Over the years I have had many conversations in which people have said something like, "Why did God do this to me? "Why did God cause this to happen? Or, many different versions of these questions. Sometimes the person has been simply stating these types of questions as a protest for something difficult she is going through. I always want to be really sensitive to the pain being expressed and be available to process the grief she is feeling. .
At other times someone is asking these questions because she is upset at God because she is experiencing discomfort, which is the consequences experienced over choices they or their loved ones have or are making. At those times I have wanted to shout, "God didn't do this!"
God doesn't cause unplanned pregnancies. He doesn't cause people's addictions. He didn't lead someone to have an affair or to view porn. He didn't cause someone's divorce or a host of other things that are the result of the choices people are making. Some of these choices were made out of willful disobedience, but sadly some were made while trying to fill legitimate needs through illegitimate ways and some were the result of taking the bait Satan put in front of them during lonely, vulnerable, or difficult times.
I have always wondered what the best way to address these types of questions until I recently heard Gary Thomas speak at a conference. He said he was astounded at the things of which God is accused. He suggested we have them study the character of God and the character of the Enemy and then come back and talk about it.
So, today I thought I would explore both the character of Satan and the character of God. This is by no means an exhaustive study, but hopefully it will give us enough information we can better discern who is really behind some of the things coming at us or who is behind the behaviors of those who are hurting us.
The Bible tells us pretty specific things about the devil who is also called Satan or the Enemy. Satan:
- Was a murderer from the beginning and continues to be so
- Is the father of lies whose native language is the Lie
- Is the enemy of everything that is right
- Is full of deceit and trickery
- Perverts the right ways of the Lord which means he puts ugly, sinful spins on holy truth and ways
- Holds the power of death, prowling around looking for someone to devour
- Has people imprisoned and persecuted
- Is filled with fury, knowing his days are numbered
- Attempts to keep people from hearing, believing, trusting, or obeying God's word
- Keeps people bound up for years in all kinds of infirmities
- Tempts God's people to lie and hoard money
- Masquerades as an angel of light
- Torments believers in an effort to destroy their testimony
- Blocks believers from going where they want to deliver the gospel
- And uses all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that really serve his lies
By contrast these are some facts about our God revealed through His names and His attributes that I read from Praying the Names and Attributes of God--a free E-resource available from Navigators. He is:
- Jehovah the One who possesses all authority
- Jehovah-M'Kaddesh the One who sanctifies and sets us apart
- Infinite, beyond measure, limitless, with no beginning or end
- All-powerful and spoke all things into being and is now actively sustaining them
- The embodiment of perfect goodness and kindness, continually pouring out His favor on us
- The embodiment of perfect love, continually loving us in deeply personal ways as shown by Jesus's Sacrifice
- Jehovah-jireh the One who provides more than we could ever ask or think
- Jehovah-shalom the God of Peace that surpasses human understanding birthed in redemptions and sustained through learning to trust Him and live out our identity in Jesus
- Immutable, ever perfect, and unchanging
- Holy God who is utterly and supremely untainted, unique, and incomprehensible
- All-knowing with knowledge that encompasses the past, the present, and the future
- Omnipresent fully present everywhere and will never abandon us
- Merciful with mercy that never runs dry, having taken the judgment we deserved
- Jehovah-nissi is our banner, signifying our victory over sin and death through Jesus
- Perfectly wise, always acting for our good in His perfect time
- Faithful, always keeping His word, honoring His covenants, and fulfilling His promises
- Wrathful though He is never capricious, self-indulgent, or irritable, and His wrath governs the right and necessary reaction to moral evil
- Full of grace, granting value where it is undeserved and forgiving debt that is unrepayable
- Comforter in all circumstances
- El-Shaddai, the Lord Almighty sufficient and bountiful, the source of all blessings
- Abba Father is the Creator who chose to relate intimately to His creation as if we were each the only child
- Intercessor who ever prays for us, fully knowing us, our trials, and our temptations
- Elohim is the God of strength and power, jealously guarding His covenant relationship with us
- Never tempts us with evil*
If we are hearing in our heads: Does God really care? Does God hear me? Is God really good? Why doesn't God want me to have fun? Satan is actively trying to turn our hearts away from our God. When we find our selves questioning God's authority, power, goodness, presence, mercy, faithfulness, love, care or any other attribute, we can be sure Satan has planted dangerous thoughts and those thoughts are not life giving, they are destructive. He can whisper these things subtly, causing us to believe the thoughts originated within us or he can use a person to speak his lies aloud.
Second, He will use the hard we face in this fallen world full of broken and needy people to try to entice us to turn our backs on God. He not only causes us to doubt God's character, He also tries to use our flaws, weaknesses, and sin as opportunities to shame us with a shame so toxic we begin to believe God can't really love us, save us, or change us. We would do well to remember it is Satan's voice that says God's mercy and grace are not big enough to cover all our failures--past, present, and future.
I have spent a lot of time reading and rereading Paul's epistles. The first half of his letters always tell us who our God is, who we are in Him, and what He has does to cultivate a living, loving relationship with us. In light of these magnificent truths, the last half of the letters call us to words, deeds, and actions that reflect those truths and protect us and our relationship with Him.
I hope as we navigate this life, we remember the differences in the Lord's character and Satan's. Because our great God is immutable, He will never ever act outside of His perfect moral character. On the other hand, Satan looks like a Saint one day and an hateful entity the next. He entices with all sorts of empty promises and then venomously shames us when we take his bait . God's perfect will and His directions always lead to life, and Satan's always lead to death. I hope we have the courage to gently remind a person struggling with hard stuff or hurtful people that our God was, is, and will forever be good and those things being blamed Him--He didn't do.