Introducing the Why

Jimmy Phillips

writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is director of marketing and communications for San Joaquin Community Hospital.

​How Does God Choose?

Recently a video of musician Chris Picco singing and playing the guitar to his dying son went viral. To date, the video has been watched nearly 16 million times. For those of you who don’t know the backstory, Picco’s wife, Ashley, passed away during her sleep at 24 weeks pregnant. The infant, Lennon, was delivered soon thereafter and hung on to life for a short time before going to sleep in the arms of Jesus.

The arms of Jesus. Where does God fit into tragedies like this? I’m sure the vast majority of you have at some point asked yourself how a God of love can allow sin and suffering to exist. As I’ve matured in my own Christian walk, I’ve been able to discover biblical answers that give me faith and strength, even when bad things happen to good people.

One of the best is found in Matthew 13 as Jesus tells the parable of the sower. After sowing good seed, the servants of the landowner were surprised to find tares growing alongside the wheat. The sower knew his seed was good, and he wasted little time doling out responsibility for the presence of weeds, saying, “An enemy did this” (verse 28).

God created a perfect world, a perfect universe. He made Lucifer, a being with no created equal throughout the galaxies. Through his own choices Lucifer became Satan. God created Lucifer; He did not create Satan. Likewise, the pain and suffering we face are not “acts of God,” as so often is proclaimed when disaster strikes. Rather than blame God, we know: “An enemy did this!”

For mature Christians the suffering question is relatively easy to answer—on paper, anyway. Obviously the moments themselves can test our resolve, faith, and even our belief in God. But I always try to remember that none of this was part of God’s plan.

Unfortunately, there’s an even harder question to cope with, one that may not have any good answers this side of heaven. Why does God choose to miraculously intervene in some circumstances, while seemingly standing on the sideline in others?

Nearly 20 years ago a baby girl named Samantha was born at 24 weeks at Norwalk Hospital in Connecticut. Although she weighed just one and a half pounds, Samantha left the NICU after just 100 days, growing into a beautiful little girl who continues to thrive. You can read more about Samantha’s story—and many more like it—with a simple Google search.

In contrast, you can also read about many other premature babies who did not make it, like Lennon Picco.

And so we circle back to the original question: Why these and not those? How does God decide? Does He even decide, or does He simply allow the laws of nature to run their course? If that’s true, isn’t that a decision in and of itself?

Rather than try to answer these unanswerable questions, I focus on remembering who God is.

I trace the roots of this back to a sermon I heard during academy while attending a basketball tournament at Sunnydale Academy. The speaker, whose name I’ve forgotten, reemphasized God’s sovereignty through a series of questions.

If you lose your job tomorrow, is God still on His throne?

If your best friend gets diagnosed with cancer, is God still on His throne?

If your own life is cut inexplicably short, is God still on His throne?

No matter what we face in life, and whether we can make sense of it or not, God still sits on His throne in heaven. While we may not always get the answers we’re looking for, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is just; that He is love; that God is sovereign whether our world is right side up or upside down.

I’m so sorry for Chris Picco’s loss. I can’t wait to hear him sing to his son again where there will no longer be any death, where there will be no mourning, crying, or pain.

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