Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When God Doesn't Seem to Make Sense

Years and years ago Dr. James Dobson wrote a book entitled "When God Doesn't Make Sense." Later, I heard him say on his program that he wished he would have entitled it "When God Doesn't Seem to Make Sense." The obvious reason is because God always does make sense in all of life's circumstances, even if we can't understand it.

Last week my friend Barb died. In recent years she had suffered a number of unexplainable hardships - the death of a foster son she was adopting, several miscarriages, a stillbirth, and then, in late 2007, a cancer diagnosis. We all prayed and supported Barb through her treatments and surgery and rejoiced when she was eventually declared "cancer-free." But then, just last month, her cancer returned with a vengeance and within six weeks, Barb died, leaving behind a husband, 2 grown daughters, 2 school aged sons, and an adopted, special needs preschooler. I'm sure Barb didn't have an answer as to why God asked her to go through all these trials. I'm quite sure her family doesn't have a reason today why she isn't there with them. I don't have a reason why I lost my friend.

The older I get the more circumstances I find myself running into that just don't make sense from my standpoint. I see the sufferings of people I know, I just experienced Barb's death, and I have had unexplainable circumstances occur in my own life. For years I wrestled with wondering why God allowed my son's birth accident to occur. When He could have prevented it, why didn't He? And there's other things that have happened, too, that have made me wonder what on earth God was thinking by allowing them. This past week I have been pondering on what possible good can there be be in widowing a young husband and leaving their children motherless?

I hope I don't sound bitter, because I am far from it. In fact, I actually have some answers. I know that I am certainly not the first person to question God's thinking. One of the oldest books in the Bible is the book of Job and the entire book deals with this question: if God is good, then why does He allow bad things to happen to His people? In the space of one day, Job lost his wealth, his children, and his good health. He spends the next 42 chapters wrestling with God over this extreme misfortune. But finally, in chapter 42, Job concludes that while he does know know God's reasoning, He can trust Him because of God's greatness, sovereignty, and independence. In chapter 38, God asks Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed My limit for it and set bars and doors, when I said, 'This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!' Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the ends of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?..." And so on. Read the chapter sometime. It is a magnificent account of just how powerful God truly is and how He, alone, is sovereign.

In our puny, human understanding we want answers. But God doesn't always provide those. We are owed no explanations from God. Sometimes, He does allow us to see things down the road that help us understand why certain things in the past happened. But a lot of things we just simply are not going to have answers for in this lifetime.

I have long thought that death and suffering are particularly hard for those of us living in Western cultures to accept. The reason is because we are so used to things going well almost all the time, unlike those living in 3rd world or more oppressed societies. To us, death and suffering is viewed as an affront, rather than a normal part of of life.

It is a guarantee that suffering will be coming in our way, in one form or another. What then, are we to do, when those times come? Here's a few thoughts:

1) Recognize that God is working this very circumstance for our good no matter how impossible that seems. It has been said that God never wastes a hurt. Boy, isn't that the truth! Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

2) Rejoice! Really? Philippians 4:4; Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice!"Yes, really. That's not to say that our first response when trials come is going to naturally be to jump up and down and exclaim, "yes!" But when we view all of life's circumstances as coming directly from the Father to us we can count it joy when these things happen, knowing that they are for our refinement and spiritual growth.

3) Draw near to God. During a very painful period in my life (our miscarriage, actually) I stumbled across these verses. They became precious to me then and I still turn to them often. Psalm 34:17-19: "The righteous cry out and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all." During the loss of our baby I found myself envisioning myself crawling up into God's lap and just burying my head in his chest, crying out my tears of loss and disappointment. God longs to comfort us. Let Him!

4) Keep an eternal perspective. This world is not where it is at. It's all we know and it's easy to forget that something much better awaits us. This life is not meant to be easy, but in Heaven, it will be! Revelation 21:4 promises us, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain..." One of my favorite visions in this past week has been to imagine Barb sitting in Heaven, cuddling her babies on her lap. What a joyous reunion that must have been for her! And I wanted her to stay here?!

God always, always, always knows what He is doing. Nothing takes Him by surprise! There's great comfort in that. There is a song that came out about 20 years ago that had the refrain, "When you can't see his plan, when you can't trace His hand, when you don't understand, Trust His heart." I love that! God is always wise, always good, and always loving. As we grow, we can learn to say along with Job (ch. 13, vs 15) "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him."

I hope these words have been encouragement to you. I know I found myself lifted up as I began to jot down truths I knew in preparation for this post. As I finish this, I want to leave you with the words that Barb had in every single one of her emails, below her signature, "God is good, ALL the time." Yes, He is, Barb. Yes, He is.


  1. BTW One of my all time fav songs "My Redeemer Lives" by Nicole C. Mullen is also from Job 19:25-27. I want it sang by some Powerhouse Lungs woman at my funeral.