Sometimes there are just no answers–Final part, “When God doesn’t make sense”

We continue, for one more post, our discussion of, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, reasoning power and the comfort and advice of others, we just can’t figure out what God is up to or why certain things have happened in our life. It just doesn’t make sense. We are left with one big question; WHY? In those times, more than ever, I think there are some difficult yet vital things God wants to say to us. We have already looked at God insistence of, “Let Me be God.”

A second and final thing God says to us is, “Trust Me.”

Referring to some of those great Old Testament Christians in Hebrews 11:13 it says “Each of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised but still believing, still trusting.”  They trusted God and had faith up until the time of their death.  They went through often long agonizing trials.  Many of them often failed.  And the reality is sometimes God’s purpose is accomplished not by delivering us out of our difficulties but by demonstrating Himself in the midst of life’s problems.

Again, that is not an easy step.  Sometimes the gap between my personal pain and the ability to trust God seems so wide I’m not sure I can cross it.  I’ve learned that trust is not a once for all step but rather a moment by moment struggle.

Here are a few simple things that I am still learning about what it means to trust God.

1. Trust is a choice I make.

I’ve been told that the Chinese word for “crisis” also has at its root the word “opportunity”.  Every crisis is an opportunity for me to deepen my relationship with Jesus Christ.  And I’ve become convinced that God is more interested in seeing my response to difficulty than supplying me with all the reasons for my difficulty.  There’s a great nugget tucked in the middle of the book of Job.  Going through all that he’s going through, all the questioning, all the dialogue in the middle of chapter 13 there is one phrase where Job’s faith surges and he declares for the entire world to hear, “Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.”  It was a choice he made.

If there’s a common denominator to be found among those who encounter Christ it is the willingness to choose to trust when all of life screams out that they should not.  The essential character quality is a humble willingness to leave some questions unanswered and a quiet decision to believe that God is good even when all the evidence seems contrary.

Trust! Trust is a choice I make.  The second lesson I’m learning is…

2.  Keep one eye on heaven.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen for what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.”  He says it even more directly in 1 Peter 2 (the Message) “Friends, this world is not your home.  Don’t make yourselves cozy in it.” 

In generations past one of the favorite topics of Christian songs was heaven. But I find that there aren’t many Christian songs written about heaven any more. I think it’s largely because our lives are comfortable and convenient.  And without realizing it we begin to put our roots down in this world and we kind of like it.  And thoughts about heaven are pretty far from us.  It is only sometimes in pain that our world gets rocked enough that we get a new perspective.  And we realize that this life doesn’t last forever.  And this world really isn’t our home and that we have the promise of heaven.  And like scripture says, “Life is like a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.”  When life gets hard and unbearable the Lord’s encouragement for us is to remember you’re not home yet.  Heaven is your final destination so keep one eye there.

3.  A third lesson that I’m learning is that the more I get to know my Father, the more I trust Him. 

I love Psalm 34:18 which says, “The Lord is close to the broken hearted.  He rescues those who are crushed in spirit.”  It reminds me of the story of the little girl who was having trouble sleeping one night so her father came in and lay down on the little bed beside her.  When he turned off the lights and lay beside her she began to reach out her hands for his face because she said, “Daddy, if your face is toward me I can sleep.”

I’m convinced that the most important thing for some of us is not finding God’s answers or even finding God’s purpose, but finding God’s presence in our pain.  Some of us need to rest in the reality that God’s face is towards you.  He has not forgotten you.  He is not mad at you.  You matter to Him.  It’s not that you lack faith.  It’s just that right now God has purposes of which you maybe don’t understand.  But it doesn’t mean that He has forgotten you.  You can trust Him.

As the years have gone by and as I’ve walked with the Lord these years I’ve come to the place of knowing that as my Father, He can be trusted.  And I need to be constantly reminded of that fact. I don’t always have to understand His reasons.  But the more I know Him, the more I trust Him. 

One final statement before we end.  I can let God use my problems and pain to demonstrate His power.  The brightness of God’s glory and power is seen most brilliantly against the dark backdrop of human suffering.  Without a doubt, the greatest example and the most graphic example of this is the cross.  God brought incredible good out of the incredible suffering of Jesus on the cross.  And the Bible says that Jesus voluntarily laid aside His immunity to pain and entered our world and He did so that you could have a relationship with Him, so that I could have a relationship with Him and so that He could walk with us through our times of pain. 

The Bible says that He was broken and despised and rejected and scoffed at and nailed to a tree and out of that immense suffering now is the possibility and opportunity for you to have eternal life.  I don’t fully understand why, but God has determined to do His most significant work through pain and suffering.  There are some things in life that God can only do in us as a result of pain. 

The apostle Paul, one of the greatest men in the Bible, the Bible says was afflicted with a thorn in the flesh.  And time and time again he prayed to God that God would remove it.  And it was not removed.  It certainly wasn’t lack of faith.  But God has an answer for him.  2 Corinthians 12:9 God says to Paul “My gracious favor is all you need.  My power works best in your weakness.”  Then Paul says, “Now that I understand this I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may work through me.  For when I am weak then I am strong.”

Could I pose a possibility to you today?  Could it be possible that what our world really needs is not necessarily more miracles, even more healing?  But for average men and women, ordinary people like you and I, to find the strength, to find the joy and the peace and the ability to trust God in the midst of our suffering.  That maybe God’s greatest power is that we walk through our pain, not just that we get delivered out of it.

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Are pain and difficulty a result of sin or lack of faith? Part 3, When God doesn’t make sense.

All of us carry around in our hearts an image or idea of what we think God is like.  But I think it’s important that we let God speak for Himself.  So many of our ideas are shaped by the media, by culture, by our past, by our parents, sometimes even by disappointments in life.  But let’s let God speak for Himself.  That’s what we are attempting to do in these posts where we are addressing “When God doesn’t make sense.”

“Let Me be God” is what I addressed in the last post. That’s one thing God says to us. Another thing I think He would tell us is that pain and difficulty are a reality but not always as a result of sin or a lack of faith.  The reality is that for purposes that we don’t always understand God allows painful and difficult experiences in our life.

James is so clear about this out of James 1:2-3 “Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way [not “if” but “when”] let it be an opportunity for joy.  When your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow.” 

The reality is you and I don’t get a vote.  Suffering simply happens.  We cannot choose whether or not we will suffer.  We don’t get to choose how we’ll suffer.  We don’t get to chose necessarily how long we’ll endure it.  But one thing we do get to choose is how we respond to it.

When you read through this history of the Bible or the history of the Christian faith you will see a trail of suffering and struggle.  But somehow in our generations many Christians have come to believe that pain and hardship must be a sign that we’re doing something wrong.  Or that God doesn’t care about us.  Or that we must not have enough faith.  And nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, many of the heroes of the Bible both men and women were people who never were delivered from their struggles.  In fact, in Hebrews 11, that great chapter on faith says “But others trusted God and were tortured preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free.  They placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life.  They were too good for this world.  They wandered over deserts and mountains hiding in caves and holes in the ground.  Their life was hard.”  Verse 39 “All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith yet none of them received all that God had promised.” 

They didn’t just have the good life.  They suffered and had significant struggles.  But they are honored here for their faith in spite of the fact that they weren’t always delivered.  They rank among the greatest Christians of all times.

One day Jesus was asked very directly about this whole issue of sin and suffering.  In John 9 the Bible says that Jesus was with His disciples and the disciples come to Jesus when they confront a man who was blind from birth.  And they say, “Jesus who sinned?  Was it this man or his parents?” Jesus very directly and clearly says “Neither one.  This has happened so that the power of God and the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

Pain is often not at all about punishment but rather about God’s desire to demonstrate His power.  Many times suffering is not at all about a rebuke but about a refinement.  It is often not about your failure but rather about God’s attempt to build your faith.  So God says, “Let Me be God.  I’ll decide what I’ll allow into your life but don’t think your suffering is necessarily connected to any kind of sin or lack of faith.”

Next time we will consider a third thing I believe God says to us today.