Pastor's Pen: Should we judge God by circumstance?

In 1946, a young, unwed mother-to-be from Ohio was in despair. She was pregnant with the child of a married military officer and didn't know if she wanted to live anymore. She was angry at life and angry at God. And so she did something bold. There was a severe lightning storm outside. She walked outdoors and looked up to heaven and challenged God to strike her and her unborn child dead with lightning.

She waited a long time and when nothing happened, she went back indoors and declared to her mother that she had just proved God doesn't exist. She was an avowed atheist from that time on.

Her name was Madalyn Mays. She later took the surname Murray, and then after she married Richard O'Hair in 1965, she also took his surname. Madalyn Murray O'Hair went on to become the world's most famous atheist and even started an organization known as American Atheists.

Ironically, her son William Murray, the child in her womb in 1946 who would be the subject of the case in Baltimore in 1963 that led the Supreme Court to ban prayer in public schools, ultimately rejected the atheistic beliefs of his mother and converted to Christianity, becoming a Baptist minister and evangelist. He is serving the Lord to this day.

Sadly, Madalyn Murray O'Hair fell into the trap that many do. She based faith in God purely on circumstance. When God is viewed solely through the filter of circumstance, He always comes up short. He is seen as unfair, unjust, distant, uncaring, capricious. Why? Because people always have disappointments in this life. And there is a temptation to blame God for allowing these disappointments to happen.

People for ages have struggled with these questions: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people?

If we choose to judge God by the difficult or painful circumstances we endure, however, we completely miss God's will for our lives.

The Bible provides the answer for all these honest questions, though many aren't satisfied with those answers. When God created man in His image, He gave man a free will to choose Him or reject Him. Sadly, man rejected God. Man sinned and sin brought death, both spiritual death and physical death.

Before God created man in His own image, He created the angels and gave them a free will. A third of the angels rebelled against God's authority and faced God's judgment, being cast out of heaven. Ultimately, the angels who sinned will be cast into a lake of fire at the final judgment.

God also gave man a free will. We, like the fallen angels, have rejected God's authority. If God judged the angels who sinned, He must also judge man who sins.

Man's sin therefore separates him from God. There is nothing we can do on our own to change this. We are born with a nature of sin and sin brings spiritual death. If we die while in a sinful state, we are not able to be in God's presence.

Those who did not choose to know God or serve Him in this life will not go to heaven and be in His presence; they must pay the penalty their sins have wrought when they die. They remain separated from God forever in a place of darkness where Jesus said there is weeping and regret and gnashing of teeth.

But this is not what God wants at all. He wants people to choose to seek Him, know Him, serve Him and love Him. It grieves the heart of God to see all the pain and injustice that man's sin has brought into this broken, fallen world.

And, yes, there are times when it seems evil wins out in this life, though this is only temporary. There are times when the innocent in this life suffer. It is inevitable. People, even children, die from cancer. People die in car accidents or are victims of violence.

We all suffer loss and pain in this life because of sin, and eventually the physical body that houses our eternal spirit dies. No one escapes this. It says in Romans 8 that "all creation groans and travails together in pain" in this fallen world.

That is the bad news. The good news is that God has provided a remedy for sinful man. He sent His Son Jesus to come to earth as a man, live as God's perfect representative to us during His time here, and then willingly take everyone's sins upon Himself so that the wrath of God against sin would be satisfied. Justice would be fully met in Jesus, who was sinless and did not have to die but chose to die in our place on the cross.

Because He was resurrected from the dead, we are assured that we who put our faith in Him will also be resurrected when we die. We will go to heaven, not because of our worthiness or goodness, but because we have been forgiven of our sins by God the Father for the sake of Jesus His Son. This is God's matchless gift of salvation.

And so we have a choice. We can rail against God as Madalyn Murray O'Hair did or we can embrace God's remedy for our sinful state in Jesus. We can be bitter about the injustices that are so common in this fallen world or we can be better and accept the healing that God offers to our very soul, understanding that the God who made us and loves us will one day reward our faithfulness to Him when we go to our true home in heaven.

I hope you choose God's remedy. I hope you choose Jesus.