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Overcoming Adversity 101, Part 3: What About Accidents?

When God allows something to occur, He is acting deliberately. He is decreeing or ordaining the event. Such is the case with “accidents.”

For example, in Numbers 35, God instructs Israelite courts how to treat a person who “has killed someone accidentally.” The alleged murderer had to have a place to flee for asylum so that he wouldn’t be killed before he could appear in court.

Any number of accidents could cause this – an accident where the killer “did not intend” to harm anyone. The Bible gives us an example: If “he accidentally drops a stone tool – a maul or hammer say – and it hits and kills someone he didn’t even know was there…”

Exodus 21:13 is a passage parallel to this one. In it God describes the same situation saying, “If he does not do it intentionally, but God lets it happen, he is to flee to a place I will designate.”

In other words, God doesn’t merely observe it happening without means of intervening—He lets it happen. What may be accidental from our perspective was permitted by God.

God Holds all Things Together

“He is before all things and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).

In the example above, God had to hold together the very particles of the stone as it went flying toward the victim. When God allows something, it isn’t casual or careless. It is specific.

Jesus governs everything providentially. He sustains every detail of this world and its events.  He ushers people and places to their appointed purpose, their destined outcome.

In Mark Talbot’s chapter of Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, he writes,

”when the writer of Hebrews states that Christ ‘upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:3), he is claiming that God the Son is providentially governing everything through sustaining all of the universe’s objects and events as he carries each of them to its appointed end by his all-powerful word.”[i]

Further clarifying this passage in Hebrews, The Word Biblical Commentary states,

“The…clause ascribes to the Son the providential government of all created existence, which is the function of God himself. As the pre-creational Wisdom of God, the Son not only embodies God’s glory but also reveals this to the universe as he sustains all things and bears them to their appointed end by his omnipotent word” (emphasis added). [ii]

The word in the original language for “upholds” is phero. It means to carry, bear, bring, produce. Phero is used in the New Testament for carrying something from one place to another – for carrying a paralyzed person (Lu. 5:18), bringing wine to stewards (John 2:8) and bringing a cloak and books to Paul (2 tim. 4:13).

“Upholds” doesn’t just mean “to sustain.” It contains the idea of purposeful control over the thing being carried. By His word, Jesus is continually carrying all things in the world to accomplish His higher purpose.

In His Word – in His hands – God the Son holds every part of creation, including the evil parts. He carries every detail to the place where it accomplishes exactly what He desires.

“God in Christ “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11).

The word for “works” in the original language is energeo. It means “to be operative, be at work, put forth power, to work for one, aid one, to effect, to display one’s activity, show one’s self operative.”

God not only carries, He brings things about according to the decision or plan of His will. God is working for us and aiding us by carrying all the events and objects in our lives to their appointed end.

God doesn’t just turn evil around for our good.  Instead, he brings all things about – including accidents – for His glory (See Ex. 9:13-16. John 9:3).

In Isaiah 46:10-11, God says,

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.

I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please…

What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do.”

Whether our lives are going “well” and accident-free or whether they are riddled with chaos and obstructions of our plans, God has custom designed our circumstances.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 says,

13 Consider what God has done:
Who can straighten
what he has made crooked?

14 When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider:
God has made the one as well as the other.

Ordained. Decreed.

At the top of the post I mentioned that when God allows something to occur, He is acting deliberately. He is decreeing or ordaining the event.

To say that God “decrees” or “ordains” something means He has planned and purposed it from before the creation of the world. Whatever God has willed and planned before time – or foreordained – takes place. Saying that God has ordained something is to say that it will take place.

” The LORD Almighty has sworn, “Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.

For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him?” His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:24, 27).

Nothing falls outside the will of God. No evil act, no accident or event falls outside the ordaining will of God. Nothing occurs apart from His will. Therefore, everything that happens in our life ultimately comes from God.

Imagine If…

Do we find repulsive a God who gives the go-ahead to our specific tragedies?

Imagine a God who didn’t deliberately allow the smallest details of your trials. What if your hardships and sorrows weren’t screened by God? What if he exercised a hands-off policy toward the calamities headed your way? Think what this would mean.

Things would be much worse for the world’s inhabitants. In When God Weeps, Steve Estes describes this reign of terror:

“The world would be worse, much worse, absolutely intolerable—for everyone—every second. Try to conceive of Lucifer unrestrained. Left to his own, the Devil would make Jobs of us all. The Third Reich would have lasted forever. Your head would be mounted on Satan’s wall above his fireplace. Human sacrifice would entertain basketball crowds at half-time. ‘Child Molesting Techniques’ would be taught at community colleges. The only reason things aren’t worse is that God curbs evil. ‘Satan has asked to sift you like wheat,’ Jesus told Peter—we can be certain the old snake didn’t check in with God out of politeness (Luke 22:31). He had to get permission, which means that he operates under constraints. Evil can only raise its head where God deliberately backs away—always for reasons that are specific, wise and good, but often hidden during this present life.”[iii]

Imagine if God did not specifically allow your current hardships. What would this say about God? What would it say about the scenario in which you find yourself?  It would say that God cannot defend and care for His people.

It is one thing for God to allow a tragedy to occur for reasons we don’t understand. It is quite another for the God who grieves over suffering to long to intervene but be prevented from acting by Satan. Estes continues,

Either God rules, or Satan sets the world’s agenda and God is limited to reacting. In which case, the Almighty would become Satan’s clean-up boy, sweeping up after the devil has trampled through and done his worst, finding a way to wring good out of the situation somehow. But it wasn’t his best for you, wasn’t Plan A, wasn’t exactly what he had in mind.[iv]

In other words, although God might manage to clean things up a bit, your pain would be meaningless, purposeless…wasted.

Questions: How does it comfort you to know that God has allowed your current hardships — that He has specifically allowed each accident or affliction to touch you?  How does it change your value of the otherwise negative circumstance?

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[i] John Piper and Justin Taylor, ed., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 41

[ii] William Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 47A (Dallas, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 14

[iii] Joni E. Tada and Steve Estes, When God Weeps (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997), 83

[iv] Ibid., 84

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