When We (kind of) Believe in Karma

Two of my three sons have bad kidneys. That means that since my first ultrasound for my very first baby, we have carried the burden of knowing there is something inside our children's bodies we cannot fix.

On good days you will hear me talk about how I know this was filtered through the fingers of a loving God. I'll talk about prayer and faith and peace. I mean those things. I really do. I'm not just blowing smoke or trying to talk myself into something.

But there are bad days.

If karma existed, the sovereignty of God could not.

A really bad day came along several months ago. Judah, my third born son and second child with damaged kidneys, was just four weeks old. We were scheduled for an invasive test with a specialist. That morning I woke up feeling like a boulder had been tied around my chest. The weight of my fear was so heavy.

In the midst of the dread, and worry, and anxiety, this thought slithered its way into my heart . . .

"It's because I'm a bad mom."

I had done something to cause this. I was certain of it. More specifically, I had done something to deserve it. This was my punishment for all of those times I lost my cool. God blocked my baby's kidneys because He was mad at me.

In other words, on some level . . .

I (kind of) believe in karma.

Karma is a spiritual principle that our actions create a force that will determine what happens to us. If we are good, good things happen. If we are bad, bad things happen. Buddhists believe that wholesome actions lead to happiness, and unwholesome actions lead to suffering. Hindus believe that how we act in this life will determine if we come back as a dung beetle or a rich ruler in the next.

But I'm a Christian. I believe that God is sovereign (Ps. 103:15–19); that every word of the Lord proves true (Prov. 30:5), and that He loves me, even when it doesn't feel like it (Jer. 31:3). I believe my eternity is secured by the blood of Jesus, not my ability to tow the line (Heb. 10:19).

Thank goodness that karma is hogwash. Because nothing we do can scrub our hearts clean. Only Jesus can do that.

If karma existed, the sovereignty of God could not. How could God be in charge of all things, and I have the power to change my trajectory with every good and bad decision? If karma is real, the promises of God are not. Romans 8:31–39 promises that God is for me. That's not the same as waiting to punish me every time I mess up.

And here's the nail in karma's coffin . . .

If karma is real, it makes the gospel null and void.

If karma exists, Christ would never have died for me. I certainly don't deserve such ridiculous grace. My actions have not earned it. In fact, karma earned me a reservation in hell. I've done plenty of "unwholesome actions." I deserve suffering. But Christ suffered in my place.

You know, our twisted sense of karma can work the other way, too? Karma tells us that we deserve God's favor because we've been so good. We deserve for things to go smoothly in our lives because we read our Bibles, go to church, and cuss less than the people on TV. While some days I feel like I deserve to suffer because of the mistakes I make as a mom, there are other days when my heart screams, "Why did this have to happen to my children? Don't you see all that I've done for you! I don't deserve this."

But God's Word says no one is good (Ps. 53:3) and that compared to the blinding white holiness of God, my righteous deeds are nothing more than dirty rags (Isa. 64:6).

Thank goodness that karma is hogwash. Because nothing we do can scrub our hearts clean. Only Jesus can do that.

On bad days, I kind of believe in karma. But just because I believe it, doesn't mean it's true (Prov. 14:12).

What did I do on the day fear screamed that I earned my suffering?

I called a wise, older woman who was able to pray with me and preach God's truth to my hurting heart.

"God loves you," she said. "He will carry you through this."

Her words provided enough clarity for me to know where to run next. I dropped my bucket down once again into the deep well of God's Word. No karma there. Just life-saving, heart-healing, fear-lifting, path-straightening truth.

Truth like . . .

Jesus died for me. He died for my sons. He has faithfully carried us through every test and procedure. Not because we deserve it, or have earned it, but because He loves us. I don't believe He'd turn His back on me in any operating room even on my worst parenting day.

Because karma isn't real. God and the gospel are.

Do you (kind of) believe in karma? Here are three questions to help uproot that lie in your heart.

  • When suffering comes, do I suspect God is punishing me?
  • Do I feel like I deserve a comfortable life because I am a good Christian?
  • Do I grasp that it is the gospel that saves me, not my good works?

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

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