You may have wondered, If God is in complete control of everything, why does He allow birth defects, famines, and war? Why does He permit sin, evil, and suffering? God’s very nature opposes these things. It was not His desire for Adam and Eve, the first humans, to sin and bring sickness, disease, and death upon mankind (Romans 5:12–21). God created a perfect world, but mankind chose to sin, and the penalty for sin was death—physical and spiritual. This curse of death has affected all of creation, not just humans, and all the bad things that exist are due to living in a world under judgment, a fallen world. Part of Adam and Eve’s punishment was pain and suffering, fighting against nature for food, and struggling to make a living before finally dying (Genesis 3:16–19).
God does not initiate, cause, or authorize sin, or tempt anyone to sin. Yet He tolerates evil for a season to fulfill His righteous plans for people to respond by their own free will to His love. Because God is always in control and He loves us, we know that He allows troubles, illness, accidents, adversity, and similar problems to come into our lives for a good reason—it is never just by chance or by accident.
Our disappointments are often God’s appointments. He is far more concerned about the quality of our eternal future than He is about our present comfort and temporary happiness. In fact, difficulties and suffering are tools with which He shapes us into the image of Jesus Christ. It is never fun to be enrolled in the academy of adversity, but unless God takes us through the curriculum of trials, we will never become the quality person He wants us to be. Adversity is the touchstone of character.
Romans 8 promises,
“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them” (Romans 8:28).
God uses even the most disastrous situations for our good.
In the summer of 1976, thirty-five female Campus Crusade staff leaders—including my wife, Vonette—gathered in Colorado for a retreat. That night, they were trapped in the Big Thompson Canyon flood.
At about 1:30 in the morning, I was awakened and informed of the flood and of the rescue of one of the women, who was now in the hospital. About an hour later, another staff member was brought to the hospital by helicopter. By this time, we had good reason to believe that several of the women had drowned.
I did not know if Vonette was safe, struggling for her life in the floodwaters, or dead. But I had incredible peace because I knew that God is sovereign and ever-present. So even though I had no idea where Vonette was and could not help her, I knew God was with her and the other women. Because He is all-powerful, God could save all the women whose lives were in danger. But God is also all-knowing. If it was best for Vonette to be taken home to heaven, I could completely trust my loving Father to do the right thing.
Soon I sadly learned that seven of our staff women perished during the flood. I knew that each of these women was rejoicing in the presence of her Savior. I also learned that Vonette and twenty-seven other staff women had escaped the raging water.
In the weeks that followed, we mourned for those dear friends we had lost. But we also felt led by God to make their last moments on earth a tribute to our sovereign God. With full approval of the grieving families, friends of Campus Crusade ministry placed full-page ads in most newspapers across the country featuring pictures of the seven women who died. The headline read,
“These seven women lost their lives in the Colorado flood, but they are alive and they have a message for you.”
The advertisement gave readers an opportunity to read the gospel and trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Approximately 150 million people read those ads. The response was phenomenal. Only God knows the full extent of what happened, but many thousands wrote to say that they had received Christ that week as a result of the tragic deaths of those seven women. A foreign ambassador told us that his life was changed by the ad, and he later helped open the door for ministry in his country, which had previously been closed to the gospel.
We can give all our worries and cares to God, knowing that He cares about what happens to us (1 Peter 5:7). When tragedy strikes, take comfort in the fact that no difficulty will ever come into your life without God’s permission. Knowing this truth does not make adversity pleasant, but it gives us hope that the result will be worth whatever pain we endure.
By Bill Bright
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