Who can explain it?
The suicide of a godly young man after years of battling mental illness.
The cancer that relentlessly ravages a child’s body.
The loss of a job leaving a family destitute.
The car accident brutally killing a vibrant 20 year old girl.
The addiction rendering a boy’s brilliant mind vacant and dashing high hopes for his future.
And that’s just this week.
As I sit at my computer right now, my son and his friends are in the basement practicing a song their band will perform in Friday’s talent show. It’s hard to tell if more singing or laughing is taking place. And I think… how fortunate we are, but what about tomorrow? Are there any guarantees?
Well, yes and no. There’s no guarantee of a blissful Beaver Cleaver life. God didn’t promise us an easy life. In fact, He promised just the opposite (John 16:33). But He did guarantee that He’d be with us (Heb. 13:5). If God didn’t spare His own Son, is it right for us to expect that He should spare ours?
We ask “Why?” We want to understand. But our understanding is limited. We are finite created beings who wish to make sense of God’s infinite mind. My dog tilts her head with a puzzled look on her face when I change one of the usual patterns she’s accustomed to. If she could, she’d demand to know why - what’s going on, where are we, why are you feeding me that, what’s that Gentle Leader thing on my face??????? Could I explain my actions to her in a way that she could fully comprehend? Not in a million years. She simply lacks the ability to reason as I do.
Although God sometimes is gracious enough to allow us to understand, to learn and grow through our pain, much of the time He doesn’t let us in on His reasoning. "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Is. 55:8-9).
Yet sometimes we feel if we could just make sense of it all, if we had a reason, we could make it through. The truth is – if we always understood, we’d be tempted to rely on ourselves rather than seeking God. The very essence of faith is that we CAN’T see what’s going on, and yet we trust. (Heb. 11:1) Frankly, if little ol’ me could fully understand God, He’d be way too small a God for me.
On this journey we’re traveling, God’s Word is a “lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.” (Ps. 139:105) It is not like a stadium floodlight that makes the night as bright as day. It’s more like a flashlight in the dark allowing us to see one step at a time. Perhaps if we could see more, we’d run the other way. But God takes hold of our hand providing the peace and the strength to continue forward with trust that someday we will know. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” 1 Cor. 13:12
My reading this week took me to a hard passage of Scripture “…if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps.” 1 Pet. 2:20-21
The choice is ours. We can either be like the soft egg which hardens in boiling water or like the hard carrot which is softened by the same boiling water. But we could also be like the coffee which when immersed in yet that same boiling water is transformed into another being, still made of coffee and water but so intertwined, so inseparable that it has a new identity.
When Jesus was on the cross, He not only bore our sins - He bore our sorrows too (Is. 53:3) By His wounds and suffering, we are healed of ours. (Is. 53:5)
If I don’t understand anything else but this - that my suffering is producing Christlikeness in me – then I have not suffered in vain. If I can avoid resentment and bitterness, if I can say “Father, forgive them” while still in my suffering, I will be transforming into His image.
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Cor. 4:17-18
Father, our prayers are with the Warren family, but also with all those others who are suffering through their losses. May their pain be lessened by Your presence.