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If I Were God

by Bob Russell

There’s much about God’s will I don’t understand.  Why does God permit so much heartache and misery in the world?  Why doesn’t He answer reasonable prayers immediately and exactly as requested?  Why do evil people prosper and good people struggle in poverty?  Those perplexing questions have created widespread doubt for centuries.

     God’s will is often a baffling mystery.  But 1 Corinthians 2:16 asks this probing question, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” Obviously, we are not supposed to understand everything about God’s will.  He is in charge, and we are not.  God clearly states, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

     Even so, if I were in charge of the universe, I would manage things much differently.  To begin with, I would not be able to love the world enough to come to earth as a human and die a brutal death as an atonement for everyone’s sins.  No, I would skip that awful sacrifice and let people pay for their own transgressions. That seems only fair and just.  Plus, if I were God, I would deemphasize grace because gracious love is too costly and painful.

     Yet, even if I concede that point, if I were God, I would immediately eliminate all human suffering.  I would eradicate cancer, heart attacks, birth defects, and kidney stones.  I would have my grandson Charlie rise from his bed in ICU and walk out in complete health.  And I would do it now, today!  Consider the testimony that miracle would be to the power of prayer!  If I were God, I would rid the world of all disappointments and sorrow.  Everyone would live happily ever after.

     Yet, come to think of it, that is precisely what God says He is going to do.  The Bible promises, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).  One day God will dramatically intervene and put an end to the painful consequences of the natural laws that were created to assure order but have since been corrupted by sin.  One day God’s permissive will is going to be replaced with God’s perfect will, and life will be restored to a Garden of Eden type of paradise.

     The Scripture teaches the reason God has not intervened as of yet is because He is incredibly patient.  “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come…” (2 Peter 3:9-10).

     Not only is God’s love much more profound than mine, but God’s patience is superior to mine as well.  Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “If I were God and the world treated me the way it has treated Him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces.”  I probably would as well, until I remember that I too deserve punishment for my sins.  Besides, I have friends and relatives who have yet to accept Jesus.  So I am thankful that God waits and gives time for the most stubborn to repent and be saved.

     In the meantime, the Lord challenges us to trust and obey Him even though we don’t fully understand His ways.  He promises, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12)

     One of my favorite old stories is about a seven-year-old boy who loved to fish, especially with his dad. One weekend he could barely contain his excitement because his father had promised to take him fishing on Saturday.  He sprang from the bed that morning, yet his heart sank upon hearing the horrible sound of rain pouring on the roof.  The rest of the morning, the irritable child kept staring out his window, grumbling, “Of all days, why did God have to make it rain today?”

     Shortly after lunch, the rain stopped, and the sun came out.  His dad said, “There’s still time to fish! Let’s go!”  They quickly piled their gear into the pickup and headed for their favorite farm pond.  For some reason, the fish were biting like crazy, and the boy had a terrific afternoon with his dad.  As they prepared to eat their freshly caught fish for dinner, the young boy was asked to give the blessing. He prayed, “Dear God, forgive me for being so cranky this morning.  I guess I just couldn’t see far enough ahead.”

     I am confident that, most of the time, when we get discouraged or even angry with God, it is simply because we can’t see far enough ahead.  That is why the Lord challenges us, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2)

     When we develop an eternal perspective, we begin to trust that somehow, by the end of the day, the clouds will roll away, the sun will come out again, and we will conclude: “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).



        Bob Russell is retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.



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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10