19 years ago, at the age of 59, I had a stroke. This was quite serious at first, but since then I have recovered about 90%. My first reaction was to blame God and wonder whether he had caused the stroke to teach me a lesson or as punishment for something I had done wrong. But I knew that God loved me and wanted nothing but good for me, so I dismissed that idea, that God had caused the stroke.
My theology of God at that time made me believe that because he was all powerful, he could’ve prevented the stroke, but chose not to for some unknown and mysterious reason. I struggled with this thought for some months because I could not understand how this was compatible with a God who loves me. How could God allow such a thing when he had the power to prevent it?
I have come to the conclusion that God didn’t cause the stroke and neither did he simply allow it to happen. To have allowed it to happen implies that he could’ve overridden the laws of physics and biology but chose not to. How could a God, who loves me and wants good things for me, allow the stroke to happen? Could he have prevented it, but chose not to, for some mysterious reason?
Actions or inactions have consequences. What if the stroke was caused by me, not looking after myself properly? To have intervened, he would’ve had to override my freewill. God’s love is perfect and does not seek to control us in any way which means he cannot interfere with our freewill.
Having said all that, I do believe that God, through inspiring us and influencing our thoughts, works to produce healing from the bad things that happened to us. As I respond to Gods love, I can experience healing from the hurt.
Certainly, in my case, some good things have come out of the stroke. My emotions are freer and I have more empathy for other people and the disabilities and challenges they experience.
We all know people who seek to control their husbands or wives and the outcome is never good. In loving us, and the whole creation, without seeking to control us at all, his love is perfect.
It is the nature of God to love the whole human race in a way that is not controlling. This is perfect love.
Things people say when bad things happen:
- “Everything happens for a reason“
- “It is God’s plan for your life”
- “It was just meant to be“
- “It’s an act of God“
- “God allowed it to make you stronger“
- “We need evil to appreciate the goodness of God“
- “God, allowed it to happen for reasons we can’t understand“
When evil or bad things happen in our life, statements like the ones above are used to explain what has happened.
God, being God, can’t do certain things. I hesitate to say this because it seems to be heresy to say that God is not all powerful. But:
- He cannot lie
- He cannot break his word
- He cannot prevent bad things happening because that goes against his uncontrolling love.
- He cannot work against his nature and be what he isn’t.
God is not to blame
So, if God cannot interfere with our freewill because he loves all of us without control, he is not to blame when bad things happen to us.
The problem of evil in the world, and a God who causes or allows bad things to happen is the greatest reason why people stop believing in God and turn to atheism.
The Kingdom of God is based on love
God does have a plan!
Not to bring about his purposes through controlling and manipulating us. But as God gently inspires us and seeks our cooperation we can love him, ourselves, and our communities. We can bring about the Kingdom of God in our world. The Kingdom of God is utterly different from an earthly equivalent. His Kingdom is not based on control, but on voluntary love.
Much of what I have written is based on a book by Thomas Oord called “The Uncontrolling Love Of God“.
3 thoughts on “When bad things happen”
Thanks George, it’s really inspired me, Thank you for sharing.
I remember you visiting Sri Lanka for the first time in 90’s you carried the vision of kings care in your heart.
You have touched thousands of lives with a heart of compassion & caring
We would like to say big THANK YOU.
To you and to Christen.
Sanna & Dushni ❤️
Thanks for sharing this story. I am glad you are almost all the way recovered. Your words will help many. Keith
Thanks George. As I was reading this I thought I should recommend a book to you. I am working my way through ‘open and relational theology’ by the same author you refer at the end. Now no need to. A good read.
Funny how when your image of God is one of Control and manipulating events, we take on that likeness. Rest and trust for me are the opposite of control. Something God did after creation, something I’m still learning. To slowly at times.