I came across a line from Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline stating, “The surest sign that it is God’s will for us to be where we are is simply that we are there.” Less wordily, God approves of every situation in which we find ourselves. Even between His engineered plan and His engineered punishment, I disagree.
Setting aside the predestination/free will argument as far from this essay as I possibly can, I believe it is possible to screw up your life so badly that you knock yourself off course. Taking Jesus’s parables as examples, was it God’s will for the prodigal son to feed the unclean pigs? The master’s will was that the one talent would become two, yet the misguided servant only produced one through his actions. Outside of parables, errors of the present can be directly attributed to human errors of the past. Famines have happened because of bad agricultural policies, and financial crises can happen because of bad economic policies. A millionaire can gamble his fortune away. Was it God’s will that he become destitute? Absolutely not.
God doesn’t cause anyone to sin, nor does He want people to sin. God does originate the machine that governs the consequences of sin, but that does not take the blame off of us for getting stuck in that machine. God established mechanics for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the serpent pressured Adam and Eve to trigger those mechanics, but the responsibility and blame lay squarely on Adam and Eve for eating its fruit.
I am reminded of Samson. The book of Judges states that it was God’s will for Samson to create a casus belli between Israel and the Philistines. The implication, as it was for many past judges, was that Samson would lead Israel against the Philistines to obtain national independence and liberation through God. Later, perhaps, he would be a wise man to whom the sons of Israel could present their troubles. Rather, Samson gave in to Delilah’s nagging and pestering and gave up his God-given strength. Even after several victories and provocations against the Philistines, Samson found himself grinding in the prison. He was there explicitly because of his imperfection and sin, by the laws that governed his strength, against the will of God.
Whether it was God’s will or not, Samson was then brought to the temple of the Philistines. Listen carefully to Samson’s words to God: “My Lord Yahweh, remember me! Please give me strength this one time, O God, so that I can repay with one act of revenge to the Philistines for my eyes… Let me die with the Philistines.” Was there any plea for forgiveness? No, there wasn’t even an acknowledgement of sin! However, God still granted Samson his request, and in doing so several thousand of Israel’s oppressors were wiped out. Regardless of sin, regardless of heart, and regardless of situation, God was still able to use Samson. This is key; God doesn’t engineer every situation in which we find ourselves, but He can use us from any position.
I am reminded of Job. Job’s poor state was engineered not by God nor by man but by Satan. The position of Job’s friends was that he must have sinned in order to be in this state, but that was not the case. Though sin can get us into bad situations, not every bad situation is derived from sin. It must again be reiterated from this instance that not every situation is derived from God. Even here, God uses this situation to show Job His sovereignty and His superiority over mankind. Job through his suffering is able to hear God and become His envoy to his friends. As the story goes, Job’s fortune was restored once over. God can move us from any position to any other as is needed; we are useful to Him from any position.
Ultimately, both Foster and my positions pay tribute to the very real capabilities of God. Foster says that God is so powerful that He places us in any situation. I say that God is so powerful that no situation is beyond His reach or redemption. Either way, God reigns supreme and will have the last word. Amen.