Can you imagine what it must have been like to be among the crowds shouting praise and adoration to Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday? Though the Passover pilgrims made this processional and recited the words of Psalm 118 each year, this year was different. They were ushering the long awaited Messiah to the Temple. The Light of the World was shining brightly in this moment of praise and adoration. Yet, the one to whom the shouts of worship were directed knew these adoring fans would be shouting “Crucify him!” within days. Unfortunately, I can see myself in the crowd.
They waved the palm branches in celebration of the expected victory. Their Messiah was going to overthrow Roman rule and make them comfortable and powerful. They didn’t realize the Messiah God sent would save them, but not how they wanted.
My God Wouldn’t Do That!
How many times do I lift praise and adoration to God when he pleases me and makes my life easier? Yet, I belligerently decry, “My God wouldn’t do that!” when suffering is involved. I am guilty of trying to mold God into my vision of what is good instead of submitting to his perfect will.
At one time, I was entrenched on the “free will” side of the mysterious doctrine of providence. When tragedy struck or I was experiencing some injustice or loss, there was nothing more obnoxious to me than hearing it was God’s will. My God wouldn’t want me to suffer. Surely, my pain could never be his will.
How God Humbled Me
Then God used an extremely painful experience to bring me to a new understanding. Through these bad circumstances, I was introduced to good people who were more comfortable venturing into the “God’s will” side of providence. As I worshipped and walked alongside these faithful and godly people, I was humbled by how presumptuous I had been about this.
I had always thought attributing life events to the will of God was a cheap cop-out. In my mind, I considered that viewpoint a simplistic view of life. Besides, if God is good, why would he allow, or even cause, bad things to happen to us?
How arrogant of me to think I know what is good better than God. As I turn and look back over my life, the painful moments—the very ones I refused to believe God would have a hand in—are the ones that brought me closest to him.
I also realized I was the simpleton. I thought I could simplify life into an either/or proposition in which God is good, thus all bad things must come from some source other than God. The problem was, I was determining what was good.
Learning from Others
In my new environment, I began to listen to those who spent more time asking God to help them understand and submit themselves to his will rather than spout off how they knew what was and wasn’t his will. I saw how their reverence for God and their respect for his Word led to a view that was paradoxically more complex and simple at the same time.
It’s a “both/and” not “either/or” Situation
God is sovereign. Humanity has free will. It is both/and, not either/or. God is good. Humanity is sinful. God’s goal is to save us and conform us to his image; it is not to make us comfortable, powerful and rich. Not all suffering is caused by God. Not all suffering is caused by consequences of free choices. Life, and God, are much more complex than that.
God is No Stranger to Suffering
And when I suffer, I must remember God is no stranger to suffering. When the cries of “Hosanna ” greeted Jesus as he entered Jerusalem, how many would have been offended to know the way God would save them would be to allow the object of their adoration (and his) to be crucified?
This Holy Week, I find myself reading the Scripture account of Jesus’ journey from the Triumphal Entry to the cross with a humbled heart. Rather than spend time focused on a mystery I will never unravel (whether something was caused by God or by human free will), I want to focus my praise, adoration, and meditation upon what I am certain of:
- God is good
- He has heard and emphatically answered my desperate cry, “Hosanna, save me!”
Are you (or someone you know) in the midst of a faith-shaking crucible? You might find this printable helpful. I’ve collected some Scriptures you can meditate on which will help you hold firmly to your faith during this tough time. Just click the button below and I’ll email it to you right away!
Question: Do you ever struggle with the concept of God allowing, or even causing, painful experiences in your life? What comforts you in times of suffering? You can leave a comment by clicking here.