When the Bible and Life Don’t Match
The more you read the Bible the more you know about God and the more you realize there is much, much more to know about God. That is a mouthful but it is very true. And when you try to follow God and read His word, there are times when what the Bible says doesn’t appear to match with how life really is. In the book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah is mourning the punishment of his people by God. He is crying out to God regarding his own suffering and the suffering of his people. God clearly judged His people because of their sin and yet God also loved these people. The contrast between the mercy of God and the judgment of God is sometimes confusing to me and perhaps to you. In Lamentations 3:31-33 Jeremiah writes, “For the Lord will not cast off forever. 32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. 33 For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” Verses 31-32 are easy to understand…the Lord will not cast off forever, and though He causes grief He will also show compassion. None of us deserves any compassion…but God graciously gives it to us. But it is verse 33 that troubles me. “For God does not afflict willingly” Sure He does, doesn’t He? I mean, God wasn’t judging the people of Israel because someone or something was forcing Him to do it! He had promised to judge them because of their sin and judging them He was…and it sure seems to be willingly. What about in other circumstances where people are afflicted and where God judges people because of sin…that all seems “willingly” to me…at least if I understand the sovereignty of God correctly. God certainly seems to “grieve the children of men” and yet Jeremiah says the opposite…the Bible and life don’t match!
When I run into these circumstances, I have chosen to give God the benefit of the doubt. I have chosen to believe that He is God and I am not. I will fall in line with the One who is omniscient, rather than myself whose knowledge is quite limited (just ask my wife!). In this case the word “willingly” literally means “from his heart”. Oh, now that makes more sense to me. It is not in the nature of God to afflict people. That is not what He desires to do. It is not “from His heart”. It does happen and judgment comes but when it does, it is not intended to harm us in the long run. Even Israel’s captivity which Jeremiah writes about was not permanent. God promised to bring them back in 70 years and their judgment was meant to instruct them, not destruct them.
Whenever, in your mind, the Bible and life don’t match, lean into the Bible and the nature and character of God. It might be that you’re just not seeing things very clearly or that you are not looking at things with the proper perspective. We serve a God who loves and cares; yet a God who knows that we need discipline and chastening from time to time, even though we don’t want that. When the Bible and life don’t appear to match, hang on to what the Bible says until life comes around to match what God has said…it always will!