Luck and The Will of God

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Ask any Christian what they think about luck and you are likely to hear an answer like this, “We make our own luck.” But do we really? And what does the Bible say about luck? It says nothing actually. The word does not even appear in any translation that I have been able to find. I have found many instances of the word, chance, however. Here’s one: “Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all. For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them…” ~ Ecclesiastes 9:11-12

What is luck if not a chance or random event? And if a chance event should be beneficial, would we not call that, “good luck” in the vernacular of today? If a chance event should befall some misfortune upon us, would we not call that, “bad luck?” And if God should be responsible for all things, sending the proverbial rain to fall on the righteous as well as the wicked, then we are faced with the hard reality that God either causes bad things to happen to good people, or else He passively allows it.

Here’s an example of what I would call, bad luck. You, a good person… mostly, are driving down the road, minding your own business and obeying all the rules of the road. Suddenly — BAM! A driver behind you, distracted by texting on his cell phone while driving, plows into your rear-end. You have just become collateral damage, a casualty of someone else’s bad choice. It was an event that God did not make happen, or maybe He did. We cannot know. But we do know that God did not prevent it from happening.

Here’s an example of what I would call, good luck. You, a typical male teenager, engage in your first sexual encounter, going “all the way,” unprotected, with a young lady who welcomed your advances, actually encouraged you. Weeks later, she informs you that she thinks she’s pregnant. You and she, scared out of your wits, commiserate with one another and postpone telling your parents. Then, a few days later, she tells you that she has miscarried. Did God intervene or was the miscarriage a random, natural event? We cannot know. But you are relieved and thank your proverbial “lucky stars.” Hopefully, you have learned your lesson.

Bible stories suggest that God’s will is manifest in three different ways: His intentional will, His circumstantial will, and His ultimate will. See Leslie D. Weatherford’s book, The Will of God.

God’s intentional will “for us,” according to Jeremiah 29:11, is that we should all prosper, that we should not be harmed, that we should have hope and a future. But why, why did He create us? The Bible makes this clear in Isaiah 43:7, God created us for His glory, God’s glory not ours. Therefore, both His “greater” intentional will and His ultimate will is simply to be glorified. Unfortunately, God’s intentional will for us sometimes has to be sacrificed due to chance events and, of course, our own poor choices. This is God’s circumstantial will. It involves Him passively allowing, rather than causing, something to happen. Chapter 1 of the book of Job, even though most biblical scholars consider Job to be a fictional or parabolic character, illustrates this in what God allowed Satan to do in the life of Job. It is also involved in the evil that God allowed Joseph’s brothers to do to Joseph in order to accomplish a greater good, a good not apparent to Joseph until years later (Genesis 50:20). So we have at least a partial answer to the question of why bad things happen to good people.

Does God ever intervene with the randomness of His creation or to circumvent the negative consequences of our poor choices? Sure He does. That is what we believe, and that is why we pray.

I have previously written about events in my life that I choose to call miracles. See A Tale of Two Miracles in The World According to Opa. In one of these two events I wrote about being Hepatitis-C positive and living  for years with the certain knowledge that I would one day start to display symptoms. I had anticipated having to undergo expensive therapies with uncomfortable side-effects in an attempt to thwart the inevitable, a protracted, painful death like the one my mother had had to endure. I prayed for God to take that cup away from my lips. Then, one day, God answered my prayer. Either that or I just go lucky. I became one of about 25 percent of Hepatitis-C infected individuals to spontaneously convert.

After the divorce from my first wife was final, I opened a letter from the local draft board. “Greetings,” it said… I was being ordered to report for an induction physical. I knew that I would pass the physical and, although I had anticipated that this would happen when filing for the divorce, I considered myself to be a most unlucky fellow. Timing was the problem; our country was in the midst of war in Southeast Asia. American casualties over there were mounting. The news every night was filled with frightening videos: helicopters delivering soldiers into the heat battle, bleeding bodies on stretchers being flown back to rear area aid stations, pictures of flag draped coffins being unloaded back stateside. So I anticipated my odds of surviving combat in the jungles to be only even, fair at best. Besides, I had the best job at that time that I had ever had. I was a TV cameraman for a local television station. I loved that job and I hated having to give it up. I had a new girlfriend too – a couple of them in fact — and a new car. Damn! But my induction into the Army turned out to be a long-term blessing, a blessing in disguise. Oh, I did have to experience combat in Vietnam – eventually.  But not before I had become a commissioned officer in the Army, not before I had learned to fly helicopters, not before I was trained to be an aircraft maintenance officer – a maintenance test pilot. So I dodged the worst of the war. My only year in Vietnam was a relatively quiet year. The worst year, 1968, the year of Tet, was over. During the two and a half years of training before my year in Vietnam, I met my current wife too – the mother of two of my three sons.

1967 and 1968 were the worst years for soldiers in Vietnam. Some of my flight instructors, Warrant Officer pilots who were serving state-side tours of duty between combat tours, prepared us as best they could for the horrors that we would soon face – horrors like red and blue streams of tracer bullets rising up to meet us when on short-final approaches to combat landing zones – horrors like the sound of bullets piercing the thin skins of our utility and gunship helicopters – horrors like watching others’ helicopters crashing and burning next to us – horrors like broken and bleeding bodies of soldiers being piled onto cargo floors behind us for evacuation, some of them still crying out in pain. After graduating from flight school and taking my turn over there, I’d have known a full share of these horrors. But I got lucky.

A week or so before graduation, some of us got amendments to the original orders assigning us to duty in Vietnam with helicopter flight school reroute. Some of us would go on to transition training in either Cobra gunships or in cargo helicopters like the big Chinook. Rarely, some of us would go to fixed-wing transition. Some of us, myself, and the future Best Man at my wedding, Marvin Adams, and another whose name I do not recall, were sent to Aviation Maintenance Officers’ Course in Ft. Eustis, Virginia. Marvin and I were there for twelve weeks while most of the rest of our flight class of commissioned officers was experiencing the worst weeks of the war. The officer who flew right seat with me in a Huey on our graduation formation fly-by flight, Johnny Benton, lasted only three weeks in Vietnam. He took a 50 caliber bullet to the head during one of his first in-country combat assault missions.  I read his name one morning in the Army Times obituaries among other class members’ names. Week after week more class members’ names were listed.

I did not know Johnny well during our time together in flight school. I got to know him much better after he died because I wrote to his parents. Their address was listed in the Army Times. I don’t know why I chose to write to them and not to others from my flight class, others that I had actually known better. But I did. I gave them my APO address so that they could write back to me should they want to. A few days after reporting to my unit in Vietnam, the Aviation Battery of the 101st Airborne Division’s Division Artillery, a half dozen letters from Johnny’s mother were delivered. Each contained a packet of KoolAide. Each week after that, like clockwork, I got another letter from her with another packet of KoolAide. Johnny had written to her asking her to send him some because, as she told me in a letter, he had said in his last letter to her that the water he had to drink tasted terrible. Those letters from Johnny’s mother were a blessing to me. I hope that her writing to me, and my brief answers, were a blessing to her too.

After returning from Vietnam, I married — the right woman this time, one of a few that I had dated while undergoing flight training. The ladies loved me while I was in flight school, and why wouldn’t they? I was still young, I was free every night of the week, I wasn’t too-bad-looking, an Army officer who had plenty of money to spend and who owned a new white Corvette – one with red interior. Luck struck again when, after a year, the Army offered to move me to attend any accredited university, so as to finish my undergraduate degree, and the Army approved my degree plan too: geography. I loved that subject, love it still. I was paid all pay and allowances, even my flight pay without having to log the obligatory minimum of two flight hours a month. The Army paid for my tuition and books too. In my spare time, I earned a commercial fixed-wing pilot’s license, flying friends and family members around to complete the required cross-country hours involved. This was paid for with Vietnam Era Veterans’ Benefit dollars.

During Advanced Field Artillery Officers’ Course, to which I was sent after graduating from my university under-graduate degree program, I completed a Masters Degree in Business Administration. I was sent to the Advanced Course because I was then too senior to return right away to Vietnam for a second tour. Luck? Maybe, or maybe it was just the way unforeseen events unfolded. I and a handful of other Field Artillery officers at Ft. Sill took advantage of an Oklahoma City University extension course to earn our masters degrees. This too was paid for with Vietnam Era Veterans’ Benefit dollars.

I learned a great deal about working with and leading others during subsequent Army assignments – to flying and various Field Artillery ground assignments at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, a flying and command assignment in Korea, flying, command and staff assignments in Germany, and analyst, test design and test director assignments in materiel acquisitions in Washington, D.C. All of this contributed to a rewarding career servicing engineering and materiel acquisitions contracts for DoD clients and later, teaching high school students in geography and economics courses.

Call me lucky or call me blessed. Either way, it matters only whether you believe in God or not. I do believe in God and I think that I’ve been some lucky and a whole lot blessed. Did I make my own luck? Sure, some of it. I made some good choices that enabled me to take advantage of chance opportunities. But, on the whole, I believe the following passage from scripture best applies: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”                ~ 2 Corinthians 1:20

 Please feel free to post a comment or a question.

 

 

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Published in: on August 3, 2017 at 7:06 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Thank you my friend for sharing about your life before during and after the Vietnam War. I consider myself both lucky and blessed to have you and your wife, Natalie, in my life. Whenever I get a chance to speak with you, I always learn and I’m challenged to rise to the level you establish. And sometimes you teach me when I really don’t want to learn something. And as I’ve told you and Natalie before, you two are some of the best Christians I’ve ever met.
    And I believe that God has put you in my life as a blessing because I always find myself filled with an increase in faith and love and more hope after a visit with you.
    Thanks, again for all you are and all you do.
    As ever, sing out 🎶🎵🎶,
    Nancy


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