Doug was a young man, raised in a Christian home, trained and educated to become a psychiatrist. He had been offered a lucrative job at a clinic, but he turned it down. Why? He felt called to begin an inner-city ministry in a city nearby.

He married a gal he had met during college, and they were married after their college education.
After some years, his wife discovered a lump in one of her breasts, and it was successfully removed by a surgeon. Some years went by and since she was not feeling well, she went to her family doctor. During the exam, they discovered that cancer had reappeared, this time in her lungs.

She went through all the normal treatments in an attempt to arrest this insidious invader in her body, and during treatment, she suffered all the normal reactions of those being treated.

During this crucial time, Doug took over all the household chores. In the midst of all this, Doug was driving down the street with his wife and daughter in the city where they were attempting to start their ministry when a drunk driver swerved into their car. Thankfully, everyone in Doug’s car was safe, though badly shaken. Doug received a massive blow to his head, and as a result, Doug began to have extreme headaches. He would become disoriented at times and became forgetful. His vision was affected. Nerves in his head were affected, and he could not control the movement of one eye. He had double vision and had to wear corrective glasses.

Phil Yancey, the author of many Christian books, was interested in Doug’s tragic story because he was writing a book on the subject of suffering.

Phil arranged a meeting with Doug. He expected to meet an angry, resentful man. After a time of fellowship over breakfast, Phil asked Doug, “Tell me about the journey you have been on.” Doug was silent for a long time as he looked into the distance. Finally, Doug said to Phil, “to tell you the truth, Phillip, if anything, I’m closer to God today than ever before.”

Doug explained further what he had found.  “We confuse God with life. If we confuse God with life, we end up blaming God for life.”

I quote Doug at length; “I have learned to see beyond the physical reality of this world. I have learned there is a spiritual reality. We tend to think that life should be fair because God is fair. However, God is not life. If I confuse God with the physical reality of life, then I set myself up for a crashing disappointment”.

My relationship with God must go beyond my circumstances. In life, we deal with a lot of things that are beyond our control. There are germs and bacteria. There are natural elements like floods and fires. We live in a world of people, and each one of them (including our spouse and children) has a right to their own will.

As a witness to this fact, I could call to the witness stand many people who have suffered. Joseph, who was a victim of jealousy and the anger of his brothers. As a result of the actions of other people, Joseph sold and ended up on the auction block for slaves in Egypt. As a result of jealousy of a woman, he ended up in prison. He lived in a real-world among other people over whom he had no control. How did Joseph respond to this? When he was reunited with his brothers, his words were, “now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me. God sent me here before you so I could preserve life. It was not you who sent me here, but it was God”.

Each of us seeks to interpret the events of life. We spend a lot of time looking for reasons. Perhaps we need to examine our response to life and ask, “how am I responding to this event”?

Daniel found himself in a very bad way. Because he was the son of a priest and because his SAT scores were so high, when a foreign king invaded the land, he took the cream of the crop as captives, including Daniel. Daniel’s resume is very impressive. “… in whom there is no defect, who is good looking, intelligent and endowed with understanding and able to discern knowledge.” Not too bad for a resume. How did this young man respond to these new circumstances?  “Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself…”. Daniel could not control life, but he could control his response to what life handed him. God used him greatly even though life did not happen the way he intended.

Paul was an extremely devout man, and I must confess there are issues in his life that bother me to this day, just as there are issues in my own life that I do not understand. He was extremely well educated; he had a miraculous meeting with God and was commissioned by God for a very specific calling. In my estimation, he fulfilled that calling and, in the act of carrying out that call, suffered extremely to conditions beyond his control and people who wanted him dead. If you want to know how he responded to all that life dealt him, read what he wrote while in a Roman prison. It is recorded in the book of Philippians.

We all struggle with why bad things happen to good people. However, I agree with Doug when he says, “Don’t confuse God with life. If we confuse God with life, we end up blaming God for life.”

God is still God, regardless of what may happen in these years here on this earth. Find comfort in knowing that God loves you and will stand with you and within you through all that life deals us.

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