“Finding Faith in the Dark” – When the story of your life takes a turn you didn’t plan

I just finished reading Laurie Polich Short’s new book “Finding Faith in the Dark.” It was a quick, enjoyable, encouraging read. The premise of the book is this… many Christians live life quoting Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And from that we somehow draw the conclusion that “our plans” and “God’s plans” are one in the same, or at the very least, that everything is going to work out in amazing ways, “beyond what we can hope or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)

And it doesn’t. Eventually life collides with our faith, as our hopes and dreams are confronted by harsh reality. At least for most people. And as a career youth worker, this single point of pop-theology is the knock-out blow to the faith of many young adults who grow up in the church. We preach that God is good, we teach that we are his children, we more than infer that God the Father only wants to give good gifts to his children. But life rarely works that way. And when something bad eventually happens, it creates a crisis of faith that many young adults simply don’t survive and they walk away from the church, many times on God himself.

Laurie does a great job of chronicling story after story of people who’s lives didn’t go according to plan, and pain was introduced to their lives through no fault of their own. She also includes her own very personal journey through pain and disappointment to eventual resolution.

Her conclusion is this. Your plans are not his plans, your ways are not His ways and although life may not turn out the way your originally thought, God is faithful to journey with us through our pain. And the place He leads us is good, albeit not the way we would draw it up.

I would especially recommend this book to anyone you know who finds themselves somewhere in the journey of pain and disillusionment… which is all of us at some point, right?

Sorry it took so long for me to read this Laurie. Great job. It’s been a privilege to journey with you as a friend for the past 10 years of your story.

And there’s a lot more story still to be written…
“Stay in the Journey my friend.”




I don’t believe everything happens for a reason

Our house burned down in August 2006

I hear it all the time. “Everything happens for a reason.” Both churched and unchurched people alike seem to believe this similarly.

The problem is I don’t believe it.

Not the way that people mean it anyway. When people say: “Everything happens for a reason,” it implies that good is always the end result of our pain. It suggests that everything is connected in some type of butterfly effect and that Someone is orchestrating and controlling it all behind the scenes.

That is untrue. And it’s unBiblical.

If God is in control of everything, then what do you do with starvation, genocide, the Holocaust, rape, sexual abuse, AIDS, cancer, the Sandy Hook shootings, tornadoes…

If God is in control, and this world, with all its pain and suffering, is the result of His being in charge, then I’m out. No thank you. This is not a God that I want any part of. And He is not the loving God I imagine Him to be.

How can God be in control of the entire world when He’s not even in control of me?

We have this ongoing discussion in our home group regarding “the will of God.” Does God control everything? Does He cause pain or allow it? Is there a difference? Is everything that happens to us both good and bad, part of God’s blueprint for our lives? Is it all part of His plan? Or on the other hand, is this life a battlefield, a war zone, in which our Enemy “prowls around, seeking whom He may devour,” thus bringing pain and death into our lives? Good arguments can be made for both.

Sometimes, pain is a part of God’s blueprint for our lives.

The story of Joseph, for instance, is a good example of that. His brother’s sold him as a slave. He was falsely accused of rape and sent to prison for many years. Then through a series of events he is elevated to the #2 position in Egypt, and administrates a plan that saves the entire region from starvation, including his own brothers and father. Sometimes our pain is part of  God’s bigger plan. At the end of the story Joseph makes sense of all his suffering when his brothers discover who Joseph has become and are afraid for their lives. They beg his forgiveness and Joseph makes this unbelievable statement to them.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” 

Genesis 50:20

There is no question that there are examples in Scripture where pain is part of God’s plan. Does that bring you comfort? It should. Sometimes He is accomplishing His purposes through you and your pain.

Sometimes though, pain is the result of our own stupid decisions.

Let’s say you go out and get drunk tonight, and crash your car on the way home. Some will say well, “Everything happens for a reason.” Yes. And the reason is that you were stupid. Sometimes the pain in our lives is a clear result of our own poor choices. Please don’t blame that on God. Or  think it happened because it’s all part of some unseen plan. It’s you, it’s you, it’s you. Take responsibility for your choices and your actions.

Sometimes pain is the result of other people’s stupid decisions.

Let’s say that a drunk driver runs into you? What did you do to deserve that? You were doing everything right, and someone else’s poor choices brought pain into your world. Was this part of God’s plan, His design for your life? I don’t think that’s always the case. Much of the pain in today’s world is because other people have chosen to sin, thereby inflicting pain on others. Child abuse, rape, murder all are a direct result of one person choosing to sin, choosing to operate outside of God’s laws, thereby inflicting pain on others. War, disease, famine, genocide, and the like, often can be attributed to corporate sin by groups of people; countries, governments; generations of sinning that brings macro-level pain into our world today.

BUT, sometimes pain IS part of Satan’s plan for our destruction.

I don’t like to over-spiritualize everything, but there is NO QUESTION that as Christ followers that we have an enemy. He hates us because He hates everything that God loves. He thinks by hurting us, he can hurt God.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

 I Peter 5:8

You have an enemy, and your enemy hates you, and has a plan for your destruction.

And in John:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” 

John 10:10

As a youth worker, I’ve done several funerals of teenagers over the years. When I’m standing in front of a thousand people in pain, they are hoping I can bring some sort of understanding to the pain in their souls. Often times this is the verse I turn quote to help people process. John says here that Jesus is the giver of life, and it’s the thief Satan, who is the one who comes to steal, kill and destroy. This is exactly what I feel when a child dies… that something, someone has been stolen from us.

So, pain can be God’s fault, our fault, someone else’s fault or Satan’s fault. It’s dangerous to say it’s always God’s plan or that it’s always Satan’s fault. And it doesn’t have to be one or the other.

One last word of advice. People’s theology around this has been forged through the furnace of their personal pain. Be extremely careful when you talk to people about their pain. Our house burned to the ground in 2006. It was amazing to me how many people felt compelled to help bring meaning to my pain. They tended to land in one of two cosmic camps: either it was God’s fault or it was Satan’s fault. Actually, it wasn’t either. It was my fault. My mistake caused the fire. And in that painful rubble of that situation, as in any painful situation, God wants to use it to bless me, and conversely Satan wants to use it for my destruction. My response, is the single greatest contributing factor that determines the outcome. 

People  really did have good intentions of helping to bring meaning to my pain, but all their pithy Christian sayings did was really bring me more pain. What I really needed was for them to be silent, and to walk with me in my pain. This is now my goal when I enter someone else’s pain, not to help them understand why, but simply to be present with them in their pain.  This is enough.

Some of you are thinking of a verse right now about how everything is going to work together for good. There’s a silver lining in every cloud right? Wrong.

God DOESN’T promise that everything will work out in the end.  Unless you are a lover of God.

Romans 8:28 does say that “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

Is that everyone? All people? All pain? Every tragedy and bad situation?

No. Not everyone loves God. For those that do not love God, He makes no promise that there is purpose behind their pain. Without Christ, tragedy really is tragic.

The good news here is that God can redeem our pain no matter what the source and whether you are a Christ-follower or not right now. When bad things happen in our lives, we determine whether it destroys us or makes us stronger. God wants to help us process our pain and can bring good out of the absolute worst situations. If you are going through something right now, take heart. Have courage. Stick it to the Devil who wants to use this to destroy you. This thing does not have to define you. Take one day at a time, one moment at a time, and allow Christ to walk with you in your pain, to the other side, where there is healing and wholeness. He will redeem your pain, and use it for good, perhaps not just for you, but for helping others who will walk a similar journey in their future. 

So in the end, the reason everything happens is not the important thing; how we choose to respond to it, is.

Stay in the journey my friend.


If you like to read more about our house fire read my blogpost:  My House Burned Down Last Week

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