Joe is a member of a nondenominational church where he is frequently involved in ministry activity. He has struggled with pornography addiction in the past, and still suffers from occasional relapses. He speaks openly about this.
Today, on the eve of a planned mission trip to Mexico, Joe’s 5 year-old son was involved in an accident that will have him hospitalized for 3-4 days. He is expected to recover, and there is no immediate danger. However, this means his son will not be able to go on the trip, and at least one person will have to be left behind to stay with him.
In the meantime, Joe has run into a problem at his job. He is either going to have to turn down some work from an important client or cancel his involvement in the trip. Joe is worried about how this might affect his job and his family, as money is very tight right now. And, to make matters worse, his minivan overheated in the sun today, and it may not be ready to travel when it is time to leave on the next day. Joe will have to borrow money to pay for the repairs.
Joe sits down to meet with his friends to discuss what he should do. Should he cancel the trip? Should he go? Should he leave his wife behind to care for his son?
Imagine that, in the style of Job, Joe, and then each friend attempts to interpret the events of the day. Here are some of the things that are said:
Joe: I think God is punishing me for my pornography addiction. A leader in our church told me this would happen one day, and I always feared that it would eventually catch up with me. I feel horribly that my family has to suffer because of what I did.
Friend #1: I don’t think that is it at all. Our God is merciful. He doesn’t punish sin in this way. I believe that if we look carefully at the events in our life, we can discern God’s will. This is simply God’s way of telling you that you shouldn’t go on this trip. Probably, there are dangers involved if you continue as planned, and God is trying to warn you so that you don’t go.
Friend #2: I disagree. You are suffering because you are under a spiritual attack. The Enemy doesn’t want you to go on this trip because of the things you are planning to do. You should be more resolved now than ever to leave.
Friend #3: I agree that you should go, but I don’t think this is a spiritual attack. That attributes too much power to the Enemy. This is simply God testing you. He wants to see if you will be faithful to him.
Friend #4: I’m not comfortable with efforts to “explain” what his happening. I don’t think there is any way we can account for most of the suffering in the world, except to say that this is a “fallen” world. Nor is there a way to explain why you have met with so much adversity today. You need to think about this and decide how you can best be faithful to God. If you decide to stay for the sake of your family, I believe that God will honor that. If you decide to go for the sake of God’s kingdom, then God will honor that as well. How you are shaped by this is more important than whether you stay or go.
Well….? Who is right?
Sheila and I have been talking about this a lot lately.
I tend to fall in the camp of friend #4. However, my working theory is this: the way people “interpret” events like these says more about them than it does about God.