Q: Dear Pastor,
I’m working so hard to be good, but bad things keep happening to me. Why doesn’t God help?
A: My friend, I sympathize with your grieving, frustrated heart. There isn’t a single Christian who hasn’t felt exactly what you’re feeling - some of us, many times over. I’m sorry for your troubles.
Unfortunately, there are teachings floating around the church which seem to paint a picture that we must earn our way to heaven. Some well-meaning pastors and Christian leaders who attempt to teach the idea that we cannot sit in parked cars, faith-wise, but must put hands and feet on our Christian journey, unknowingly place heavy yokes of striving upon us. Some hearers of these teachings immediately think, “It’s up to me to work my way to heaven. I’ve got to get God’s attention so I’ll be blessed... I better get moving!” Then we begin our miserable, up-hill battle toward pleasing God. In the end, all that striving adds up to a type of manipulation with no results. We strive through joyless lives of Christian works, expectations and obligations to get God to do something for us - and most of the time, nothing changes. The truth? God is pleased with us whether we do anything for him or not. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, NASB). God can’t be manipulated - we already have his blessing!
James 2:26 says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” The Apostle Paul talks a lot about this also, but we often misunderstand what it means. These Gospel writers were addressing a problem in their churches... the same problem we have today: people get saved in Christ, they come to church and they sit. They believe they’ve done what they’re supposed to do to get to heaven (trust in Jesus); they’ve received their fire insurance to keep them out of hell, and now they’re done. Not so. Salvation is only the beginning of our journey with God. We then engage our minds and hearts in a renewal process that creates a working relationship with the Almighty. As a result of this life-long transformation, we desire to express our love of God in ways we call “being good.” We love our neighbor, clean up our hurts, habits and hang-ups, and become generous givers of money, goods and services. This is basic Christianity in a nutshell. We don’t do this in order to say, “God, look at me! Aren’t I a good Christian? How ‘bout a healing now, Lord, I’ve earned it.” God owes us nothing. We do what we do as believers in Christ because Jesus is worthy of these things and we love him. We want the world to see Jesus and there’s no better way to make him real than to behave, speak and live like a Christian as the Bible defines it.
But why do bad things continue to happen to us? Doesn’t God care?
Of course he cares. “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6, 7). The storms of life lay siege to every person who lives on planet earth - no one escapes what the darkness around us dishes up. Some of us have physical ailments brought about by generational sins, lifestyles and circumstances (negative thinking, by the way, [what we believe and then speak] is scientifically proven to make us sick.) Some of us struggle financially; poverty can be as debilitating as a physical infirmity. Others of us wrestle spiritually and emotionally through the attacks of the devil.
We fight the good fight of faith in the savior; we wield our mighty tools of battle against our storms: clinging to our Bibles as our compass; sticking with the herd of Christ’s sheep by faithfully attending church; praying; walking with the Holy Spirit; trusting God; believing he is good... and yet, we still suffer. Of course we do. Jesus, the sinless Lamb suffered, too. How could we expect less? Being human comes with times of suffering.
Don’t despair in your troubles because you’re in good company. Planet earth is not called “heaven” for a reason. But God is working, especially when we don’t see it. Let’s rest in his goodness while we wait.
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information on Pastor Adrienne, or to purchase her book, “Ask Pastor Adrienne: 100 Best-loved Columns,” please visit www.adriennewgreene.com.
Ask Pastor Adrienne: Why doesn’t God reward my good behavior?
Q: Dear Pastor,