God’s Signs: A Lesson from The Walking Dead

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I absolutely love it when secular TV shows and movies address matters of faith. I may not always agree with the screenwriter’s conclusions, but touching on religion–at least in an intelligent manner–nearly always yields something worth thinking about.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a spiritual lesson in AMC’s The Walking Dead. For those of you unfamiliar with the show, The Walking Dead follows a band of survivors from Atlanta, Georgia, struggling to find refuge and hope in a zombie apocalypse. Yes, you read that right: The Walking Dead is a zombie show–a bloody, violent, intense, nail-biting suspenseful zombie show. And it contains one of the best faith-based illustrations I’ve seen in a long time.

In Season 2, the survivors come upon a church while searching for a lost member of their party. After whacking a few zombies in the pews, their leader, Rick, stops at the altar to pray. He’s not what you’d call a religious man, but the hardships of his situation drive him to seek wisdom from the Almighty. Rick asks God for a sign: something that will indicate he’s doing the right thing in dragging his people toward the unknown.

Immediately afterward, Rick continues searching the nearby woods for the lost party member, accompanied by his 12-year-old son,

The Walking DeadCarl, and best friend, Shane. They hear a noise and turn to see a beautiful buck with large, velvety horns step into a clearing. The men are mesmerized, and Carl goes in for a closer look. Soon he is 12 feet from the buck. Then six feet. Then four. The deer simply pauses and watches the boy as he comes closer and closer. Carl’s face lights up with joy and amazement. In this moment, the horror of what they’ve endured over the past several days is forgotten. Carl’s happiness has Rick’s eyes glowing with emotion. It’s obvious he’ll never forget this incredible moment.

Then, a gunshot rings out. The deer slumps to the ground. So does Carl. Rick rushes over to find a spot of blood spreading across Carl’s shirt. His only child has been shot.

I know what a lot of people must be thinking at this point: Rick asked God for a sign, and his child gets shot? What kind of sign is that??

I understand why that would be most people’s first thought. It seems right at the moment we ask God to speak or show Himself, the rug gets snatched from beneath us. The boss hands out a pink slip. A parent dies. The dog runs away. A child becomes ill. A friend gets into trouble. The depression/upset stomach/nerve pain comes back. It becomes impossible to pray. Marital problems erupt. The car breaks down, taking the savings account balance to $0. Some pastors and Christians would say such things are God’s will–that He caused these things to happen. But they’re wrong. That’s not the sign.

Sin, death, illness and suffering are not God’s will. It was never God’s intention for us to experience these things because they were not in the world God originally created. The world God created was perfect. There was no disease, murder, hunger, death or chaos. Mankind brought those things into the world through sin. And the temptation to sin came from Satan. It is he who inflicts suffering, not God.

It’s amazing just how backwards some Christians have twisted the scriptures. There are countless ministers who say, “God is in control,” but their teaching often misleads people on what spiritual force is at work when tragedy strikes. When mankind chose to believe the lies of Satan over the truth of God, it gave control of the earth over to Lucifer. The Bible calls him “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4), “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and “prince of this world” (John 12:31). Every evil that mankind experiences comes from him.

However, every good thing on the earth comes from God (James 1:17). The Bible says,

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45)

Some people interpret that verse to mean that God sends both good and evil upon believers and unbelievers. They think sun = good and rain = bad. After all, who wants their hairdo flattened or their picnic rained out? But Jesus wasn’t talking to American suburbanites, he was talking to Middle Easterners in an agriculture-based economy. To a farmer, both rain and sun are necessary for success; they’re both good.

Here’s more of what the Bible says about God:

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

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O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endures for ever. (Psalm 136:1)

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

These are just a few verses. There are many, many more. Some people point to the story of Job as evidence that God inflicts pain on people. But the Bible makes it clear that God only removed His divine protection from Job’s property. It was Satan who wreaked the havoc (see Job 1:6-12).

The story of Rick and Carl doesn’t end here. After Carl is shot, a hunter emerges from the woods and sends Rick to the house of an elderly man named Herschel, a veterinarian. Herschel operates on Carl and saves his life. Another sick member of Rick’s group receives life-saving medical treatment. The whole group finds nourishment and reprieve–a place to regroup and reclaim their strength. It’s unlikely any of this would have occurred otherwise.

Herschel, himself a believer, later mentions this to Rick. Herschel reminds him that Rick himself nearly died of a gunshot wound just before the zombie outbreak. Yet he miraculously recovered and went on to locate his wife and son. Herschel says these unlikely successes must be proof of God’s mercy. Yet Rick is skeptical. He’s too much in a hurry to assign all the bad things to God, but not the good. Satan has blinded his eyes to the truth of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 12:40).

I’ve met many people like Rick, both believers and unbelievers. Anytime something bad happens in their lives, they blame God. Any good that comes out of these troubling situations is then attributed to coincidence or chance. They mistake the signs, thinking that God is speaking through the evil. But the Bible says His voice is in the good.

When bad things happen, are you looking for God’s tender mercies? Or are you too busy blaming Him for evil to see His signs?

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