I was sitting at my computer late in the evening when I received the news that a friend of mine had died.
(I've struggled and been unable to find a word that accurately describes our colorful relationship, so I'll settle for friend.)
He was younger than I, not yet 18, struck down in a car accident.
This friend had mostly grown up in church with me, but later strayed away and, in my opinion, fell in with the wrong crowd.
When I received news of his death, my sadness quickly turned to righteous indignation and I railed against all those people I felt had failed to encourage this friend of mine to walk the straight and narrow way.
In my mind, I could see many indirect connections between his death and his movement toward many ungodly people.
I was sick and tired of people flaunting their wickedness and flouting God's authority, only to act surprised when their evil deeds came home to roost and people got hurt or worse.
My heart was pained knowing that my friend was dead and others, who seemed to have no care for his spiritual health, would mourn his death and continue to live their lives of sin, never acknowledging the root cause of his demise.
My mind immediately turned to the prophet Jonah:
But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.
He prayed to the LORD and said, “Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country?
Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. (Jonah 4:1-2)
I didn't want to hear of the love and compassion of God, I wanted to see the God who is a "consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29) .
I didn't care who was sorry or not, I wanted God to deal harshly with those who continued to revel in wrongdoing, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.
I approached God like the Psalmist who asked:
Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them! (Psalms 74:11).
Why did God continue to let the sons of men blaspheme His name, ridicule His people, slaughter the innocent, and live in debauchery.
I echoed the martyrs in the book of Revelation:
They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and
true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our
blood?" (Revelation 6:10)
Where was God's vengance against the ungodly?
For quite some time, I was distraught, bitter, and saddened.
That was, until I was reminded of who I am and what God did for me.
I too was an object of God's wrath, a reprobate, destined for hell because of my own wickedness.
Yet, while I was still in my sins, Christ, the Son of God, died for me, because he loved me.
The words of Scripture ring ever true:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand
slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but
everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
He was patient with me, could he not be patient with others?
I remembered what God said to Jonah:
"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” ( Jonah 4:11)
The Scriptures testify to the righteousness and kindness of God:
The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. (Psalms 145:17)
The Word speaks of God's kindness toward the sinner:
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:7)
Say to them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take
no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from
their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O
house of Israel?' (Ezekiel 33:11)
Now don't get me wrong, I am a strong believer in the judgment, holiness, and righteousness of God, but I realized I should have been asking myself, will not the judge of all the world do right and does He really need my help doing it?
I now truly understand what before I only registered, the reason God waits and doesn't smite people on the spot is because he desires for as many people to come to Him as will come to Him.
And while it may seem like the "bad guys" get away with stuff in this world, we know that each person will be judged by God accordingly and it is not our place to presume upon God that he do one thing rather than another
Or should I say, it's not my place.
And when I think about it, I praise God that he is longsuffering with man, otherwise I would be lost without hope.
While I still hope in God's justice, today my prayer is more like this:
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I, (Psalms 61:1-2.)
When trials beat me down in life I'm not calling down fire, but asking God to lead me higher.