Manager of marketing for Bible Gateway.
For people facing tragedy, all of God’s goodness witnessed in his creative work and the message of the cross fades as they entertain thoughts that he allows pain and heartache in their lives. But should God be seen as the source of our pain? Is he really the one who initiates suffering?
Bible Gateway interviewed Lucas Miles (@lucasmiles) about his book, Good God: The One We Want to Believe In but Are Afraid to Embrace (Worthy Publishing, 2016).
What do you mean when you write, “God isn’t responsible for our pain”?
Lucas Miles: Somehow during the course of history, Christianity has been negatively influenced by Gnosticism, Greek Mythology, and legalistic thinking. As a result, we’ve lost sight of the true heart of God and we now hold God responsible for much of our pain.
But Jesus said in John 10:10 that, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Yet despite Jesus’ words, when bad things happen, we immediately ask God “why?.”
It’s important that we recognize that God is never the cause of our pain. I don’t say this to trivialize suffering, as my family has had our share of heartache which I talk about in the book. But when bad things happen to good people, instead of blaming God, we should instead look to uncover the real cause of the problem.
The Bible goes to great length to reveal to us that God is never the source of our problems. Based upon Jesus words in John 10:10, I often say my theology is simple; “If it’s good, it’s God. If it’s not, it’s not.”
Explain what you mean when you say asking God “why?” in painful circumstances doubts his heart.
Lucas Miles: When I ask someone, “Why did you do this or that?,” what I have already implicitly determined is that the person in question is the one responsible for the action in the first place! I’ve already concluded that the person did do the action, and now I want to know “why?.”
So when we ask God “why?,” we’re actually forming a judgment against God, and falsely concluding that our pain is God’s fault. When bad things happen, the better question to ask is, “God, can you show me how to face my current circumstances in such a way that I can walk in victory, keep my sense of joy, and prevent the enemy’s intentions from coming to pass?”
If we would remove the blame from God and start praying like that, we’d be amazed at how life begins to change for the positive.
I’ve heard that you challenge the idea of God being in control?
Lucas Miles: Obviously you can get into a lot of trouble by insinuating that God isn’t in control. That’s not exactly what I’m saying.
What’s important to recognize, however, is that although God put this whole world in motion—he created the system, the rules, the parameters—and he’s completely at the helm holding it all together (Hebrews 1:3), yet, in his plan, he chose to give authority of the earth to man. Psalm 115:16 says, “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind.”
Part of God demonstrating his love to humankind is giving us the freedom to choose. This is why the tree appeared in the garden. It was necessary for us to be given the opportunity to choose God, or reject him. Unfortunately, we chose a ripe piece of fruit over God’s goodness and the rest is history.
Now, because of what we’ve allowed as a human race, 1 John 5:19 says, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Again, here’s a biblical truth; that the enemy has a controlling share in the earth, and yet, when tragedy strikes, as Christians we herald, “But God is in control!” If God were fully in control in this age, then we would see heaven on earth. No pain, no turmoil, no heartache.
Does our freedom to choose alter or challenge God’s supremacy? Certainly not. His throne is secure. And the beauty is that if we allow God into or lives, and give him control over our lives, we can begin to experience the blessings of heaven right here and now! But God is a gentleman; he doesn’t force his will on us. We have to get to know this good God, and welcome him into our hearts.
How can the Bible give hope to people who doubt God’s goodness?
Lucas Miles: Life hurts. It’s painful. This is really the reason I wrote Good God from the start. We all go through—and have been through—some really deep pain in our lives. Sadly, religion has told people that pain is the teacher—that we’re sanctified through suffering. But this isn’t true. This type of teaching either causes people to get mad at God, or at least to question his heart toward us.
My Bible says that God, and more specifically, the Holy Spirit, is the teacher. Negative circumstances happen to everyone. Some people learn from them, and some don’t. I’ve heard a lot of pastors say, “If God brought you to it, he’ll lead you through it.” I think a more biblical response is, “God may not have brought you to it, but he’ll certainly lead you through it!”
As David wrote in Psalm 27:13, “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” When we listen to God, we too, can walk confidently in the “land of the living” and see the “goodness of the Lord,” trusting that regardless of what life throws at us, if we follow God, he can lead us through the journey into safety and peace. Hope is found in this kind of thinking.
What’s your response to people who say everything happens for a purpose, citing Romans 8:28?
Lucas Miles: I always say, from a physics standpoint, certainly everything does happen for a reason. This is the nature of cause and effect. But just because events take place, doesn’t mean that God is the initiator of all the events that transpire on this earth. Certain instances happen because of choices I make; others happen simply because of accidents that emerge on behalf of someone else.
Part of the misunderstanding which revolves around Romans 8:28—and which leads people to mistakenly conclude that everything that happens in one’s life is from God—is that the verse is rarely read in conjunction with the rest of the passage.
Romans 8:28 starts with the word “and,” which means that Paul’s comment that “everything works together for our good” is referring to the previous verses regarding our cooperation with the Holy Spirit in making intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27). Paul is trying to point believers to God’s goodness, not his sovereignty, and is stating that if we cooperate with the Spirit, then God is able to work all things out for our good.
Regrettably, this verse has been used to try to persuade believers that God is controlling the circumstances of their lives. But it’s simply not in the text. Paul’s message is never that everything that happens is from God; rather, in all things (that happen) God is on our side working on our behalf.
As believers, we should walk away from this chapter of Scripture with a mindset that no matter what we face, God is with us! Sure, the enemy may throw all sorts of ills and evils our way, but for those who are found in Christ—we can’t lose, no matter what!
How has your understanding of the goodness of God totally changed your life?
Lucas Miles: Like a lot of people, my faith was a rollercoaster for a long time. It would dip up and down with every victory or failure in my life. I knew very little about how God really felt about me and I certainly wasn’t equipped to share who he was with anyone else.
When I began to understand his true heart—I mean really see that God is always good and that his love for me has no lack, whatsoever—things began to change. My level of peace, satisfaction, and hope in my relationship with God is at an all-time high. And it’s amazing to think that this is only the beginning.
One reason I believe heaven is forever is because it will take that long for God to show us the full extent of his goodness! In eternity, life just keeps getting better and better.
What impact do you hope your book will have on readers?
Lucas Miles: I’ve already had so much incredible feedback from Good God. Recently I heard from a couple who had gone through a painful miscarriage who found a lot of freedom from reading the book and seeing that God wasn’t to blame for their loss. It helped restore their relationship with him and help them heal. Another family was so impacted they bought 30 copies just to hand out to people in their life who had gone through tragedy.
My hope is that people would see that God has been so misrepresented by religion over the years. Unfortunately, this has caused generations of people to mistrust him. I believe that if we can help people reestablish their trust in God, then they will naturally begin to experience a deeper, more intimate, loving relationship with the Father. He’s so good! I just hope everyone can get their hands around this concept.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Lucas Miles: I travel a lot. So I’m always working on the road: writing sermons, articles, my next book, etc. As much as I would love to travel with my complete library—which is made up of more than 1000 books—I can’t. So having Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App always at my fingertips is incredible. I recommend it to people all the time. It’s a tremendous resource!
Bio: Lucas Miles is a writer, speaker, life coach, film producer, and pastor. 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 (@OasisGranger), a church community he and his wife, Krissy, planted in 2004. He is also president of the Oasis Network for Churches (@oasnet), a multifaceted church-planting organization, which services churches in more than 10 countries.
He frequently appears on television, in churches, on podcasts, at universities, and at conferences throughout the United States and abroad. In addition to his work in the church, Lucas also maintains a strong presence in the entertainment industry. As the principal and founder of Miles Media, Inc., Lucas is committed to creating films with a purpose. Together, Lucas and Miles Media have a growing catalog of feature films under their belt, including Rodeo Girl, Crowning Jules, and The Penitent Thief and are currently in development for several TV pilots and additional feature film projects. Whether in the church, in the entertainment industry, or in the lives of everyday people, Lucas seeks to influence everyone with the truth of the gospel and help remind them that God’s goodness knows no bounds. Lucas and Krissy have been married since 2001 and they reside in Granger, Indiana, with their doberman named Kenya.