What You Need to Know about God's Higher Ways
- Lucas Miles
- 2016 8 Mar
We’ve all thought it. And some of us, who have tasted life’s heartache, are at times plagued by it. “If God is good, then why does he allow bad things to happen?”
Summed up by philosophers and theologians as “the problem of evil”, this question has haunted humanity for eons. Does the pain of this world serve a higher purpose? Is God able to help, but refuses?
Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, pondered this same question and said regarding God, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” Like Epicurus, we, too, have reasoned that God is either “good” or “able”, and have falsely concluded that he simply cannot be both.
But which do we choose? I think most of us want to believe that God is both good and able, but as hard as we try, we simply cannot find a way harmonize God’s goodness with the evil that exists in this world.
In an effort to explain away the dilemma caused by these conflicting viewpoints, many tout the concept of “divine sovereignty”, namely, that God is in control, responsible, and at the helm of all of life’s struggles, tests, and tragedies. If something negative happens, then God willed it. Otherwise, why would he not stop senseless tragedy?
In essence, we’ve become more comfortable sacrificing God’s goodness than altering his power. That is, we would rather believe in a God who is all-powerful than a God who is all-good, (i.e. “God is able stop the pain, but he chooses not to.”) Hence, “His ways are higher than our ways!” has become the mantra of anyone who clings to this message of divine sovereignty.
Although for many, this perspective has become a normal way of viewing God, it sadly leaves people to assume that everything that happens in their world was either approved by or caused by the Father; including car accidents, cancer, and natural disasters, ad infinitum. But for those going through such experiences, and facing untold heartache, this is not only a tough message to swallow, but sends a mixed message about God’s love and grace. Thankfully, the scriptures hold the truth about God, which sacrifices neither his goodness nor his power.
The concept of God’s mysterious and “higher ways” comes out of Isaiah 55. You’ll note, however, that nowhere in the context of this passage are God’s “higher ways” described as tragedy or hardship. In fact, let’s consider the higher ways and higher thoughts of God listed here:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Seek the Lordwhile he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Through the prophet Isaiah, God is imploring people to come and be refreshed, regardless of their ability to pay for it. God further promises to give water, food, wine, and the richest of fare. He speaks of his covenant with humankind and his faithful love that extends to the people because of his promises to his servant David. The prophet continues by informing us that even wicked and evil people can turn to the Lord and find mercy and be pardoned for their sins (v.7)! Then, after considering all of God’s good and merciful dealings with humanity, we read in verses 8 and 9: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
Contrary to popular theology, Isaiah shows us a God who gives freely when we would charge, who forgives sinners, when we would demand justice, and who loves abundantly, even when we fall short. When we read this passage in context, we see that there’s no mention of tragedy. No talk of hardships. No discussion of car accidents, heart attacks, or cancer. Neither are God’s “higher ways” found in evil he allows or in the negative circumstances he creates.
Rather, God’s mysterious “ways” are represented by the greatness of his love, which is higher than our love; and his mercy, which is higher than our form of mercy. Our love is limited, but God’s love has no bounds and his goodness fills the heavens. In all these aspects, God’s ways are higher than our ways.
When facing the pain of this world, it’s important to discern that God is not the cause of our turmoil. He certainly has allowed life and a world with infinite choices and possibilities – choices which are capable of producing both pleasure and pain, but it’s crucial we free God from any accusation regarding the individual problems we face.
In light of Isaiah’s words, we should never have to question whether God is the source of our suffering. God’s higher ways are found in the greatness of his love and the fullness of his mercy, both of which culminated on the cross. Since Jesus took upon himself our suffering, spiritually, emotionally and physically, we can enjoy life the way it was meant to be – free of pain and filled with perfect peace.
Lucas Miles is a writer, speaker, life coach, film producer, and pastor. His first book, Good God, is now in stores nationwide. He pours energy and passion into helping others understand how God's grace works on a practical level in all areas of life. Lucas is the senior pastor of Oasis Granger, a church community he and his wife, Krissy, planted in 2004. He is also president of the Oasis Network for Churches, a multifaceted church-planting organization, which services churches in more than ten countries. Lucas and Krissy have been married since 2001 and they reside in Granger, Indiana, with their doberman named Kenya.
Publication date: March 8, 2016