Inquiring minds want to know. Who causes the inevitable storms in our lives that upset our well being and cause us harm? Adversities, accidents, illnesses, reverses, any negative events or circumstances—they all come with the package of our mortal life. Are all of them the fault of our infernal enemy? Or are they “acts of God” as the world calls them, especially if they are related to nature gone wild? Are they punishments from God because He is angry with us? Who is to blame?
I make spiritual progress if I inquire of God why something is happening to me, but not as a whining, rebellious complaint. I don't get anywhere if I become stuck in the asking process. It may be an entirely “unexplained mystery” to me but I must settle a basic premise in my heart. As a Christian, this is what I believe after experiencing a long lifetime of intermittent stormy weather:
God is always behind the curtain, even when Satan seems to be in center stage. Saint Paul, as recorded in 2 Corinthians chapter twelve, was given “a thorn in the flesh” from Satan, but he prayed, besought, entreated the Lord three times to remove it.” Being all-wise and all-good, God did not answer his prayer but changed Paul's attitude toward it and gave him strength and joy not only to endure it but to glory in it. I walk in present earth-knowledge, but God controls a bigger and better plan.
Adversities often come in clusters like the thorns on a rose bush. Saint Paul listed some of the thorny things he endured: weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions, difficulties. In another passage he said he was “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We can hardly compare our hardships and misfortunes with what Paul went through.
In the eleventh chapter of the same letter he itemizes some of his more horrendous “external things”: labors, multiple imprisonments, frequent beatings more times than he could count, being in danger of death, five times thirty-nine lashes, three times beaten with rods, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, spending a day and night in deep water, frequent journeys, dangers from rivers, from robbers, from his countrymen, from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, in the wilderness, on the sea, from false brethren. He spent many sleepless nights, often suffering hunger and thirst, subject to cold and exposure. To all of those he added his daily spiritual pressure of concern for all the churches.
Making it personal to us in chapter six, Paul instructs Christians to commend themselves as servants of God “in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger....” all with genuine love in the Holy Spirit. We are told to persevere “in glory and dishonor, by evil report and good report,” even when people regard us as deceivers while we know we are true. We may feel as if we are forgotten or unknown, but God knows what is happening to us—and why.
God isn't obligated to explain to me what He allows to happen in my life. Adversities and the negatives of life can come from a variety of sources, one related to another. Or even none of those listed below.
Random accidents (in our view)
Deliberate actions of spiritually fallen, unregenerate, evil people
My freewill which leads me to mistakes or deliberate wrongdoing
The freewill of others who make their own choices
Contact with contagious diseases
Living on a flawed earth with natural disasters
Subjected to a polluted environment
Living in a mortal, deteriorating, temporary human body
Heredity and DNA factors
Reverses in the economy and acts of government
Diminishing health due to the natural aging process
My poor health habits or neglect of body maintenance
Spiritual warfare: Satan’s direct attacks or harassment.
The sovereign, life plan God works in me by what He permits.
God's pruning of my self-life so I will bear more spiritual fruit
Answers to my own prayers for spiritual growth
“When I don’t understand, when I can’t trace His hand, I can still trust His heart.”