the failed scorched-earth policies of godless, communist governments. And who trample on the one true faith while lifting up false religions that belittle women and force submission. Let’s see how you do with leaders who, “are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain” (Ez. 22:27).
So you want to abandon Me?
Romans 1:18-32 teaches that everyone knows there is a God from nature itself and therefore it is natural to worship the Creator who brought everything into existence. When people choose not to do that which is natural and abandon God, He gives them over to a life that is unnatural and abandons them.
When we look at the current state of our culture, which has shut God out of nearly every sphere, you can see His judgments springing up far and wide: “Are you actually confused over whether I exist and who or what you should worship even though you know the truth down deep in your soul? Well, I’ll send a state of confusion upon you, to the point where you’re puzzled over even the basics of your humanity including what gender you are and your own sexual attraction.
I’ll have your most beautiful cities mocked with names like San “Fransicko” because of the depraved mind you’ll develop. Since you pollute these lands with murdered unborn children and moral filth, you won’t be able to walk down your streets without stepping over literal human feces. I’ll put out on open display people destroying their lives with drugs and pay for their habits with money out of your own pocket, stolen by insane-reasoning politicians. These will be the same ones who won’t lift a finger to stop violence, even as your own children continue to be killed by stray bullets from repeat offenders who are constantly released and laugh at your court house’s revolving door.”
What about you?
The only thing worse than being blind to the judgments of God occurring around you is being oblivious to the ones occurring to you. Contrary to what some believe, they don’t typically come as a lightning bolt from the sky but rather as the natural consequences hardwired into sin itself.
Like the prodigal son, you can get so dull to the awful end results in your life that you wake up one day in the pig pen and wonder how you got there.
But it’s no mystery really; we often ignore His repeated jabs in the side to get our attention. The wake-up calls from God are something articulated succinctly by C. S. Lewis who wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I wish I could tell you that I have hope our culture will collectively listen to God’s bullhorn and return to Him, but my confidence in that is waning. However, individually, you and I can open our eyes and ears to His delivered course corrections and experience deliverance from the consequences of our personal sins.
It’s my prayer that we avoid God’s wrath in the first place, learn from it if that’s not possible, and realize that His judgments are many times self-inflicted wounds from our own sins:
“They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof.
So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be satiated with their own devices.
For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them.
But he who listens to me shall live securely, and will be at ease from the dread of evil”
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.