"There are no coincidences.” "God has a plan." "Everything happens for a reason.” “Bad things happen because we live in a broken world since the fall of mankind."
Someone hand me a shovel to clean up the cliches.
No, No, No. God does not have a plan. Harm in all of its forms is not a puzzle piece fitting into some plan that we don’t understand. Not all things happen for God’s reasons. Oh, by the way, the broken world thing is not new. Some things happen against God’s purposes, plans and reasons. It’s called evil.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist” - Kaiser Soze, The Usual Suspects
God’s plan was for us to live with him together forever, officially referred to as Eden. He gave us choice and we decided to move away from that plan and “go it alone.” He did continue with his purpose; that we would come back to him through the gift of salvation and live together according to his plan. The gift of “choice” serves the idea of purpose rather plan. Purpose means a direction and intended outcome. Plan means a pre-set and organized map to follow. It is the difference between using a compass and the coordinates of a destination or using a GPS system that tells you every turn to make along the way.
El Paso, Dayton, Colombine, Sandy Hook and many other violent events are not the unexplainable puzzle pieces in God’s master plan. These are horrific and awful tragedies. Because God can use these things for his purposes does not mean that he caused them in order that he could use them for good. That is because God works for us, rather than against us. When we falsely ascribe “all things” to God, it means that there is no Satan at work in this world. It means that there is no supernatural warfare because everything is happening according to God’s plan. Hmmmm….no.
I am not attributing evil to God and some “magical plan that we do not understand.” Do you believe that God is the cause of these tragedies and that they serve a greater plan? The death of babies, the suffering of millions with disease, the oppression of the masses by people with power - I could go on. Do we believe that this is a part of his plan? I do not believe that God has an Outlook Calendar application where he has planned, “I’m going to afflict 1743 people with disease on Tuesday.” Or “I have a miracle schedule on Saturday for Bland Family at 8:45am.”
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28
This scripture does not say, “All things work for the safety, joy, health and wealth of those righteous people who do what I want in this life.” It does not say "for the good of people in this life", it just says the good for those who love him. The promise is longer than this life’s timeline.
Today, for me, I have several ‘evolving beliefs’-
God does not have a plan for us. He gave us a purpose, not a plan.
God is not the cause of our harms in life, but God is with us during our pains.
Miracles are real. They are intercessions that provide hope to his people as they are working toward and in his purpose. God can, but does not always intervene on our behalf in our pain or in the way that we ask.
There is evil. It has its own purpose that it works toward every day (Matthew 13:19). It does not have a plan. It works for the opportunity to manifest itself in this world and it works relentlessly.
I said that I have been thinking about this for a while. The murders and destruction in El Paso and Dayton were another prompt to consider this idea of God’s plan v. God’s purpose. I have heard scriptures about God’s plan since I was a child. Here are the ones that I have heard most often:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.Proverbs 16:3
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9
There seems to be a thread through these scriptures for me; commitment to God and the following of his plan for us. We are not promised that we will not face pain. We are not promised that when Satan was given this world for a time that he could not harm us (1 John 5:19). He can, and that harm can be life damaging.
I have plans for my children. Where they will go to school, what type of friends they will have, how close to my wife and me that they will live when they grow up. They, however, will make their own choices even when they know what my wife and I want. We have instructed them, set an example for them, financially supported them. We have cheered their successes and held them in their moments of sadness and disappointment. Still, they will have their own plans. Some of those plans may fit with mine, come close to mine and others will go in complete opposition.
I told my son when he was 13 years old that my purpose was to make certain that he reached 18 years of age with all of the best options available to him. This meant that by that age he was not incarcerated, a father or an addict. This purpose meant that he had graduated high school, had a strong moral compass, strong positive character and a belief in God and Jesus Christ. That was my purpose. Plans changed along the way, the purpose never changed.
I confess that I have been frustrated by the challenging statements, “If there is a loving God, how could he let this happen?” Another statement has been, “It’s all a part of God’s plan.” These do not fit for the evil in the world. God owns this world and we are living with the worst short-term tenant ever, Satan. Satan’s here for a time and then his lease will be cancelled. We cannot blame all that happens as a part of God’s plan. The tenant has a plan and it is to destroy all of us who are living in this world. This is, for me, the truth of the evil in this world. Things do not all happen according to God's plan. However, in his time, for those who love him and seek him, all things will serve his purposes.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist” - Kaiser Soze, The Usual Suspects.