By Steve Goode
(Pictured to the left is what remains of the Salvation Army of Tuscaloosa)
In the wake of all the death and destruction in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa this past week, I could not think of a more applicable topic than entitlement and suffering. In fact the pictures you will see inserted throughout this article were taken by me and my family this past week as we visited and ministered to the people of Tuscaloosa and Fosters Alabama. We even took a trip into Pell City where we witnessed the destruction of straight line winds, which can topple and uproot enormous trees, and remove roofs from people’s homes.
If I could contextualize the entitlement mindset in our Christian walks, and even our marriages, it demands without any sense of earning or payment for what is received. It is the mindset that says that you can create your own list of expectations for your spouse, and when they are not met, you are entitled to seek some form of retribution or compensation. It removes the need to place any responsibility for a person’s actions upon themselves, and reactively blame others for their plight in life. A marriage to such a person becomes an emotional rollercoaster where it is more important to seek self-gratification than it is to esteem ourselves as humble and serving.
If someone feels a sense of entitlement then they can set the expectation of happiness in their marriage and bail the moment things get trial some and difficult. They will use a plumb line that measures quick and expedient fixes and never look at their circumstances as a way to learn and grow. This same mindset will look at the tragedies that befall their lives as some sort of unjust punishment from God, because after all, they are entitled to a good life!
Where does this all fit into a Biblical framework? Is anyone entitled to good things with a lifelong moratorium on bad things? If it were true to say these things then why did James feel the need to say the following?
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4)
James clearly believes trials will befall us all and makes no apology for God. He doesn’t provide an exclusion of any kind for those people who feel entitled to avoid the hurts they will inevitably face in their life. Even if they believed they could earn a pass, it wouldn’t matter. Some of the godliest people I know have suffered through horrendous and disproportionate trials and afflictions without a release.
I wish I could help people to understand that the Bible is not a release from pain, but a way to cope with life’s trials through the lens of the cross. Jesus said that “In this life you will have trials and tribulations, but take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33) For the believer who feels a sense of entitlement, I believe the problem goes much deeper. Such a person is focused on themselves more than they are Jesus. They have a skewed worldview that will enslave them to a sinfully entitled mindset that will not change until they surrender their will to Christ.
The Bible says “And he said unto all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23) The Christian life of pain and suffering is not laced in entitlement, but denial of our personal wants and desires. Jesus explains how we can have total contentment in His ways if we simply abide in him. Abiding is not a hotel stay, but a residency where we begin to see things through Jesus’ eyes as opposed to our own.
What do we truly deserve?
You see? We all have our own measure of who should or shouldn’t suffer or be subjected to loss and tragedy! What we need to sometimes realize is that the only reason things do not get worse is because of the common grace of God. Common grace is the restraining nature of God, which both sinner and saint alike benefit from. You as a child of God are a part of that common grace which out of your obedience to Christ, get to show the love of our Savior to others through our acts of service and kindness to all those around us.
Only one person ever has walked in the flesh that did not deserve the trials He faced! He is the co-eternal, co-equal, second person in the Trinity who took on human form by being born of a virgin. He lived a sinless life, and atoned for our sins by dying on the cross, He rose again on the third day defeated the grave, and ascended back to Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you and me. His name is Jesus and He loves and cares for you and wants to spend eternity with you if you will surrender your heart and life to Him!
The cemetary pictured above is on Wesley Chapel Road in Fosters Alabama, 11 miles outside of Tuscaloosa, and sustained major damage from the Tornado on April 27th. Almost every grave marker was knocked over or broken in half. A church 300 feet away was leveled.