FENTON, MI – I often ask God, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It seems as though some of us are constantly doing battle with life itself and at every turn there is a new challenge. I have pastored people over the years that resemble the cartoon character from the Charlie Brown series, Pig Pen, who are never without a cloud over their heads. Everywhere they go, trouble seems to follow. One man said about them, “If they didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all.”
Yet there are others who seem to live in the lap of luxury without a care of concern in the world. “God, why can’t life be as easy as it seems for some people? I would really like a lot more blessings and a lot less blisterings.” Every one of us have asked the same questions and made the same observations in our lifetimes. Now, I don’t have an answer to all of difficulties and problems in life, but I do believe I have some insight into at least some of mine.
My family and I are staying at Bambi Lake Conference and Retreat Center near Roscommon, Michigan for a few days affording us the opportunity to fish in its beautiful lake. We have caught several kinds of fish, but to my surprise, no catfish. That is what jogged my memory about a catfish, and the insight into problems they have provided. Most of us who were reared in the south, love catfish for obvious reasons (they are very tasty), but after reading this you might find a completely new appreciation for them.
Several years ago, I came across some fascinating information about catfish that illustrates the “why” of many of the difficulties we experience in life. In the northeastern United States, codfish are a big commercial business. There is a market for eastern cod all over the United States, especially in sections farthest removed from the northeast coastline, but the public demand posed a problem to the shippers. At first they froze the cod, then shipped them elsewhere, but the freeze took away much of the flavor. So they experimented with shipping them alive in tanks of seawater, but that proved even worse. Not only was it more expensive to ship in this manner, the cod still lost its flavor and in addition became soft and mushy enroute. The texture of this tasty delicacy of the sea was seriously affected.
Finally, some creative person solved the problem in a most innovative manner. The codfish were placed in the tank of water along with their natural enemy--the catfish. From the time the cod left the East Coast until it arrived at its westernmost destination, those ornery catfish chased the cod all over the tank. The most amazing thing happened. When the cod arrived at the market, they were as fresh as the day they were first caught. There was no loss of flavor nor was the texture affected. If anything, it was better than before.
Each one of us is in a tank of our own particular and inescapable circumstances. Yes, it is painful and sometimes almost unbearable to be in this tank we call life. I don’t know about you, but from my perspective, my tank is full. But I have come to realize that God doesn’t see it that way. Because He loves us and wants us to be the best we can be, He has made sure that there are enough God-appointed "catfish" in our tanks to bring sufficient tension to keeps us alive, alert, fresh and growing. It's all part of God's project to shape our character so we will be more like Him.
At times you may think you will be eaten alive by the predators in your tank, but just remember, God is using those slimy creatures in your midst to accomplish His will in your life. Be tank-full to have them there. Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.