I don’t believe God is personally responsible for every pain (physical, emotional, etc.) we endure.

Sometimes God does in inflict pain in order to discipline us–just as parents discipline children.

Sometimes, like a coach, God requires we do things that are demanding–and maybe painful–while we get in shape. I hated pull-ups, sit-ups, and long runs in Phys Ed in school.

Sometimes, like a doctor, he demands change to fix us: it could be a change of habit, the breaking of a relationship, etc.

Sometimes, like a coach, commander or boss, he sends us into some things that may be dangerous.

Sometimes, people do bad things to us. God isn’t inflicting anything on us; it’s their choices, and even their sins. God doesn’t just liberate me from the penalty of sin when he saved me; he liberated all those around me from the effects of sin being worked out in my life.

Sometimes, I am convinced, things “just happen.” Earth shifts. Tornadoes and hurricanes spiral throughout the world. Lightning strikes. Tree limbs break. Fires start. All of these can be related to systems which, indeed, God set in motion – hurricanes serve a purpose, for example – but that doesn’t mean that this singular event was directly undertaken by God. (I confess my head swirls on this one.)

Ultimately I believe, along with C. S. Lewis, that God gave us a dangerous world to live in, because it is in a context of danger that virtues become real and proven.

Sometimes, too, things just break down. Bodies age. These bodies don’t last forever. And, of course, sometimes, we have to endure the Pains being inflected on someone else – a family member, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a fellow worker, a dear friend, a political leader – while God is working on them.

The important thing, to me, is not trying to figure out whether God caused something, and for what reason, and what it says about him. The important thing is to know that (a) God is in this with me, and (b) God can and will use everything for our ultimate good.

Maybe, as we are following Christ, we should try to emulate the God-with-us, incarnational characteristic more.

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