There are few people, if any, when talking about those in leadership that say, “they are doing everything exactly the way i would do it.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that come to think of it. It usually goes more like this, “If I were President I would do this...” or “if I were pastor I would do that...” or “If I were the boss I would set things up this way...” and even kids join in by saying, “When I have kids someday I won’t make them do this...” As the old saying goes, “opinions are like belly buttons, everybody has one.” Some of those opinions can be valuable to us and some of them are worthless. I’ve had people express such ridiculous opinions to me before that left me thinking, “How does this person even get themselves dressed in the morning?” But I digress...
Unfortunately our quickness of opinion is no different in our attitude towards God, the greatest leader of all. The amazing God who put breath in our lungs must be broken hearted when we use that breath to express our disapproval of his decisions with comments like, “if I were God I wouldn’t allow sickness, death, poverty, famine, drought, evil, crime, etc.” The fact is, it is easy for anyone to express their opinion of how they would handle things but very seldom do we see the whole picture and know all the details surrounding the situation.
In Isaiah 55:8-9 God encourages us to take off our homemade “god want-to-be” name tags and just trust him to be God when he said, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways...for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Paul tries to get us to quit trying to figure God out in Romans 11:33-34, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of The Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?” God does not have a Board of Directors, or Presidential Cabinet, or panel of advisors to answer to and seek advice from. He stands alone in his decision making and he is always right...period.
In Job 38-40 we are eves dropping on a conversation between God and Job. Leading up to these chapters Job and his friends are having a discussion about why he is going through the terrible suffering he was experiencing in his life at that time. In one day he goes from wealthy to broke. In that same day he has to organize a mass funeral to bury all of his children who died at the same time. On top of all that he is stricken with very painful boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. His whole world came crashing down for no apparent reason at all. Any of us would agree that all these bad things happening to a good person would be justifiable cause to question God. However God didn’t see it that way. From out of a whirlwind God spoke to Job and asked, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” Or in other words, “who are you to give me advice when you don’t know what you are talking about?” And that is a fair question if you think about it. How would we feel if a kindergartener tried to evaluate our job performance? That would be the same equivalent as us trying to evaluate God on his decisions. I was recently talking to a business man who is in his 50’s and has been successfully running his own business for many years. He told me about an eighteen year old young man that he hired who one day out of the blue said, “if you don’t mind I would like to give you some financial advice.” To which the business man replied, “Well that’s just what I need; financial advice from an eighteen year old kid that doesn’t know what he is talking about.” Then he fired him. True story. That is the kind of offense God took to Job and his buddies evaluating his “job performance.” The truth is God is not on our payroll. The earth is his and he is just letting us live on it. He owns it all and has been running the universe a lot longer that our few years of living.
It’s interesting to note that God does not enter their conversation about why bad things happen to good people, nor does he offer a defense for why he was allowing the suffering in Job’s life. He just cuts to the chase and declares his credentials as the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the Universe that doesn’t have to explain his actions to humans who have limited understanding and do not have the ability to see the whole picture. I love God’s response in Job 38:3, “gird up thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee and answer thou me.” In today’s language that basically means, “Put on your big boy britches and act like a man. You have been questioning me, so now I want you to answer a few questions for me.” Then God goes on to ask Job “where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? What holds the earth in its place? Who placed the limit for how far the waves of the ocean can come up on the land? Job, have you considered how big the earth is? Come on speak up if you know it all. Who causes it to rain? Can you speak to the clouds to release its water upon the dry ground? Does the lightning flash at your command? Who provides food for the ravens and their babies? Did you give the peacocks their pretty wings and the horse his strength?” By the time God got done proving that he is more than capable of creating and running the Universe without any input from man, Job was feeling pretty small. In Job 40:4 Job said, “I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth.” He is basically saying (and I know exactly how he felt because I have said this many times as well) “I’m sorry God, I’m such a goober. I will shut up now.”
The problem is that satan plays on our limited understanding to stir up a complaint in our heart towards God’s judgments to cause us to question him. And if we allow that complaint to remain in our heart rather than trusting God for what we don’t understand, then it will always cause us to try to take over the role of God in our own lives. That is why Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3. It is why Abraham took matters into his own hands and had a baby with Hagar rather than waiting on God to fulfil his promise in Genesis 16. And it is why Aaron made the golden calf when he thought God had dropped the ball in Exodus 32. And the examples go on and on throughout the Bible and even unto today.
So, let’s get real and break this “if I were God” idea down and see how well it would work out. Let’s say I, being a flawed and ignorant human, were to make the bold statement, “if I were God I would...1) Do away with all sickness and death...2) Stop all tornadoes, hurricanes, and natural disasters...3) Eliminate poverty, famine, and drought...4) and cause all evil and crime to cease.” Then I would rare back in my throne-like zero gravity lawn chair, throw my hands behind my head, and smile with pride for the way I just single handedly made the world a much better place. That is until the real God firmly taps me on the noggin, like a father who is about to take his “too big for his britches” son down a notch or two, and replies, “Okay genius, so what would you do about freewill? Would you force everyone to worship you like a bunch of robots who don’t have a choice?” Uh oh. That kind of throws a little kink in my divine plan. What does freewill have to do with it you may ask? Freewill is our God given right to make our own choices. By giving us freewill God is saying, “I love you and I really want you to love me back and serve me willingly, but I won’t force you. If you choose to use your freewill to reject me and serve yourself then you are free to do so.” And that makes perfect sense if you think about it. What would bless you more as a parent; your child giving you a hug because you forced them to or your child crawling up in your lap, giving you a hug, and saying “I love you daddy/mommy” all on their own freewill? I think any of us would admit that we would take the sweet lovin from the heart any day over the forced, empty lip service. Therefore, if I were God I would also allow freewill.
And therein lays the problem with my brilliant plan to do away with all the negative things in the world. Because anytime freewill is given, there will be some people who use their freewill to honor and serve God and there will be some people who use their freewill to honor and serve themselves. And any time people use freewill to serve themselves there will be unspeakable evil. And it is that unspeakable evil that causes all the negatives in the world. Now, knowing all that, watch how fast my “if I were God” plan unravels. Since I have decided to allow freewill, therefore allowing evil, and since I have done away with poverty, famine, natural disasters, sickness, and death; I have trapped us all in a very evil world that we can never be delivered from. Can you imagine never dying and being stuck in a world like this for eternity? The truth is that the penalty of death for sin pronounced on every human since Adam and Eve is not just a punishment for disobeying God, it was a decision made by God as an act of mercy so that our pains here in this life will only be temporary.
In short, be very thankful that I am not God. And also be thankful that you don’t have to carry that responsibility. No, we will not always understand why things happen the way they do and why God allows it. And God never promised we would. He only wants us to learn to “Be still and know that I am God...” Psalm 46:10.