God Sometimes Withdraws Protection

Hand of protectionFrequently, due to sin, rebellion, and the other factors, God simply withdraws His protective hand and allows sin, Satan, and chaos to have their way.

Everything we have seen in the Chaos Theory leads up to this final point. God has incarnated Himself into the world in such a way that He gives away aspects of true freedom and power to His creatures to do with it what they will. But when we misuse this freedom and power, God does not (indeed cannot) simply stop the ways we abuse our freedom and power, for then it would no longer be genuine freedom or power.

As a result of our rebellious decisions and misuse of power, nature flies out of control and creates chaos all around us. Satan, who is at war with God and His creation, seeks to destroy anything that comes from God or aligns itself with God. And wherever sin is found, it eats away at everything it touches. Through His incarnation and by His infinite wisdom and foreknowledge, God slows the death and decay down, and rescues those who are perishing in sin and destruction, but frequently, due the nature of sin, the consequences of abused freedom, and the misuse of power, God cannot stop the natural results of rebellion. When this happens, nature falls into chaos, the destroyer destroys, and sin brings death.

When humans persist in sin despite God’s frequent attempts to call them toward obedience and to warn them of what will happen if they continue down the path they are on, there comes a point where sometimes, God simply withdraws His hand of protection and allows people to suffer the consequences for their sin, for chaos to reign, and for Satan to bring death and destruction. I have put this principle last because I think that this element of the Chaos Theory is the last resort for God.

When bad things happen to us in life, we should not be too quick to believe that God has withdrawn His hand of protection, but instead, should go first consider some of the other elements of the Chaos Theory as possible explanations for what has happened to us. So also with some of the terrible events in Scripture. We must not be too quick to say that God has withdrawn His protection from a certain person or place so that sin, death, and the devil can have their way.

Gods hand of protectionNevertheless, there are times when God withdraws from some people so that they can suffer the consequences for their sin and rebellion against Him. Usually when this happens in Scripture, the text makes it fairly clear that this is what is going on, and often, this withdrawal is only after numerous and varied attempts by God to get the people to repent of their ways and return to Him and to warn them of what will happen if they continue to rebel.

There are several examples of this in Scripture, some of which will be looked at in the next chapter, but for now, we might see evidence of this sort of withdrawal of God’s protective hand in the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:37. In this text, Jesus says that God has sent numerous prophets to Jerusalem to call them back to obedience, but rather than listen, they continue to stone the prophets that are sent. Jesus says that God has wanted to gather them under His wing for protection, but they were not willing!

As a result, death and destruction will come upon Jerusalem. We must not read into this passage the idea that God is sending the death and destruction. No, the text is clear that God is trying to deliver and protect His people from the destruction, but they would not listen to His warnings and were not willing to come to Him. And so, death would come, not from God, but from the armies that would sweep in and leave not one stone standing upon another.

God of the Old Testament and JesusThis post is part of my ongoing series on how to understand the violence of God in the Old Testament. Specifically, I am trying to answer this question:

How can a God who says "Love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44) be the same God who instructs His people in the Old Testament to kill their enemies?

To see what I am arguing so far, click here.

Also, when I am done with this series of posts, I will be publishing them as a book. If you want a free digital copy of this book when it comes out, make sure you have subscribed to my email newsletter.




Comments

  1. says

    As someone who has suffered deeply at the hands of the church thanks to their belief that suffering in our family was due to some secret sin of mine, I must speak up and voice my belief that people should still refrain from judging the suffering individual. The passage that comes to mind first is Matthew 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The other verse that comes to mind is this one, which directly related to my experience and helped me understand in the wake of shunning that the depth of my suffering was not from God, or from His removal of His protection – but from the other sinners who saw fit to “teach me a lesson”:

    Forgiveness for the Offender
    5 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient.7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 5)

    Please, please be cautious about applying this truth to others. I believe it is a truth most useful internally, a litmus test for our souls when we are suffering. If there is no conviction from the Holy Spirit, extend yourself some grace and lean hard into the comforting arms of the Savior, who bears our burdens whether they are sinful or righteous.

    • mark says

      Hear, hear… well said Genevieve.
      We truly have a Great Physician and Comforter, eh?
      Peace to you,
      M.

    • Edwin Pastor FedEx Aldrich says

      Genevive,

      I actually counseled a family a few months ago that had the same experience with a church. The church leadership refused to help the family when the mother and father were diagnosed with cancer only’months apart. They were concerned that if they helped, they would be getting in the way of God’s discipline.

      This thinking did so much harm to both the parents and the children, and now a few years later they are still recovering. I have often said that Christian ministers should be required to take a form of the hypocratic oath. If they cannot help a hurting person, then at least promise that you won’t cause harm and make things worse.

      Sorry about your experience, I spend so much time trying to help people recover from church-inflicted wounds. Sometimes I really do have to say, “God, I love you, but I am having a tough time loving your folowers.” Peace to you sister.

      FedEx

    • says

      Genevieve,
      Thank you for the kind and insightful words. I am very sorry that you were treated this way. It is not Christian to treat others this way, and is not at all the way God feels about you.

      I don’t think God does this often or frequently, and maybe not even with individuals, and even if He did, I don’t think there is any way we can possibly know that this is what is going on, and therefore, we should never claim to know that it is.

      As you say, saying such things can be very damaging.

  2. Sam says

    Why should we be surprised when the natural consequences of what we or even others have done visit themselves upon us? Walk through poison ivy and we may get poison ivy. Poison the air, earth and water and someday we’ll pay the price. Use derogatory terms and references for people of other races and gender attractions and that too may some day come knocking at our door.

    On the other hand, observing the troubles others may be having and trying to connect those troubles to someone’s sin, imagined or real, is indeed the exercise of of a foolish person who would have us believe that God tells them what he is up to. Ah yes, the very same God who never told Job why he does what he does used a verse or two from the Bible to tell them why someone’s dear wife died, why a hurricane struck New York City, and why another lost their job and now is living under a bridge.

    • says

      So much truth and wisdom here, Sam!

      In light of the recent Supreme Court decision, I cringe in advance at what some pastors and radio preachers will say as soon as the next “natural disaster” hits America…. Guess who is going to get the blame?

  3. says

    Yes, I did. I believe that God’s protection is always there but we have to choose it … It’s our responsibility to move ourselves into that space. If we don’t, protection is not forced upon us anymore than it is withdrawn. Conditional love is a human behavioral trait, not a Divine one.

  4. Vince Latorre says

    I think the key word is that God “allows”. He allows people to reap what they sow. So many times things people call “acts of God” are really “acts of sin.”

    • says

      Yes, the key word is “allows” though in recently (within the past week), I have begun to rethink this word too. It implies that He could have stopped the action, but didn’t. Instead, He “allowed” it. That is not what I meant by the term, but that is the way some people are understanding my use of it, and so I am trying to think of a different word to use, or a different way of explaining what I mean.

      • Vince Latorre says

        The way I look at the “allow” idea is that God lets things run their course, and allows people to experience their choices and more importantly, the consequences of those choices, rather than putting a stop to either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>