Sadly, there are many people who blame the devil for every trouble they face. Flat tire? There must have been a demon slashing your tire. Alarm didn't go off this morning? An evil spirit must have unplugged the cord. And on the other side of the coin, there is the prevailing attitude that if something bad happens to someone we don't get along with, God is punishing them. After all, EVERYTHING has to be spiritual, right?
The devil unplugged your alarm, but God is punishing that person you don't get along with by unplugging their alarm? It is utter foolishness! I'll touch more on why bad things happen later, but first I want to point out something incredibly simple that many people have difficulty understanding. That is that God is not like us.
Isaiah 55:8-9 records, “8 ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. 9 ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.’”
What you think should be is not necessarily what God thinks should be. For example, there are people who think that there should be a worse Hell for more evil people. However, the true torture of Hell is separation from God; something without degrees.
Yes, Scripture speaks of fire, brimstone, and eternal torment, but it is being separated from God with no hope that would be the worst. God says that sin is sin, and one person's sin is no worse than yours. This simple fact should show us that God's ways and thoughts are not like ours.
Maybe you're wondering where I'm going with this. Well, rest easy because I am going to tell you. Just because you think someone should be punished in a certain way, at a certain time, for a certain reason doesn't mean that God agrees with you. By the same token, there are times that God allows things to happen to us (note: ALLOWS, not MAKES) that we don't understand. I think of poor Job at times like this.
Look at how the book of Job opens: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1)
Job was a man who was righteous, good, nice, wonderful, whatever you want to call him. He was a good man who you would expect nothing but good for. We are told some more about him.
Namely, he would even offer sacrifices on behalf of his children in case they sinned! He was a man who trusted God and did right. Yet as the account unfolds, we read of something that bodes ill for Job.
8 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” 9 So Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for nothing?
10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!”
12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (Job 1:8-12)
We don't like to think about this passage. Oh no, it is far easier to think that any hardship is because the devil is raging against us and any hardship our “enemies” face is because of God's judgement. The idea that God may allow things to happen to us to grow us, prove us, or even encourage others in the future is not an idea we like to consider.
Now please note that I am not saying for an instant that the devil never attacks us. Far from it! Ephesians 6:16 speaks of, “...taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” Yes, there are times that the enemy rages against us.
C.S. Lewis wrote in 1951speaking of – “…two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils…. to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. [The devils] are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
So yes, there are demons/fallen angels (one of which is Lucifer who we call Satan) and they do come against humanity. However, I do not believe for a second that there is a demon behind every bush or that every step you take is dogged by darkness. Of course, if you obsess with and consistently surround yourself with evil things, that’s a different story altogether.
There are also times that the Lord judges the wicked in this life. Deuteronomy 32:35 records, “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.”
Despite there being times when the Lord punishes the wicked in this life and the devil attacks the righteous, we need to stop looking to blame the spiritual realm for everything. Yes, God is the Righteous Judge of all the earth, and He will deal with us all accordingly, but He is not your hitman that will smite that person because they cut you off in traffic. He is not just sitting in Heaven waiting for people to slip up so He can strike them down.
Sometimes, bad things happen; especially so when humans are involved. Being agents of free will, we are able to make choices which affect our lives and the lives of others. Going back to the alarm clock example, if you stop plugging the cord into a loose outlet, maybe it won't be unplugged in the morning! Maybe if you checked your tires regularly, you would have noticed if they were worn in a spot or if you had picked up a nail.
Just because something bad happened to you doesn't necessarily mean that God was punishing you or that the devil was attacking you. Just because something bad happened to someone you don't care for doesn't mean that God is punishing them or the devil is attacking them.
And let me take it a step farther: what if God had allowed your alarm to become unplugged so that you would be late so that you would avoid an accident? Or if you picked up a nail in your tire so that something else more potentially devastating could be prevented?
My wife's car had the brake lines let go a short while back. Being back in university, car repairs are never enjoyable. However, it came to light because of that incident that her engine is not good. It will still work for use around town, but we were told not to take it on long trips under any circumstances.
Imagine now if the brakes had not let go and we had driven her car down to Nova Scotia (a six and a half hour drive). We could have been stranded at the least, and severely hurt or killed as the result of an accident. Am I happy that her car is in need of further repair? Absolutely not! But I am glad that we were spared tragedy.
All of that to say this: we need to stop with the bad attitude! My biggest issue with the attitude of “God, smite them” is that it totally against the attitude of Christ.
27 But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. (Luke 6:27-28)
If we could all learn to do that, posts like this wouldn’t even be necessary.