When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Isaiah 43:2-3
William Carey was one of the pioneers of the modern missionary movement as he left his native England and went to India. In due process Carey established himself and began to translate the Bible into the language of the people he worked with. Before the days of linguists and computers, it was a long slow process. Eventually a printer joined him, and, after years of effort, Bibles were printed and the process of distribution was begun. One day, however, Carey returned from a time of ministry elsewhere to find that a disastrous fire had broken out and had completely destroyed the building housing his offices and press, but far more damaging, his manuscripts, grammars and dictionaries had all gone up in flames as well. Nothing short of death could have struck such a blow.
When a colleague tearfully related what had happened, did Carey react violently, slamming his fist on the table in anger? No, it didn't happen like that at all. "Without a word of despair, impatience or anger," writes a biographer, "he knelt and thanked God that he still had the strength to do the work all over again!" Instead of feeling sorry for himself, or lamenting the tragedy of so many wasted hours, Carey went to work, and eventually did a better job than he did the first time.
Carey apparently hadn't spent much time struggling with the question of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" In his excellent book, Why Us? Warren Wiersbe says, "Each of us has a personal ‘statement of faith' and it is revealed by the questions we ask." If Carey struggled with the issue of why God allowed that disaster, there is no record of it.
Many today seem to be infected with an ideology that, in essence, contends that God owes his children something, that because of who we are bad things should not happen to us. Naturally, I would like to believe that because I am a believer in Jesus Christ, I'm going to enjoy health, wealth and prosperity, yet that contention flies in the face of reality. It just doesn't work that way, and neither does Scripture support that contention.
Your statement of faith is revealed by the questions that you ask of God! Long ago God spoke through Isaiah the prophet, saying, "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." Pretty comforting, right? But then God continues, saying, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, for I am the Lord your God..." (Isaiah 43:2,3).
Notice, God didn't say, “I'll deliver you from all rivers and valleys and difficulties,” but,” when you face them, I will be with you.” The wordwhen contains no contingencies. Eventually, everybody faces the valley, and when you do it is probably neither punishment nor Satanic attack, but the result of living in a sinful world.
At one time I sustained a cut on my forehead as I was working in our Guidelines studio which required 34 stitches to close. The same day my wife totaled our car in an accident which could have been fatal. Romans 8 says, “We know God works all things for good to those who love him...” It doesn't say, "We think...or we understand...or we feel.” Simply, “We know!” And with that confidence we must rest.
Resource reading: Isaiah 43:1-13.