God’s Plan and Adversity — How do we reconcile the will of a loving God with tragedy in the world?

note: Members can discuss this workshop in the Message Boards HERE

This workshop is presented by noted author Rich Dixon. He has written countless articles and has authored Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance

note: Members may discuss this workshop in the Message Boards HERE

Rich_Dixon–Author joined.
Obie-host Let us open in prayer……
Heavenly Father….
We ask that you bless this meeting with your Holy Spirit…..
anoint Rich as he leads us tonight…..
give him the words that others need to hear…..
that they may find healing and hope….
we ask that you lead those who are in need of help ….
to this meeting….
that they may find the fellowship and suppor that they need…
in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
BobRush amen
Dulcinea amen
Rich_Dixon–Author amen

Obie-host I would like to introduce our speaker tonight….
Rich Dixon the author of “Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance” http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?event=AFF&p=1015079&item_no=219581
Rich is full of insights and wisdom…..
he is someone who have been around the bases…..
and knows what he is talking about…..
The workshop tonight is entitled:
“God’s Plan and Adversity — How do we reconcile the will of a loving God with tragedy in the world?”
Rich you now have the floor…..

Rich_Dixon–Author Thanks for inviting me again. I’ve enjoyed getting to know a few folks from CIR at my blog since the last time I was here.
Obie-host He will speak for several minutes and then we will open the floor up for questions.

Rich_Dixon–Author We’re going to explore God’s role in adversity—a pretty tough topic. But I think it’s important.
If we’re going to have a theology of healing and recovery, we HAVE to have a theology of pain and struggle. We can’t just ignore that suffering happens.
I don’t claim to have definite answers—I don’t think anyone does. I can offer my experiences and what I’ve concluded, but some of these questions aren’t going to be conclusively answered on this side of eternity.

So, to get started, have you ever heard, or asked, “Why does God allow suffering and pain?”
twizgrrl24 yes I have
BobRush yes
AlanH sure
Dulcinea yep
Rich_Dixon–Author And do you have a clear answer?
Obie-host of course
BobRush er….no…..
Dulcinea never
Rich_Dixon–Author I want to use my personal experience as context, so here’s my background.
I’m a wheelchair user, paralyzed from a spinal cord injury in 1987. I fell while putting Christmas lights on my house!
Ironic, huh?
So—was it a random accident? God’s will? Did God cause it? Allow it?
Was it punishment? I’ve done a lot of bad things, made some really bad choices—was He punishing me?
What’s His role when something like this happens?
To analyze this question scripturally I’ve tried to state some central principles.
PRINCIPLE #1: God is absolutely sovereign. All powerful, all-knowing, completely able to control and do whatever He chooses. So pain and suffering DON’T happen because God is powerless to stop them, right?
Obie-host nod
Dulcinea yes
bj yes

Rich_Dixon–Author PRINCIPLE #2: Storms happen. NOBODY gets through life without adversity. Here’s a passage from Matthew 7:
24″Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Notice that the storm came to both; “Being good” doesn’t insulate us from trials. Agree?
Dulcinea yep
BobRush yes
AlanH yes
BobRush yep

Rich_Dixon–Author PRINCIPLE #3: God is love. [1 John 4:8b]

PRINCIPLE #4: Everything God made is good. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. [Genesis 1:31b]

PRINCIPLE #5: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [Romans 8:28]
So how do we reconcile a sovereign, loving God with a world in which pain and suffering exist?

When I got hurt, some of the most hurtful things were said to me by well-meaning Christians. Have you ever heard any of these?
“God did this to you because it’s part of His plan.”
Dulcinea yes
BobRush oh yeh
bj nods

Rich_Dixon–Author “God needed your injury to accomplish some bigger purpose.”
bj oh yes
Obie-host yes
AlanH yes

Rich_Dixon–Author “God wanted you to learn humility so He caused your injury. It’s His way of making you a better person.”
Obie-host ouch
Dulcinea yea
BobRush nod

Rich_Dixon–Author No matter what you personally believe, I think you have to be careful about what we say to folks who are hurting. We need to tell the truth, but we also need to be sensitive and understand that some of these kinds of statements sound kind of dismissive.
There seem to be two major approaches to this question among believers.
The first approach says that everything that happens is directly caused by God. Whatever happens is what He intended. He made it the way it is. So whatever happens is good, even when we don’t see it, because it’s from God.
Rich_Dixon–Author Personally, that doesn’t work for me. I’ll explain, but I need to be clear about something.
I totally trust God. If that’s how He chooses to operate, I’m not going to be so arrogant that I’ll tell Him that He’s wrong. I’m totally willing to trust that He may have a bigger plan than what I’m able to see.
Dulcinea yes
ClaraTj yes
Obie-host yes
BobRush yep

Rich_Dixon–Author But—for me—there’s one more scriptural principle.
AlanH yes
Rich_Dixon–Author PRINCIPLE #6: Evil exists. We live in a fallen world that’s NOT operating as God intended. The evil isn’t from God. Evil isn’t “good.”
I believe we’re in the middle of a spiritual war. Agree?
twizgrrl24 yes
Dulcinea yes
Obie-host yes
BobRush definitly

Rich_Dixon–Author We’re targets of an enemy who wants to destroy us.
AlanH agree
twizgrrl24 agree
Rich_Dixon–Author We know the ultimate outcome of the war—Jesus already won, and through Him we will win as well. PTL!
But while we’re here, evil is very real.
AlanH amen

Rich_Dixon–Author So I see my injury as the product of a fallen world. I don’t believe God caused me to fall;
in fact, I believe that when I lay on the ground in pain Jesus was right beside me. I believe He suffered with me.
So now we’re back to understanding God’s character, because this raises a very BIG question: do you know what the question is?
“Why would a sovereign, all-powerful, loving God allow such evil to persist?”
ClaraTj nods
Rich_Dixon–Author Ever heard—or asked—that one?
bj yes
Obie-host yes
BobRush sure

Rich_Dixon–Author It’s a paradox—either He’s really not sovereign, or He isn’t really loving. “Love” wouldn’t allow such horrible pain. We can’t just ignore this apparent contradiction.
My resolution involves the Genesis story and how I see God’s desire for relationship with me. So I’ll inject myself into the Genesis story.
God’s creation was 100% good. And when He created me He desired, for some wonderful reason, to be in relationship with me (and you).
So He gave me all of this good stuff and the instructions for how to care for it. And those instructions included obedience.
The creation had rules; breaking the rules has consequences.
Make sense so far?
Dulcinea yes
Rich_Dixon–Author Unfortunately, authentic relationship and true obedience require free will.
Obie-host yes

jim How abut this? A question that i have had for a long time is: If God knows everything then he knew Adam and Eve were going to disobey; which makes it part of his plan; which makes our suffering a part of his plan. why a plan that calls for so much suffering for people who happen to be a part of a species that a member disobeyed? Or suffering, in general…
Rich_Dixon–Author So He gave me the instructions and the ability to choose.
jim–hold that for a second and we’ll come back to it–it’s a big one!
And we know what happens, right?
I mess up. I don’t obey. I don’t follow the rules. And the disobedience has consequences.
Evil enters a creation where God never wanted it to be.
That wasn’t His plan. Our disobedience caused it.
And then comes the “yeah-but”—if God’s really all-knowing, didn’t He know we’d mess up?
That’s jim‘s question, right?
jim Yes, But He knew Adam and Eve were going to blow it…He created us
Rich_Dixon–Author How does that fit with Him loving us. If everything that happens is His will, and He didn’t “will” evil, doesn’t that mean He made a mistake?
C.S. Lewis uses the analogy of a parent who wants a child’s room clean but also wants the child to learn to do the cleaning without being reminded or nagged.
So the parent allows the child to live in a cluttered room, though that isn’t really what’s wanted, hoping for a better long-term result as the child learns the value of a clean room.
So the parent allows the mess, even though clutter isn’t the plan.
jim I am not talking about a misstake. In the beginning, God knew everything including disobedienc would happen. Why put us thtu it?
Rich_Dixon–Author So–are you saying they weren’t free to choose?
jim No, I am saying that God knew what was going to happen. So we are caught in a fallen world because he has a plan
He knew about all suffering before hand
Rich_Dixon–Author I think of it like watching a video you’ve seen before–you know what’s going to happen, but that’s different than wanting it to happen or making it happen. Does that help?
In that sense, the parent’s will allows clutter even though clutter isn’t really the parent’s will.
Others might wonder why the parent allows a messy room. But the parent sees something bigger than the immediate mess that might not be apparent to others. The short-term clutter contributes to the child’s long-term growth even though it wasn’t really what the parent wanted.
jim I under stand the purpose of suffering. I understand the video concept…. He knew a child was going to be sexually abuse. about the holicast, etc, What is the purpose of creating man knowing he will choose wrong?

Rich_Dixon–Author Let me come back to that–I’m not sure I can answer, but maybe.
I see suffering as part of the “mess,” the result of the enemy’s rebellion in a broken world. God could certainly stop it—or do anything else He wants. But as the parent permits the clutter, God permits darkness and pain. Obviously He has something greater in mind.
Rich_Dixon–Author I don’t think suffering has a “purpose” but I think God uses it for good.
jim But the mess was ultimately created by God in the beginning
Rich_Dixon–Author So the parents created the messy room by giving the kid a choice?
jim No the paretns created the child and the room the child lives in
Rich_Dixon–Author And they probably knew the kid would make a mess, right?
jim Yes that is my point
Rich_Dixon–Author So does that mean they are respoinsible for or wanted the mess?
jim In the case of God, not responsible but all knowing
It sounds like a set up…
Rich_Dixon–Author I see what you’re saying–hold on for a second.
I believe that God works for my individual good in all circumstances. I see no conflict between that belief and wondering whether He intends my suffering.
To use the parent analogy, a child may make harmful choices that are outside the parent’s will. That doesn’t prevent the parent from doing everything possible to bring good from difficult circumstances.
Rich_Dixon–Author I don’t believe God “causes” tragedy and suffering to accomplish some larger purpose.
Children born with horrible diseases, for example, just don’t fit my notion of a loving God.
jim I got that. It does not erase the fact that God knew the human race was sinful in the beginning
Rich_Dixon–Author I just don’t believe He loved me enough to sacrifice His son for me, then decided one morning to toss me off a roof because my struggle and pain would result in some greater good.

Obie-host Please hold your questions until Rich finishes his presentation and we open the floor up for questions and discussion.

Rich_Dixon–Author I think “God’s plan” is a whole lot bigger than anything I can imagine. My efforts to make His plan linear or cause-and-effect are simply our need to make sense of the senseless. His ways are not my ways, and part of trusting Him is not putting Him and His plans in my human-created box.
Dulcinea yes
Rich_Dixon–Author God works for good in all things. Much good has come from my injury, but I don’t think He “needed” my injury to bring about those good things. I hope it makes some sense and maybe gives you a fresh perspective. Now—questions, comments, discussion?

Obie-host The floor is open….
if you have questions or comments, please raise your hand by typing: !
and we will call on you….

Dulcinea when Jesus spoke to people they asked big questions, but what He responded to wa what was in their hearts..
and one ? that was aksed was….What is the purpose of creating man knowing he will choose wrong?
that is just prt of it..it ink the other part is God also created man not just to choose right
but to choose a right tht has already been victorious thru Jesus. done

Rich_Dixon–Author I’d say God’s purpose in creating us was authentic relationship …
and that can only happen if we’re free to choose.

Obie-host twizgrrl24 I believe you had your hand up before….
please go ahead and share
twizgrrl24 I help my youth and attend on wednesdays nights and the past few wenesdays there has been alot of wuedtopns about God and suffering. I have had pain and suffering in my life alot but I do know that God loves me and hes by my side!!
Dulcinea amen
Rich_Dixon–Author That’s the bottom line.

ClaraT !
Obie-host GA Clara
Rich_Dixon–Author We can try to understand this, but we have to accept that there are some things we just don’t know.
ClaraT Thank you Obie and RIch.. thank you for your presentation….
There are just a couple of points I’d like to make…
first of all I think we sometimes think that evil came into being with the first disobedience in the garden…
but according to my interpretation that’s not so…
They were not to eat of the fruit of the tree of KNOWLEDGE of good and evil…
so that tells me that good and evil were there all the time…
for whatever reason…
I tend to think that God didn’t want us to put it…
in family terms…
have to deal with all this…
good and evil…

and secondly…
sometimes I think that the discussion of where did evil come from is a
veiled discussion of motive to want to
hold someone responsible…
well I think God has taken that responsiblity full on Himself.
HE came to earth in the form of man…
to show us that we CAN live successfully…
and in the end was punished for whatever…
evil had come about AND all our mistakes to boot.
My how do I say…
feeling about al this…

is that God Does want relationship…
and that has a lot to do more with how we deal with life on life’s terms…
than some clockmaker kind of setup we want to put in into.
Rich_Dixon–Author The enemy wants us to focus on him rather than on God’s love.
ClaraT nods He is the accuser. Not God

nadine !
Obie-host GA nadine
nadine thank you Obie…
I came in late…
so please forgive me…
perhaps you covered this…
but can you please explain what you may mean by…
authentic relationships? done
Rich_Dixon–Author Okay …
I think He wants iintimacy …
freedom …
transparency …
the way it was in the Garden …
where we walk and talk with Him…
no barriers or pretending …
that’s what I think eternity will be like for me–and I’m excited for it!
Make sense?
nadine yes thank you I thought that was what you where talking about

bj i have a friend that was born with a disability and she can’t let go of blaming God for that
how can i best minister to her ?
Rich_Dixon–Author Wow…
bj too much of a question?
Rich_Dixon–Author No …
This is why I think it’s deadly…
so say that God “causes suffering …
bj yes
Rich_Dixon–Author The most helpful thing…
anyone ever said to me …
when I was struggling after my injury…
was this:
When you fell, Jesus hurt with you.
He didn’t plan it, didn’t want it …
but He suffers with you and He’ll walk the path with you.
That image…
of Jesus laying beside me …
was really powerful.
bj that is powerful
Rich_Dixon–Author My take…
tell your friend that her suffering wasn’t God’s plan or intent…
that’s it’s the result of evil in a fallen world …
but that He will not waste it…
but He’ll use it for good if she’ll let Him…
bj i like that .He will not waste it
Rich_Dixon–Author He will redeem her pain–but He didn’t plan it or intend it.
bj ty for taking the time to talk with me rich

Obie-host Are there any other questions, comments or observations?

Dulcinea JSUT WANT to say its beena very fasinating meeting and i have never heard such hard questions jim aksed with such simple clarity.. ty rich. done

Rich_Dixon–Author Before you leave, I’d like to invite you to my blog at http://www.richdixon.net/bouncingback. We’re building a cool circle of folks, and I’d love to have you join. You can subscribe to the blog and to my semi-regular newsletter. There’s also a resource page with some free e-books and other stuff. And of course I’d like to have you check out my book, RELENTLESS GRACE. And if there’s anything I can do for you, or if you have any feedback, or if you’d just like to say HI, send me an email at rich@richdixon.net

Obie-host Thank you everyone for coming tonight….
and a very special thank you to Rich!
I certainly leaned quite a bit….
Thank you Rich for sharing your story with us!
and great questions were asked all around…..
Rich, would you be so kind as to close us in prayer this evening?

Rich_Dixon–Author Okay …
Father, thanks for welcoming our questions…
thanks for understanding the heart behind our words …
and for the assurance …
that even when we don’t understand…
you’ll be with us and redeem our struggle …
Thanks for the gift of Jesus …
and for your plan that lets us know…
that we’ll find a way through our struggles …
and spend eternity with you in love.
I ask your blessing on all of these folks …
and your guidance as they find their way on difficult paths.
We pray in Jesus’ name …
and we all say …
Dulcinea amen
Obie-host Amen
Rich_Dixon–Author Amen
bj amen..AMEN
BobRush amen
ClaraT Amen
Dulcinea ty rich enjoyed it
AlanH Amen
AlanH Thank you Rich.
ClaraT Good night all! Thank you again Rich and Obie