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As we explain in many articles on this site, God is the Source of every trial and blessing in your life. His primary reason for creating trials in your life is to draw you closer to Him. When we’re hurting, we suddenly find ourselves motivated to ask theological questions that we used to avoid, and we become receptive to difficult truths. When life is going great, we find it uncomfortable and threatening to think about God’s involvement with evil. But when He saddles us with some debilitating disease or with some chronic illness, suddenly we become much better listeners.
Suffering has a way of spiking our courage so that we stop running away from the scary questions. Why does a good God want people to suffer? Why are His methods so brutal at times? How can we tell when God is upset with us and when He’s pleased? Why is God silent when we’re seriously depressed? Why does He refuse to answer us the way we need Him to? Why does He sometimes act as if He’s abandoned us in our hour of need? Why are some of us suffering so much more than others? These are the tough questions that we need to get around to facing if we’re going to grow close to God, and we discuss all of these issues in other articles on our site. If you’re sick, it doesn’t at all mean that God is mad at you, punishing you, or cursing you. If you’re sick, it doesn’t mean you have insufficient faith or unconfessed sins. Certainly spiritual rebellion is a real thing, and God will often use trials to drive rebels towards repentance. But once we start saying that all health problems are a form of Divine discipline, well then we’re just being absurd. Even health problems which start out as a form of discipline cease to be about discipline once a soul repents. This is because God is not a jerky Father who beats on His obedient kids. God is a very good and gracious Father. If you sincerely care about pleasing Him, then He’s pleased with you—it’s just that simple. But you can count on the fact that His pleasure will not manifest itself in the form of a trial free life, because God has you on this planet to mature, not stagnate.
We simply can’t thrive spiritually if life is going our way all of the time: this is a reality–it’s how God designed us. We need problems to grow. They don’t always have to be life stopping, physically crippling problems. But problems have to happen sometime, and we need plenty of them. It is through trials and trial variation that we thrive like a well-tended plant (see It’s Personal: Understanding the Divine Perspective of Trials). And since God loves us and wants us to thrive, we can count on Him to give us the problems we need at the optimal times. We can also count on Him to manage the severity and longevity of our trials for us, so that we aren’t utterly crushed by them. Sometimes we feel crushed, but God knows our abilities better than we do, and He handles us with expert care.
Once God helps us to properly interpret why some trial is in our life, and once He teaches us how easy He is to succeed with, we stop stressing about curses and damnation, and we stop exhausting ourselves with the endless confessing of past sins. Yes, God’s anger is real, but when we’re irritating Him, He is quite communicative about it and He always presents us with an immediate solution to the problem. God wants us to succeed with Him—He’s not interested in helping us fail. We have to really work to wear His patience totally down, and if we really care about pleasing Him, we’re just not going to go there. Sure, we’ll have our bratty moments, but then we’ll get over ourselves and go running back with sincere repentance. And as our souls continuously decide to embrace or fight against God, we might be sick or we might be in fine health.
The condition of our earthsuits simply doesn’t reflect what is going on between our souls and God. In your life, only you and God know where you’re currently at with Him. If He has a problem with you, He’s already telling you about it in a clear and specific way (see Identifying False Conviction: Three Easy Tests). If you and He are in a good place, then you understand that your current health trials have nothing to do with God spanking you. They’re about maturity, and if you’re smart, you’re asking Him to help you learn all the lessons He wants to teach you.
It is quite possible to be in a fabulous place with God and have your health be a total mess. Whether your problems are manifesting themselves in physical, emotional, or psychological ailments, properly interpreting them begins with understanding where you are at with God on a soul level. Other people can’t do this for you. We can teach you the principles you need to learn how to properly interpret God’s current view of you, but only you and He can sort out the truth about where you’re currently at with Him (see What it Means to be Aligned with God).
So let’s assume that you and God are doing just fine, but He’s currently keeping your health in a mess. Once you learn to separate soul issues from earthsuit issues, you naturally want other Christians to do the same. It’s painful to be misunderstood, and when Christians start accusing you of being a spiritual rebel, it hurts. What do you do when family and friends keep accusing you of having unconfessed sins or insufficient faith? What do you do when you start getting those condescending looks at church and hear your name being slandered in the rumor mill? It’s painful to be misunderstood, and when you really care about pleasing God, it’s downright upsetting to have a bunch of people confidently claiming that you’re a rebel. So now what?
Whenever you find yourself clashing with another human, the first step in helping yourself is to try and see things from the other person’s point of view. This might sound nonsensical, but it really works, because when you understand why someone is behaving the way they are, it helps you adjust your expectations. Unmet expectations result in pain, and unrealistic expectations will never be met. So if you want to be in less pain, you need to change your expectations.
God’s involvement in evil is a truth which human beings feel extremely threatened by. Why? Because we’re completely at His mercy. We’re these teensy little dots and He is this massive alien Being who has all of the power on His side. We are totally dependent on God for all things, and if He turns out to be a creep, where does that leave us? It sounds like a total contradiction to say “God is good in Character, but He intentionally does awful things to us.” Human logic says that if it feels bad, it must be bad, and whoever’s doing it to you must have nasty intentions.
It is a desperate attempt to preserve the goodness of God that drives many Christians to insist that nothing they hate can originate from Him. This is why in the Church we see demons, sin, evil-hearted people and “the Fall” being named as the true sources of all things evil. The problem is that we can’t totally separate God from evil without also reducing Him in power. If God hates pain and suffering as much as we do, then obviously this world isn’t going God’s way, because pain and suffering abound here. And if the world isn’t going God’s way, then God is clearly being overruled by someone or something. This is how we end up teaching that Satan is the real ruler of this world and has the power to triumph over God for brief periods of time (see The Ruler of Our World: Is it God or Satan?). Of course once we make God so pathetically small that His own creations can walk all over Him, we then panic that He’s too much of a wimp to really take care of us so we have to find a way to boost Him back up again. This is where we decide to exaggerate our own power as humans and exalt ourselves as God’s critical assistants. God might be too weak to keep Satan and evil people in check, but we can boost God’s abilities with our potent prayers and thus help Him clean up any messes that Satan makes.
Once we decide that God depends on us to help Him keep evil in check, our egos are happy, God feels easy to control, and we have several convenient ways to explain why your life is lousy. You sinned. You’re caught in bondage to demons. You’re not applying yourself. We also have a clear solution for you: repent and start exercising your God given sorcerer abilities. Rebuke those demons. Denounce that disease. Confess those sins. And for pity’s sake, stop whining. See how it works? We can diagnose and cure you without ever having to question the goodness of God. Since He isn’t the Source of your problems, we can talk as if He’s just standing on the sidelines, eager to help, yet sad that you’re being such a rebellious brat.
Now once you understand this line of reasoning, imagine how it sounds when you say, “I’m not sick because of sin or demons. God is the One doing this to me.” Say what? You’re telling us that our sweet loving Creator is intentionally keeping you in a state of misery? You’re saying this isn’t about punishment? Then what is it about? God maturing you? Well, we don’t want a God who uses these kinds of methods to mature people. We see how miserable you are, and it scares us. Any God who thinks this kind of suffering is a good idea can’t really be good in Character. Are you following the logic here? You see, while you’re focused on how hurtful it is for Christians to call you a rebel, you’re not appreciating what an enormous threat you’re being to them by suggesting that God is the One sticking these health problems on you. Once you suggest that God is the origin of pain, suffering, and calamity, you trigger enormous fears about the reality of God’s goodness. Most Christians are totally unwilling to go there. If they have to choose between losing confidence in God’s goodness and losing their relationship with you, they’re going to decide that you are the expendable one. This might sound extreme, but you have to understand how fundamental the issue of God’s Character is. Our entire faith is built on the assumption that God is good. Many Christians haven’t consciously put this together, but it’s true nonetheless, which is why they are so quick to get aggressive when you try to make God the origin of anything that they feel threatened by. Toss in the fact that most Christians have no confidence in God’s willingness to resolve major theological crises for them, and you end up in a place where you are just too much of a threat for them to deal with. While you sit there blaming God for your problems, you’re threatening to topple everything they believe in. They have to neutralize the danger that you are to them, so either you have to be forced to conform to the delusion that God has nothing to do with evil, or you have to be disassociated with. There is no third way once you’re dealing with people who are not willing to face certain truths about God.
So what’s the good news in all of this? Well, the good news is that you’re on the right track. The truth is that God is in absolute control, not just partial control, and you are totally correct to view Him as the Source of your problems. And because God is good in Character, your life is filled with hope and purpose. It’s actually an enormous relief to realize that a Being who is all-wise and all-powerful is the One managing your trial load. You’re a thousand times better off in God’s hands than you are being left to the mercy of some carnal human or nasty demon. Happily for us, God never abandons us into the hands of other created beings, nor does He expect us to fix ourselves. Because you are willing to face some tough truths, you are positioned to get much closer to God than those who are trying so hard to deny His sovereignty.
The Christians who are giving you endless flack are in a far worse place than you are. Of what use is great health when you’re refusing to listen to God on a soul level? God’s absolute sovereignty is one of those core truths that we simply can’t keep putting off if we ever want to grow past spiritual infancy. Unfortunately, most Christians would rather stagnate in denial than ever step out into those scary waters of actually having to trust God with something as big as a massive reconstruction of their theology. You see, the common assumption is that if we really start to question God, He’ll never help us with those questions, and we’ll end up hopelessly adrift in a sea of terrifying doubts which will suck all meaning and joy from our lives.
Christians don’t really trust the God they pray to. They don’t give Him a chance to function as a true God in their lives because they’re so convinced He’s not up to it. So they try to limit Him to the role of their very capable Servant, thus protecting Him from failing in their eyes. Every time God kicks down one of the walls of the box they’ve stuffed Him into, they rush to tape the box back together with more layers of lies. God didn’t really want that baby to be born with cancer—it was just a result of sin. God didn’t really want those two cars to crash—that was just a rotten coincidence. God didn’t really want that pastor to be arrested for preaching truth—that was a demonic attack. God can’t really be the One behind terrorism or the persecution of Christians or disease or death. Let’s avoid the Old Testament, because we don’t want to face how many times God boasts of doing awful things to people. Let’s pretend that Satan runs Hell because we can’t deal with the thought of God actually getting off on torturing His own creatures. Let’s just constantly lie to ourselves and ignore everything about God that makes us uncomfortable, because that’s what real Christianity is. See how it works? People don’t want to grow up, and that’s what you’re demanding that they do when you insist that they acknowledge that God is the Source of your trials. In most cases, this just isn’t going to happen, and it’s not correct for you to try to demand it.
Choice is very important to God, and He wants Christians to have the option of spiritually stagnating. You’re not authorized by God to take away other people’s choices for them. So when you find yourself dealing with a Christian who is refusing to face the implications of God’s sovereignty, you need to realize what’s really going on. It’s not you that they’re rejecting—it’s the theology that you are presenting them with. And just as you’re refusing to get on their page of denial, they’re refusing to join you in facing tough truths. The best you can do in these situations is to remember that God wants people to have the option to stagnate and stop expecting people to suddenly morph into someone they’re not.
When you can see that Christians are getting agitated by the theology you’re presenting, what is the point in constantly provoking them? Why do you need everyone to agree with you? You don’t, but the truth is that it puts pressure on your own beliefs when close friends and family are the ones telling you that you’re wrong. Well, this is good for you, and it’s a very intentional set up by God. You see, we all want to fit in and belong and be accepted. When people want us to conform to their way of thinking, they intentionally withhold acceptance from us as a way of pressuring us into aligning with them. This is called peer pressure, and it’s a very effective way to get humans to compromise. But it also works as a fabulous tool for deepening someone’s convictions. When family and friends are shunning you for being an unrepentant rebel, you are naturally going to question what you’re doing and some part of you is going to ask, “Could there be any truth to what they’re saying? Am I rebelling?” Ask this question enough times, and you become confident in the answer, then you become confident in your stand, and pretty soon you’re even farther down the road of maturity thanks to all of that heckling. So you see, as frustrating as it is to feel picked on, all trials are an opportunity for growth. Rather than spend your energy trying to change others, ask God to help you grow closer to Him in the face of these humans who are trying to cast doubt on your standing with God.
When Christians are being nasty to us, we end up clinging even tighter to God. When Christians try to say God is mad at us, we end up turning to Him for clarification. Either way, we’re being pushed towards God, and that is a good thing. So, yes, it’s a total drag to have Christians picking on you, but there are several practical steps you can take to reduce how much friction you have in the day to day. For starters, some denominations focus on the “all sickness is of the devil” theme more than others. Prosperity theology really promotes the demonization of all illnesses, so if you’re currently hanging out in prosperity circles, you should consider changing denominations. There is no perfect denomination, but when it comes to physical illnesses, some promote sympathy over condemnation, so why set yourself up for extra flack?
When close friends and family are the main source of your problems, then you need to give less opportunity for arguments to start by not trying to fish for sympathy. When you see that talking about your symptoms keeps getting you blasted with accusations, then learn from the pattern and stop giving people more ammo to use on you. When you’re feeling too tired to go out, just say, “Thanks for the invitation, but I’m going to pass tonight.” Don’t say, “I’d love to, but my stomach is bothering me again and my back still hurts and wow, I’m so tired of this constant misery that I’m in.” Sharing less will result in less flack. It will also result in you feeling less known and less supported, which is a bummer, but when you’re dealing with immature Christians, theological differences often become relationship killers.
When we’re insecure in our own beliefs, we need everyone to agree with us, and we distance ourselves from those who don’t. You can’t make people mature, but you can ask God to help you weather this period and show you how to appreciate what good there is. No human is everything we want, but there is often something positive we can salvage in a relationship. Try not talking about theology or your health problems and see what’s left. Maybe your sister becomes a nasty critic when God comes up, but she’s fun to shop with when you’re not arguing. Maybe your mom flips out every time you mention some new health issue, but if you set that subject aside, you’d be able to hang out with her and enjoy other aspects of the relationship. It’s all about lowering those expectations and realizing that God is the only One you can count on to fully support, love, and accept you in life. He is the One who will satisfy your soul. Humans can be wonderful blessings and they can be royal pains. But by adjusting your treatment of them, you can often bring out the better side of them and at least reduce the frequency of conflicts. Sometimes there will be that person who is so determined to “fix” you that you have to cut ties with them entirely because they refuse to do anything but argue. But this is not always the case, and we want to be guarded against writing people off too quickly.
You’re in this world to pursue a relationship with God. That is the priority that matters most, and as long as you’re wanting to grow and being receptive to what He has to teach you, you’re going to keep moving forward. It would be nice if more Christians would join you on the exciting path of spiritual maturity, but most won’t. By realizing this and accepting it, you can get freed up from perpetual disappointment and embrace the freedom of knowing that other people’s choices can’t hamper your own progress in life.
Soul Before Earthsuit: Understanding God’s Priorities
God’s Absolute Sovereignty: Essential Theology
The Purpose of Dysfunction: Understanding Why God Messed You Up
Can mental illness hinder your relationship with God?
How to Tell When God is Speaking to You Through Someone Else
How long will God punish me for the past?
Repentant Sinners: Is it wrong to stop feeling bad about the past?
Deliverance Ministries: Scamming You in the Name of Jesus
The Price & Privilege of Knowing God