This is not a post about ISIS. I know the title would suggest differently, but this post isn’t about ISIS and it’s not about politics.

See, I’ve been reading a lot about ISIS, and often when I read an article online I check out some of the reader comments below. I’ve read so many comments full of hatred and anger. The sad part is that so much of it isn’t even directed toward ISIS, but toward other readers, but hey, that’s for another blog post.

A week or two ago, I read an article about the 21 Christians that were beheaded on the beach and one of the comments, apparently written by a believer, struck a chord:

“I just keep telling myself that this must be part of God’s plan.”

Since then I feel like I’ve read or heard that same thought echoed by a lot of other people. Maybe I’m just noticing it more now that I saw it once. But I’ve been thinking about that. When bad things, terrible things, the absolute worst kinds of unthinkable things happen to good people, is it part of God’s plan?

No. No, it’s not. But track with me here.

God doesn’t cause evil things to happen to His children. Jesus once said,

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

God doesn’t cause evil to happen, even for a purpose. This is so important to know because if we are willing to believe God might make something like this happen to a bunch of men who love Him, wouldn’t it be even easier to believe God might make some bad, even evil things happen in our lives? God will not promise you a good gift and secretly swap it for a bad one. We have a Father who loves us. No loving father would give a terrible, painful, dangerous gift to his child. No loving father would intentionally bring harm to his child. Neither will God.

Now what I don’t understand (I mean, I guess I understand it on a theological “information” level about sin corrupting the world, etc.) is why God allows this sort of thing. I believe He can stop it, and of course I wish He would. Just like I wish no child would ever be aborted or abused again. Just like I wish no one would ever starve to death again. Or die of cancer. I understand the “information” of why there’s pain in the world, but I still don’t like it and I wrestle with it all the time. But here’s the other side of the coin:

God doesn’t cause evil things to happen, but He can and will bring good from absolutely anything.

I tread lightly here, because I don’t want you to misunderstand me…nothing about what is happening to the people (Christian or not) that are being tortured and killed by ISIS is good. But God has shown time and time again that He can and will bring good from evil. Beauty from ashes.

Part of living in a broken world that’s infected with sin and evil is the reality that bad things are going to happen. For people who follow Jesus, sometimes those bad things will be as a result of faith in God (Matthew 5:11-12). Jesus made it clear that living in this world would be tough. But it came with a promise that at the end of it, hope is waiting for those who persevere (John 16:33). Interestingly enough, when Jesus gave His followers that promise, He was talking specifically about the fact that they would be scattered when the heat was turned up because of their friendship with Him. He was letting them know it was about to get really tough, but that through the difficulty they would face they could know their hope and peace was still found in Him.

Romans 8:28 is a verse that I’ve found peace in many times. It’s a simple promise that, although life will be painful and there will be days that are so dark there seems to be no light at all, we can hang onto hope that God can take absolutely any evil and bring good from it. That’s what He did through Jesus on the cross by defeating sin and putting death in it’s grave. If He can take on all the darkness of the entire world, why would I have any reason to doubt He can’t do the same thing in what’s happening in the world today?

I’m heartbroken by many things that are going on in the world. People dying at the hands of terrorists is an incomprehensibly terrible thing. No, I don’t believe that ISIS is part of God’s plan. Death is not part of God’s plan. But there is hope, even still, that God can and will bring something good from it. THAT is God’s plan for grace and redemption. God specializes in that sort of thing.

So what can we do? See, another reason I disagree with saying “This must be part of God’s plan” is that it makes it easy for us to throw up our hands and surrender. We’re conceding defeat by telling ourselves God wants it to happen so it’s out of our power or ability to do anything about it. That’s a horrible defeatist attitude, and I believe Satan loves it.

But we can do something. You knew where this was going, right? Pray. But not just a one-time afterthought of a prayer. If you really want to see good come from evil, really pray. Here’s what I’m praying for:

  1. Pray that God will bring an end to ISIS’ terroristic rule. Just straight up stop it in it’s tracks, right now. God is big enough and powerful enough to do that.
  2. Pray for safety and peace for the people living under threat of harm from ISIS and others like them around the world who seek to rule through terror.
  3. Pray asking God to act on His promise to bring good from evil, hope from despair, peace from terror, beauty from ashes.

In this life, trouble is inevitable, but grace will prevail and healing will come.