This past weekend I made the statement that "Everything we have is a gift from God." I went on to suggest that even our life life's circumstances (good and bad) are a gift from God. Tonight, I received a super kind email asking if I would explain that concept a little more. I think this is a pretty common issue that people wrestle with, so here are some excerpts from my answer to him.
Please understand that I am NOT writing this as an ivory tower theologian or as a behind-the-pulpit preacher. I am a fellow pilgrim who has seen the swamp of despair and has endured the abuse of Vanity city. I have days when I am certain God has given me a burden better suited for someone else, and yet those same days are often marked by unmistakable interventions of his gracious provision. My life's journey is not resolved. In fact, it is decidedly unresolved and often I would be happy to give back the "gifts" God has deemed me worthy to receive....
Do I really believe that EVERYTHING is a gift from God? Am I saying that God is the author of evil?
In no way do I mean to excuse the terrible actions of sinful people. Much of the suffering in our world is a direct result of terrible decisions being made by sinful people. However, while I believe God hates the pain which is present in our world, I don't think that sin or the suffering it causes is surprising to God nor does it worry Him. I might not use the words "God caused it", but I am comfortable saying God is "in control" of it.
I look at James 1 as one of the passages which really inform my perspective on this issue. I believe that the "good and perfect" gifts of James 1:17 are actually our trials (which lead to perseverance and completeness). Like much of life, trials are best understood in the rear view mirror. While today's life circumstances may not feel like a gift, for those who faithfully endure there awaits a fuller understanding of the good God was forming in us. Joseph is a great example of this truth. I'm sure there were many points I his life when his situation didn't feel like a gift, yet when he saved his family's lives, I'm sure he gained a completely new perspective on his past suffering,
Of course you deal with suffering and pain that is likely far beyond what Joseph did. I hate that. I think God hates that. I know He hates the sin that has caused that. Yet, I have full confidence not only that He is capable of intervening (beyond what we could imagine), but that He will use life's darkest moments to bring glory to Himself and in so doing allow us to experience resolution and wholeness (in this life or the next).
God is not the author of evil, but He is the editor!