God’s Fingerprints or Satan’s?

Dear Jack,

There’s a lot of bad in this world.  Cancer.  War.  Divorce.  Hatred.  Hurricanes.  As a Christian, I’ve oscillated back and forth between how much I believe God is behind each bad event.  Each of us suffers in our own way.  Empty wombs.  Lost loved ones.  Destroyed houses.  This past Sunday at church, Keith provoked some thoughts into my understanding of the balance between God’s sovereignty and Satan’s realm.  I’ve been dwelling on four primary verses:

  • 1 Chronicles 21.1.  “Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel…”  God later punishes David and the nation for this.  Juxtapose this with
  • 2 Samuel 24.1.  “Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them …” and later punished them as well.
  • 2 Corinthians 21.7.  ” … a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated.”
  • Job 1.8 “And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, there is none like him on the earth.”

Take note, Jack, that in the 1 Chron and 2 Sam passages, the same story of David’s sinful census is told, but with a major discrepancy.  In one, the author says God incited David to do the census.  In another, the author says Satan did the inciting.  As a believer of inerrant text, I’m led to believe that both God and Satan incited David.  Similar to how God asked Satan “Have you considered my servant Job …” in Job.

With Paul in Corinthians, it sounds like (technically called a theological assumption, I believe) that God is the one giving Paul the thorn, since Satan probably would not want to keep Paul from “being too elated [or proud].”  Romans 8.28 says that God causes all things to work together for good, but does it also then assume that God was the one who caused the bad happening itself?  My former understanding was, I think, that God “corrected the wrongs” of the world.  Now I’m wondering if He’s not downright behind those wrongs.

If you think about it, we grow as Christians and as individuals and churches most when things are going wrong.  In fact, I’d challenge anyone to think of a time when a people group consistently grew more mature in periods of harmony/peace compared to trials/war.  It’s my understanding that God’s fingerprints are on these things – along with Satan’s.  Tough theology?  You bet, and I don’t take that lightly.  I’ve lost two close friends to separate accidents, and I believe God was behind both of them.  I’ve had more friends that I choose to count lose unborn babies to miscarriages, and I believe God was behind these as well.  I imagine people asking how I could believe in a God that allows (let alone cause) such things to happen in this world, and I would counter in asking how could you believe in a god who is powerless to prevent them?  Till next time, Jack.

Sincerely,
J.

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