Except by Our Lord 's Permission
In our first segment, we began to explore the meaning of this tremendous statement, in looking for ways to understand it, even to make sense from it. On the surface, or to one who has not really experienced deep pain, suffering and loss, it might appear quite comforting. But before we discuss this further, let us re-examine this statement.
“The Father’s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. Whatever comes to him comes from the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Nothing can touch him except by the Lord’s permission. All our sufferings and sorrows, all our temptations and trials, all our sadness and griefs, all our persecutions and privations, in short, all things work together for our good. All experiences and circumstance are God’s workmen whereby good is brought to us.” - From the book Ministry of Healing p.489.1
The first two lines would indeed bring comfort to all who believe, because we look at this plan between the Father and the Son, as something They did, apart from us mortals to bring blessings to our world. But as we move into the “heart” of this statement, it makes us uncomfortable for a number of reasons. Let us explore these reasons:
1) As we ponder that sentence which begins with ‘Whatever’, we search our minds to find a caveat or condition, for it doesn’t seem as though it could be true? Because if it is true, it conflicts with the picture of a loving
compassionate God who defends and protects His children from harm. How then could a tragedy (as the loss of a child, at any age) be seen as something the merciful loving Saviour would approve of allowing to occur? No
this doesn’t make any sense, at least on the surface.
2) Further, this statement tends to conflict with another statement by the same author, that says in essence, that the world is losing a knowledge of God’s character--love, due to misapprehension. If ‘whatever’ comes to us, comes
from the Saviour and this results in loss of life, one would tend to think this causes misapprehension about
God. For how many human hearts have questioned the Most High, when a loved one is taken prematurely—
“What are you doing God taking my daughter?” Implying that He caused the tragedy to occur.
3) To complicate the picture, most mortals today, believe that when a tragedy occurs—the loss of life to a family
member or even friend—immediately departs to heaven, or at least their ‘soul’ leaves the body for paradise.
Most Christians today hold to this theory. Thus, without giving it really any thought, they say statements like
this, “Well, God must have needed him for a special purpose or needed her for the heavenly choir, so who are
we to judge? Such statements express not only ignorance on the subject, but a lack of compassion for those who
are going through the loss of the loved one. Further, it puts God in a bad light for at least a couple reasons:
A) It makes him out to be ‘selfish’ because He needed that person, more than their family. Picture a mother of
three children that died suddenly. How would the children feel about God, if this were true? It may turn them
away from Him the rest of their lives. B) It reinforces the idea that because of God’s sovereignty, He can take
people arbitrarily whenever He feels like it, without regard to anyone else. This mindset also puts God in bad
light giving Him “a black eye”. It leaves the impression He is just ‘looking out for Himself’ and doesn’t really
care about people. It thus puts ‘disdain’ upon the cross of Christ as the greatest revelation of unselfish love.
4) The ‘surrounds him with His presence' part can be interpreted as “why would the Lord permit more pain to
Himself and to all those who suffer as a result of the loss? Wouldn’t it be better to prevent the tragedy so all
involved won’t have to suffer as much, including God Himself?
We could probably find more reasons, but this should suffice. Yes, these are challenging questions, some of which we struggle to provide adequate answers. So then how do we really find any solace or comfort in this type of statement? If nothing can ‘touch us, except by our Lord’s permission’, then when tragedy occurs, He had to permit it so, since He is not in the business to ‘destroy’ men’s lives. Ok, but then why does this happen in only a few cases? (By tragedy I’m referring to either loss of life or a debilitating disease or ‘accident’ that left one compromised in health, even paralyzed.) It would be far easier for those of us who have lost loved ones, if this happened much more frequently, even 10% of the population—for misery loves company. But when it is only a few cases and the masses are not affected by the loss, the pain is magnified for those who have to experience it firsthand. Jesus experienced this in His lonely life, for multitudes left Him, rejecting His “Good News” He suffered terribly to secure for them.
We live in a world where justice is trampled upon and if it weren’t for God’s mercy, the planet would have ‘self-destructed’ before now. There are few that can really grasp the depth of this statement we’ve been looking at, because of our prejudice, our mindset and our unwillingness to ‘let God speak’ to us, the depths of His love. It is painful experiencing loss, grief is interpreted as an enemy and sorrow an emotion that can dry out the bones—the life force.
Though we will not in this life explore the ‘height and depth’ of what is involved in this challenging statement, yet we can touch on the theme and begin to try and explain and apply it to the life. One thing I know, the Bible is clear—in the final examination of God’s character, all created intelligent life will declare “Just and true are Thy ways Thou King of saints.” The Life-giver will be cleared of all wrong doing, since He provided the solution for sin and sinful mortals.
How is it that: “All our sufferings and sorrows, all our temptations and trials, all our sadness and griefs, all our persecutions and privations, in short, all things” can “work together for our good”?
We cannot fully know in this life. But we can trust the Hand of Him who makes it happen for all that love Him. One day it will all be explained, one day we will understand why some were taken prematurely, some were left, one day we will agree with the One who has left on record this reality: “God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning, and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as coworkers with Him.”1
Let us hold on to that Hand that will make all things good one Day. Do you trust Him?
1. Desire of Ages p. 224-5