Life has guarantees but happiness, food, clothing, shelter, health or care are not among them. At least not for everyone and not in this world. This is not a perfect world.
Bad stuff happens to everyone. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone falls down, bumps their head or knee and has to wear a Band-Aid at some point in their life.
We all experience stress. And until Christ returns, everyone dies.
Read Romans 5:12
[Death through Adam] Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
- Discuss normal stressful events that happen to everyone.
Change is stressful. It doesn’t matter if it is good or bad. All change is stressful. Growing up, getting sick and changing schools are all normal and stressful. Choosing or changing careers is stressful. Meeting new people is stressful. Moving, getting married, having or not having children, and even adopting a cat are stressful.
Just talking to other people can be stressful.
And not everyone deals well with change, stress and challenges. Some crave change and are instruments of change while others hate, avoid or don’t adapt well to change. Some are tough, others sensitive. A heavy burden to one is light to another.
2. Not everyone adjusts well or quickly to change. How well do you adjust? Who taught you how to cope with change?
People who don’t adjust well make poor teachers. They teach and model the same ineffective techniques they were taught. And they are ill equipped to cope with bigger bumps in the road.
- Discuss some common life events or conditions that are challenging.
Unfortunately, not everyone is considered by others as equally attractive, intelligent or able. We don’t all have the same social skills. Not everyone is strong, fit and able to compete. Some are weak, awkward and disabled. Some are bullied. Not every family is healthy and every relationship doesn’t lead to a happily ever after. Almost everyone will experience a major loss of someone or something they love.
And once again, we don’t all react the same.
- List and discuss major tragedies and suffering.
Chronic illness, mental illness, abuse, addictions, loss of a child, domestic violence, rape, assault, poverty, natural disasters and murder are all major tragedies with extreme suffering.
Sadly, everyone isn’t equipped to comfort others. Some of the cruelest things are said in hospitals, funerals and churches in the name of “love” or “comfort”.
- Discuss thoughtless, unhelpful and painful advice you’ve heard or given.
We’ve all given bad advice and said thoughtless things when our friends or loved ones are hurting, especially if we’re the ones causing the hurt.
Often well-meaning individuals minimize our experiences if in their opinion they aren’t major tragedies or they think their experiences are worse than ours. Not everyone is a good helper.
Even pastors say things that don’t help like:
“God NEVER gives us more than we can handle?”
Aside from telling a grieving parent that “God needed another angel in heaven” or “At least you have another child”, “God NEVER gives us more than we can handle?” is one of the most misquoted biblical verses.
While it is empowering for normal milestones, life events, temptations or when the victim has the resources to help themselves, it is a stumbling block for anyone suffering a tragedy beyond their control. It is harmful out of context.
“Bootstrap” theology implies everyone who suffers has the “bootstraps” or power to save themselves. “Bootstrap” theology tells the victims of domestic violence, rape or natural disaster to pick themselves up and move on. It implies God caused it and knew they could handle it. It provides no consequence to the perpetrator, making the perpetrator an innocent agent of God’s will. “Bootstrap” theology blames rather than empowers or helps victims.
The Bootstrap advice suggests that starving children just need to eat, the poor just need to work and the homeless just need to build a house. It implies they must have the resources but are too lazy to cook themselves a meal, find a job or build a house.
I’ve heard this misquoted at hospitals, funerals and in churches. “Bootstrap” theology drives people away from God.
If everyone had the resources to tackle their own problems, why would anyone go to God? We wouldn’t need a savior.
Therefore, it is best to check to see if they have bootstraps or the resources before recommending someone pull themselves up by them. Otherwise, you may need to lend them yours.
The verse is in the bible but as previously noted it is taken out of context when applied to tragedy. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.
1 Corinthians 10 is about temptation. It has nothing to do with situations out of our control. It only applies to situations within our control.
Take note that the Jewish people were in slavery for over 400 years before God sent Moses. Generations of Jewish people were tested well beyond their strength and lifetime. They didn’t have the resources to free themselves. They needed a savior.
Women aren’t raped because God knows they can handle it. Teenagers don’t commit suicide because God knows their parents and friends can handle it. God doesn’t allow murder because God knows the victim can handle it. People don’t get cancer because God knows they are strong enough to survive it.
How is this misguided theology a comfort to mothers who’ve lost children or families of murder victims?
Just like happiness, adversity is not guaranteed. While bad stuff happens to everyone, misfortune is not equally distributed. Everyone doesn’t get their fair share of adversity. Some people are born rich, loved, healthy and happy. Others are born poor, sick, abandoned and depressed.
- Why do bad things happen? Does being healthy and wealthy make someone a good person? Are some people cursed? Have you ever wonder if you’re cursed in love, health, or wealth?
Most children understand cause and effect. Children in homes that give ice cream for good behavior believe good children get ice cream and bad children go to bed without ice cream. Therefore, they begin to assume that all children who go to bed without ice cream must be bad without realizing all parents can’t afford ice cream. And they transfer these assumptions onto God assuming that their health, wealth and full tummy is a reflection of how good they are, along with the assumption that God makes bad things happen to bad people.
This assumption is carried into adulthood and passed onto new generations.
Just like telling someone they can handle adversity, this assumption is also used as an excuse to relieve ourselves of any responsibility for our neighbor for fear of interfering with God’s plan.
But the bible doesn’t support this theory. God tells us over and over again that the children who go to bed crying without food, clothes, shelter, a friend, parent or even a bed are blessed. (The Beatitudes Matthew 5:1-12) Blessed?
How is adversity a blessing? We’ll get to that in moment because it is important to dwell on the truth that adversity isn’t a punishment from God.
Our faith is a very strange insurance policy that almost guarantees things get worse because we have the policy.
God provides a whole book in the Old Testament about hardship to good people – Job.
Job and his wife lose everything in just a few moments. Their children die. They lose all their wealth and status in the community.
Read Job 1:1, 8
Job was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.
The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
- Was Job a bad guy? How did God describe Job?
Read Job 1:9-12
Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
- Why did bad things happen to Job? Who caused the adversity?
Read Job 1:13-19 (Summary)
One day a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen and the donkeys were stolen. Your servants killed, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up your sheep and servants, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your camels were killed and servants killed, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were at your oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind collapsed the house on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who escaped to tell you!”
Talk about a bad day but Job’s troubles weren’t over. Read Job 2:1, 7-8
On another day …Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.
- What happened to Job?
Read Job 2:3-6
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”
“Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”
- How did God describe Job? Was Job a bad guy? Why was he hurt? Who caused his pain?
Job is blameless and upright. He fears God and shuns evil. Job didn’t do anything to deserve what Satan did to him.
The Bible makes it clear that God was not punishing Job for anything he did. God wasn’t teaching Job a lesson nor did God claim Job would be able to handle everything but death. In fact, what happens to Job really has nothing to do with him personally.
Job is a difficult book to read because God points Job out to Satan. God gives Satan permission to take everything away from Job and his wife. God even allows Satan to harm Job physically. The only thing Satan wasn’t allowed to do was kill Job. However, like most grieving parents, Job doesn’t find that a blessing. He wonders why his life was spared to endure the agony of grief and pain.
Surprisingly, Job remains blameless throughout his torture. Even when his wife and friends tell him to curse God, Job continues to bless and praise God.
Job asks God why this happened to him; and God tells Job it is beyond his understanding (Chapters 38-40). And in the end, God restores Job his wealth and family.
The ultimate message is God never gives us more than God can handle. Bad stuff happens to good people and God’s grace is poured out during our darkest moments when we are in most need of a savior.
Read Romans 5:18
Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Remember: You’re not alone.
Homework: Read Psalm 86. Pray for trust in God’s mercy during times of trial. Remind yourself daily that suffering isn’t your fault. Bad things happen to good people.
Pray: Compassionate Lord, have mercy on me. Let me know you are near. Give me a sign of your grace. Help me hear your voice and feel your embrace. Give me the courage to lean not on my own understanding but in your infinite wisdom. Thank you Lord for your steadfast love. Amen.
Week 1: Beyond MY Strength
Week 2: Survival Steps
Week 3: Biblical Grit