I recently came across a few quotes from a prominent Christian leader named Andrew Wommack. His view, which has become more and more popular, revolves around the notion that God does not allow hardship and trial especially for our spiritual growth. His argument starts in his article Living in the Balance of Grace and Faith where he says that “Many Christians believe that God moves sovereignly as He wills, when He wills. That is because religion teaches that God controls everything and that nothing can happen without His permission. However, it’s not true—everything isn’t up to God.” This stance, in my humble opinion, is as dangerous as they come. To denounce the power and sovereignty of God is to take aim at the very pillars of Christianity. Is God’s sovereignty ever able to be fully understood? No, but just because we cannot understand His sovereignty does not mean that it is incomplete or impotent. So then, what do the scriptures say? Psalm 115:3 says that “Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases”. In Job 42:2 Job says “I know that you can do all things, no purpose of yours can be thwarted”. In the New Testament Paul says it best in Romans 9:18-21,
Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
These scriptures tell the same story. The God of the Bible is all powerful and is completely just in doing what He will. Satan has no power that has not been allocated to him under the umbrella of the sovereignty of God. Some of Satan’s power comes from disobedience from God’s children (which was allowed by God when he gave us our own will). Some comes from the nature of the fallen world we live in. For example, the idea of death shows how God allows suffering, pain, and hardship. Death can cause uncontrollable grief and temptation to be depressed, but it was God who made man mortal! Satan did not come in and just start killing off God’s creatures. God did, in response to our disobedience. So how can we say that God does not use pain and hardship as an instrument for His purposes? The very cross that Jesus hung on and the wounds that marred his body were also the pinnacle of His glory, the saving act for all who believe. To suggest that Satan has power that exceeds or matches the power of God is a form of dualism at best. Does that mean that God and the devil conspire against us humans? No, but it does mean that God chose this peculiar world of black, white, and gray to put us in. We do not understand the reason why and I think it is obvious that we were not intended to.
Wommack further states in his article, “I think the idea that God either causes or allows evil so that we will somehow grow spiritually is the worst heresy in the body of Christ. It renders people passive and takes away their hope.” First, I am assuming he includes hardship, trial, and suffering in with his definition of evil. If so, I would argue the opposite. Pain and suffering are going on in the world regardless of who is allowing or causing it right? Wommack is saying that God is not able to fully overcome the suffering, pain, and evil in the world because he is not completely in control of when, where, and how it’s done. How is this supposed to be more hopeful? Picture us all as wayward children and because of our choices we are punished. Who would you rather have standing there with belt in hand? Satan or God? Wommack suggests that it is Satan. I don’t see how this brings more hope.
Again, I would like to turn our gaze to scripture on this issue. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul very plainly describes that it is God who has control over these things, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” If God simply wanted us exempt from temptation, hardship, and suffering why would he emphasize for us to endure it? The answer is found in Romans 5:3-4, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” and in James 1:3-4 where it says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Wommack’s statement that God does not use suffering and hardship as a tool of maturation is debunked by the first chapter in James. I am not trying to advocate Christian Masochists that just want pain, I am trying to convey that pain, loss, hardship, and toil have a spiritual value and it is very effective when your eyes are on God. Does it mean that we should want pain? No. Does it mean that all pain is for our spiritual maturation? No, it simply means that in this journey with God we call life there are many hurdles and for us to create a spiritual wake that echoes for generations we must overcome these hurdles not simply leave them for the next runner. It reminds me of a quote by C.S. Lewis in his book The Problem of Pain where he describes best the carnal wishing’s of many contemporary Christians,
We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven- a senile benevolence who, as they say, liked to see young people enjoying themselves’, and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. . . . I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don’t, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction. (pp.31-32).
Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain. Great Britain: HarperOne, 2001.