There are a myriad of amazing promises that God makes throughout the 66 books that make up the Bible. Putting aside the fact that the God Who spoke the universe into existence would make any promises at all to us, it is estimated (by some) that there are over 3,000 specific promises God makes throughout the Bible. Yet despite all of that, in fact maybe because of all of that, God continues to get blamed a lot concerning promises.
He is blamed for promises He makes and keeps. He is blamed for promises that He doesn’t make, yet keeps. And He is blamed for promises He did not make and does not keep. And it’s the last one we are most interested in here. Because for some strange reason, God is often held to promises He did not make and therefore does not keep. This leads to some of the most curious complaints leveled against Him from the most curious of perspectives. This also leads to some of the most damaging misunderstandings about God that lead to some of the most damaging conclusions.
For example, God is often blamed for “innocent” or “unfair” deaths as we define them. And there is a reason why this happens. When horrific things happen to people, we want several things. We want answers, we want justice, and we want someone to blame. Therefore, when a natural disaster kills people: God is to blame. When a lone gunman kills people: God is to blame. When an accident kills people: God is to blame. And when disease kills people: God is to blame.
But I am confused about the logic behind this. Blaming God for these deaths is to acknowledge He has supreme power over life and death. All life and all death. The Bible confirms this. Maybe we just need some perspective. There are 7 billion people who live on this planet. Do you know how many people die every year planet-wide? 55 million. See where I’m going with this?
Let’s go ahead and blame God for every single death that occurs in the world every day. Just to make this easier. Though there are some deaths we are more “comfortable” with than others. Not too many people are going to sit at the bedside of a 100 year old person who died peacefully in their sleep and ask: Why did this happen? It happened because the person was 100 years old and already had beaten the life expectancy by 20 years. See my point?
We don’t view certain deaths as tragic or see them as unfair. And there are a lot of those in the 55 million deaths each year. But as I said, for the sake of clarity, let’s blame God for every single one of those 55 million deaths. 55 million is less than one percent of 7 billion. Again…see where I’m going with this? Let me make it clearer. Every year, God allows more than 99% of the earth’s population to live. More than 99%! While He allows (or even causes) less than 1% to die each year. If, as we have already conceded, that God is the ultimate power behind who lives and who dies, then why doesn’t He get the proportional thanks for allowing more than 99% of people to live as He seems to get blame for allowing less than 1% to die? I’m not sure I understand how He can be blamed for death and ignored for life. But maybe it’s because people don’t seem to think of it in this way.
This is somewhat understandable as we try to make sense out of things like this that often defy understanding. At some point, virtually everyone will wonder what God’s role in this is. But this idea that God is to be blamed for these unfair or innocent deaths is built upon a theologically incorrect presupposition: That God promises he will stop all of these types of things from happening. To be clear, He never made that promise. It is not a part of the 3,000 promises He makes in His Word. In fact, He promises the exact opposite. Jesus Himself stated: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” ().
However, though God never proclaims to rescue us from every horrific thing that we might encounter while we sojourn on this planet, He does make an extraordinary promise that He will not leave us alone…ever. Here is an example of what that looks like.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples: “Let us cross over to the other side” (). He is referring to getting into a boat and crossing the Sea of Galilee. On the journey a vicious storm arose and began swamping the boat. The Disciples feared for their lives, but found Jesus sleeping in the rear of the boat. They proclaim: “Do You not care that we are perishing” (b)? Notice the verbiage. They did not say they could perish or were about to perish, but that they were actively perishing.
You probably know the rest of the story. Uttering the now famous phrase, “peace, be still” () Jesus immediately and miraculously calmed the storm and saved His Disciples. But He also made another statement, this one more curious and more appropriate for our conversation. Jesus stated: “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith” ()?
Why is this curious? Doesn’t it seem somewhat rational to be afraid of a killer storm? Sure. But remember, this is about promises. And Jesus had already promised them that they would, “cross over to the other side”. He never promised there would be no storms. He never promised there would be no emergencies or that the ride would be a smooth one. He simply promised He would get them to the other side.
That’s the promise He makes to us. God does not promise that He will always rescue us. He does not promise we will not face danger. He does not promise we will not experience death…unfair or otherwise. He does not promise we will be safe in this world.
He simply promises to us, those who know Him as Lord and Savior, that He will never leave us nor forsake us. And that He will get us to the other side. How cool is that? On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at Growth Project…keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.