And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28 KJV)
Some people crave attention. The explosion of blogs, social networks, video-sharing websites and the never-ending stream of mind-numbing reality TV shows all attest to that fact. It stands to reason since we were created in the image of God and He loves to be the center of attention (justifiably so).
Unfortunately, given the frenetic pace at which we live today, many people neglect or worse yet abandon God altogether in their zeal to conquer the world. It’s not until a tragic event like the recent movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado that people even pause to think about God. And even then their thoughts usually center on themselves rather than Him. They wonder, why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? While there is no easy answer to that question, a common reply is “everything happens for a reason”. Likewise, the Christian response frequently is “…all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 KJV). While both sentiments are true, it’s possible that God allows tragic events like the movie theater massacre and September 11th or catastrophic events like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or the 2011 tsunami in Japan to occur in order to get our attention and to draw us into relationship with Him. That notion may be difficult to believe or accept particularly in view of the “feel good gospel” which is immensely popular today; however, throughout the Old Testament scriptures, God allowed the Children of Israel to experience all sorts of hardships from famine to captivity to defeat in battle in order to get their attention and draw them back into close relationship with Him (Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1; II Kings 18:11-12; II Kings 24:12-16; Numbers 14:41-45; Joshua 7:3-6).
It’s unfortunate but sometimes prosperity can do us more harm than good in the sense that the more prosperous we become the less we depend on God. Incidentally, that’s in direct contrast to God’s will for us. He wants us to be in close fellowship with Him for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as we live. That’s how much He loves and treasures us. And though He doesn’t always receive it, He desires and deserves the same from us in return.
Because God is jealous over us, He’ll only allow us to give Him the cold shoulder for so long (Deut. 4:24). When we stray too far from Him, He produces or permits adverse circumstances to interrupt our lives in an effort to get our attention. In Old Testament times, God often used famine to recapture the imagination of the Israelites (Genesis 47:13-20; 1 Kings 17:1-13; 2 Kings 4:38). Today, He uses the loss of income or resources to accomplish the same purpose. Additionally, in times past, God sometimes used physical infirmities to garner attention from His beloved (Psa. 30:1-10; Psa. 119:71; 2 Cor. 12:7-9). Similarly, today, health issues are among the more potent catalysts that prompt a return to the Lord. Along with the loss of income, resources or health, the loss of freedom and loss of loved ones are also pretty effective tools that God uses to get our attention. In biblical times, the Israelites often found themselves in captivity as punishment for their disobedience (Ezra 2:1-70; 2 Kings 17:5-17). Today, those who abuse their power or run afoul of the law often find themselves in captivity (prison). With nothing but time on their hands, a lot of prisoners turn to the Lord for spiritual revival and personal rehabilitation. While it’s unfortunate that the road to redemption runs through prison for some, it’s an effective tool nonetheless.
Rounding out the list of experiences that God sometimes uses to get our attention is perhaps the most heart-wrenching one of all—the loss of a loved one. A prime example of this situation is recorded in 2 Samuel 12. Because King David sinned against God by committing adultery with Bathsheba and later positioning her husband to be killed in battle, God cursed David’s household. He promised that the sword would not depart from his house (v.10). And from that point forward, all sorts of tragedies befell David’s family starting with the death of the child conceived during his affair with Bathsheba (v. 18). To his credit, David realized the error of his ways and repented for his sins, but his family continued to suffer the consequences of the curse over his household. For example, David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13:1-14). In retaliation, Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, ordered the death of their half-brother, Amnon (2 Sam. 13:20-36). Later, Absalom challenged his father for the throne—a move which ultimately led to his murder at the hands of David’s chief military commander, Joab (2 Sam. 18:1-33). These are but a few of the tragedies that resulted from David’s sin with Bathsheba. While God may not formally pronounce curses over families as He did with King David, it’s still true that the sins of the father are visited on the sons for several generations (Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18). A modern-day example of this phenomenon involves the family of disgraced financier Bernie Madoff who bilked unsuspecting investors out of an estimated $65 billion with the largest Ponzi scheme in US history. On the second anniversary of his arrest, Bernie’s eldest son, Mark, hanged himself. In the after math of his death, Mark’s widow changed the last names of her children and herself and severed ties with Mark’s family. In June 2012, Madoff’s brother, Peter, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the matter. Likewise, because of the cloud of suspicion that hangs over his head, Bernie’s surviving son, Andrew, and his fiancée essentially are social outcasts in New York City. And they only reconnected with Madoff’s wife, Ruth, when she too severed ties with the convicted felon. All told, not only did Madoff destroy the financial lives of many of his victims, but he completely annihilated his own family. That is perhaps the most tragic yet ironic part of this whole sordid affair. Presumably, the people whom Madoff loved most are the people whom he hurt the most. With a sentence of 150 years to really think about what he’s done, one can only hope that he confesses and repents of his sins before he goes to meet his Maker.
To be sure, many of the experiences that God produces or permits in order to get our attention are not pleasant. However, we have the assurance that He will give us grace to endure each one of them (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Whether loss of income or resources, loss of health, loss of freedom (captivity) or loss of a loved one, He will sustain us through each circumstance (Heb. 13:5). Better still, He has the power to make something good result from each experience even the loss of a loved one. If you’re being tried in some way today, be encouraged. God may be using the opportunity to draw you into a closer relationship with Him. Rather than run from the experience, run to it. Embrace it. More importantly, embrace God. Remember, He’s just a prayer away and He wants to hear from you today. So turn off the TV, table your tech toys and give God what He wants most. Shower Him with your undying love. Bless Him with heartfelt adoration and praise. And honor Him with the gift of your undivided attention.