A dear sister wrote in asking if it is possible that God puts us into difficult situations (such as an abusive workplace) for His own divine purposes. She was wondering if maybe she has also been placed by God at an abusive church, thinking that maybe she should stay there until she has a clear leading from the Lord to depart.
Here is my answer (edited for article publication removing any personal references for the purpose of protecting the confidentiality of my readers):
All things are possible with God and so yes it is possible for the Lord to put someone in a difficult place or specifically in a difficult workplace for His purposes, but that doesn’t mean that He ever does such things. If God were to do something like that, it would be a rarity and it could even be argued that such a thing may even be beyond the level of the miraculous, beyond a burning bush, beyond Paul’s Damascus experience, etc., Why? Even within these events in the Bible, which were fairly rare occurrences in themselves, God did not supercede anyone’s free will or contravene their own decision-making. He urged and led but He did not force anyone’s hand.
Everyone was still free to make their own choices within the given circumstances. Moses could have run away from the burning bush in fear refusing to listen. Paul could have disregarded his Damascus experience when a light from heaven appeared and he fell to the ground. He could have refused to repent of persecuting the church. They both could have disobeyed the leading of the Lord, but thankfully they did not.
For God to actively “put” us into any situation would require Him to circumvent our free will, which although is well within His unlimited power, is not remotely likely. We see no examples in the Bible that I am aware of where God overrides man’s free will and forces anyone choices within a given situation. For God to do so would make Himself liable for someone’s bad actions as well as liable for any outcome. This would render the offender blameless because they would have been compelled beyond their will and could argue that they had no choice in the matter.
One might ask, “What about Joseph?” God mightily used Joseph being sold into slavery. But did God sell Joseph into slavery, or for His own purposes, did God bring good out of Joseph’s brother’s wickedness? Obviously the latter. God obviously foresaw the entire situation and He brought about one of the most fantastic events in History, a Hebrew slave becoming the 2nd most powerful ruler of Egypt at the time, 2nd only the Pharaoh and thereby being in a position to greatly help Israel in a time of dire need.
Joseph greatly opposed being thrown down into the pit. His brothers superceded his free will. God did not. Joseph’s brothers would be blameless if it was God who forced them to do what they did. God did not do any such thing. Again, for God to have done so would have made Him liable, and even responsible for evil. And God is not the author of evil. God is a loving, fair and just God. He is not unjust or unfair in any way. Even His harsh judgments are fair and well deserved.
Also, Paul the Apostle talks about Christians getting free from “slavery” if it can be done. If it is God who puts us in such a situations “for His purposes”, then Paul is in effect instructing us to potentially go against God’s will and that is not possible. The Bible never conflicts with itself.
God certainly helps us make the best out of a bad situation and by His grace He brings good out of bad. But that doesn’t mean that He caused or ordained that situation to exist.
I certainly don’t think it was God who put me in (or actively led me to) a series of bad churches. But by His grace and mercy, He certainly brought good out of it for me and for the others who I minister to. However, I would never have attended those cults for 12 years knowing what I know now. Looking back, I wished I had simply studied the Bible first. I could have avoided so much pain and wasted time and money if I had known the truth. And I still could have become on fire to help others without suffering all the exploitation and loss.
It could be argued that God foresaw my eventual conviction and boldness in church matters and led me to those churches so that I would get beat up and wake up. But there are a number of key reasons why this view is not valid. The first and foremost is this course would have required that God lead me in a direction that is contrary to His written Word, even making it impossible for me to learn and follow His Word, and that is not possible. God never leads contrary to His written Word.
It also makes no sense to think that the Lord would have wanted me to support and facilitate false religion even with Him knowing that my eventual end would be a good one. The end does not justify the means. From what the Bible teaches, I know now that God had originally ordained for me to simply study the Bible first, which is what the Bible teaches, but nevertheless He helped me despite my foolishness. God ordains the same thing for every Christian:
“Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.” 2Tim 2:15
Also, some Christians sow bad seeds and reap bad harvests. That is not God’s fault. For example, if a Christian gets involved with drugs or alcohol and reaps huge problems in his or her life, that is not God’s doing nor anything that God ordained or led them into. God obviously never leads us into sin even if the end result would be the working of His goodness in our lives.
Furthermore, sometimes we are ignorant of and therefore unknowingly disobedient to what the Bible teaches and so we get ourselves into all kinds of trouble as was my case for years before I studied the true church and got set free by the truth.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6
This applies to all areas of life and so once we are aware of the commands from Scriptures to come out and be separate and to avoid dangerous professing Christians, that is our full release from the Lord to depart from such a church. Waiting for subjective feelings or impressions is putting our guesswork or perceived experiences above that which the Bible teaches and that we cannot do.