The Potter and the Clay
I love the potter and the clay metaphor used by several of the Old Testament prophets. You can find it in Isaiah 64: 8; Jeremiah 18: 1-6; and Isaiah 45: 9, where we read, "Shall the clay say to him that fashions it, 'What are you making?'" Imagine a clay vessel, being formed on the wheel, asking the potter what he's doing, as though the vessel should be consulted on how it is made.
In the same way, a believer should not ask God what he's doing in his or her life. Just like part of the pottery process is firing the object in the kiln (sometimes more than once), so is being "tried in the fire" a part of the process of God's work in us. Peter speaks of this in 1 Peter 4: 12, saying "Beloved, don't think it strange regarding the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you." He also says that these many trials are "much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire," that they would result in "praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ"—1 Peter 1: 7.
In other words, when we feel "the heat" of various kinds of bad things, we are actually feeling the work of God in our lives, like the potter working with the clay and firing it whenever it is necessary to perfect the vessel. Job nails it when he says, regarding the work of God in his life, "When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold"—Job 23: 10. Job had lost everything—children, property, and health; yet he knew that God, who is righteous and just, would make his life beautiful. And when Job had learned his lesson, that his own goodness could not stand up before God and that he was saved by the grace of God through faith, God restored to him double what he had before.
Peter and Paul make it clear that even if we don't see material blessings, that the eternal blessings make all trials worth it. Peter says, "But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, will make you perfect, will establish, strengthen, and settle you"—1 Peter 5: 10. Paul tells us that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us"—Romans 8: 18, and that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"—2 Corinthians 4: 17.
But there is a key to seeing the bad things as working together for good. We must view them as God views them. We must keep our eyes upon that eternal work and upon the eternal worker. Imagine a clay pot looking at the potter's hand, knowing that the potter is skillful enough to make even the roughest clay come out beautiful. When our view is like that, we can endure the bad things, whatever kind they are—natural disasters, evil deeds of others against us, persecution, or even the result of our own poor choice.
This view comes only "While we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal"—2 Corinthians 4: 18. Everything in this life—even the bad things that may happen to us—are going to end. What we have in eternity will last forever. When we have this assurance, we can face whatever comes.
I was amazed at some of the answers I got to my initial question, "Why do bad things happen to people?" when I posted it on some groups on LinkedIn. There were several who have the assurance I just described; there were some who had reasoning that agreed with each of the kinds of bad things I have written about in the blogs; there was one who expressed the view that all bad things are a result of the work of the devil; one simply attributed all bad things to the presence of sin; and one person commented that we can't call anything good or bad, because what one person calls bad might be called good by another. And that's the topic I will cover next time, before I summarize this whole series.
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Truth or Deception
Deliverance from Falling
Deliverance from Tears
Deliverance from Death
The Significance of Death
Conclusion of Why Bad Things Happen
Good and Bad, Relatively Speaking
The Potter and the Clay
"Bad Things" - Part 5
"Bad Things" - Part 4
"Bad Things" - Part 3
"Bad Things" - Part 2
"Bad Things" - Part I
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Why do bad things happen to good people?