Bad things happen to good people, and most of the time we can't figure out why.
Once we understand that as believers, we have been saved from our sins through the death of Jesus Christ, we can rule out the possibility that God is punishing us. We are his redeemed children now and no longer subject to his punishment.
However, there's another possibility we rarely consider. Maybe God is sending us a wake-up call.
"Why did God allow this?"
When personal tragedy hits, we can be sure a good God doesn't cause it, but he does allow it to happen. We wonder, "Why did God allow this?"
That's exactly the question God wants us to ask.
We can stray through complacency, through busyness, or simply because we believe we're already "good enough." After all, we're saved. We know we can't get to heaven by doing good works, so nothing more is required of us, we reason.
As a human rationalization, that seems to make sense, but it doesn't satisfy God. God has higher standards for us as Christians. He wants us to be like Jesus.
"But I wasn't sinning ..."When something bad happens, our gut reaction is to protest the unfairness of it. We can't think of anything we did to deserve it, and doesn't the Bible say God protects believers?
Certainly our salvation is secure, but we see from Bible figures like Job and Paul that our health or finances may not be, and we learn from Stephen and the other martyrs that our life may not be safe either.
We need to dig deeper. Were we engaging in a reckless, unhealthy lifestyle, even if what we were doing wasn't technically sinful? Were we being unwise stewards with our money or talents? Have we been excusing wrong behavior because everybody else is doing it?
Had we let Jesus Christ become an afterthought, something we attended to on Sunday morning but pushed down on our priority list the rest of the week, behind our job, our recreation or even our family?
These are hard questions to ask because we thought we were doing fine. We thought we were obeying God to the best of our ability. Wouldn't a simple tap on the shoulder have been sufficient, instead of the pain we're going through?
Except we tend to shrug off taps on the shoulder. It's likely we received several and ignored them. Most of the time it takes something truly miserable to get our attention and wake us up.
"I'm awake! I'm awake!"
Nothing makes us ask questions like suffering. When we're finally humble enough for honest introspection, the answers come.
To get those answers, we pray. We read the Bible. We meditate on our wake-up call. We have long, thoughtful conversations with our godly friends. God rewards our sincerity by giving us wisdom and understanding.
Gradually we discover how we need to clean up our act. We realize where we were deficient or even dangerous and are shocked we didn't see it before. As bad as our wake-up call was, it still rescued us in time. With relief and thanksgiving, we sense that things could have turned out much worse if God had not allowed this event to bring us to a complete halt.
Then we ask God to help us put our life back together and learn the lesson he intended from the experience. Confessing our anger and hurt, we resolve to be more vigilant from now on so no more wake-up calls are needed.
Seeing Your Wake-Up Call AccuratelyThe Christian life isn't always pleasant, and anyone who has been at it for several decades can tell you that we learn the most about God and ourselves during our valley experiences, not on the mountaintops.
That's why it's important to recognize your wake-up call as a learning experience and not as punishment. That becomes clear when you remember that God is motivated by love and has tremendous concern for you.
Correction is needed when you get off course. A wake-up call forces you to rethink your priorities. It reminds you what really matters in life.
God loves you so much he takes a constant, personal interest in your life. He wants to keep you close to him, so close that you talk with him and depend on him all through your day, every day. And isn't that the kind of heavenly father you long for?
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.