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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Why Does God Allow ...?

What kind of a God wouldn’t do something about this awfulness in my life?
Why doesn’t God do what I want Him to do?
Why doesn’t God answer me?
Why should I have faith in a God Who doesn’t give me what I want?
Why should I even think God is out there at all?

Treasured Friend,

Standing by while those we love suffer causes our fragile hearts to form this litany of questions. That's natural. Yet left unchecked, they’ll lead us down a slippery slope. Don't believe me? See if you recognize the slide in this story:
It wasn’t long ago that I picked up a bestselling autobiography. The author was young when she prayed in a time of crisis. But God didn’t do what she asked. So she penned the line, “That was the day I lost my faith.” I stuck with the book for a while (although I haven’t finished it yet); and as far as I’ve gotten, in several hundred pages and decades of life, she hasn’t yet seen her faith overcome that tragic loss. But that one line has stayed with me, perhaps because of its hopelessly misguided conclusion.

There’s a problem here. A lack of maturity, I suppose, that’s common to us all. A temper tantrum of sorts, a spoiled child pounding our fists at the heavens and irreverently threatening, If You won’t do what I want, I’m going to make You suffer. In fact, I’m going to make You downright miserable until You tire of my hissy fit and give me what I demand. And if You still won't do it, then ... then ... I won't like You anymore! So there! Take that!

What I’ve found is that the problem of suffering and the questions it causes to arise in our hearts bring to the surface the human propensity to see the world—and God—as revolving around us, rather than the opposite. The ancients—although they had a less sophisticated base of scientific knowledge—had infinitely more wisdom about these things than we do. They suffered profusely. God didn’t give them the immediate deliverance they asked for. Their loved ones suffered, too. But they came to an altogether different conclusion about God and how He answers prayer.

“When I consider the heavens, the moon and the stars that You created,” David penned, “What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You visit him?” (from Psalm 8). This from the man who saw his camp plundered, his wife and children carried away by the enemy. And yes, he questioned—but he didn’t throw away his faith with the tragedy. Instead of looking inside himself for the answers, he looked up. And he was absolutely amazed—awed—astounded by Whom he saw.

With David, I look around at this world—my world—and I realize how small I am. In its suffering, its decay, its temporary nature, I see the contrast between myself and God. God’s power is infinite, mine is insignificant. God’s authority is transcendent; mine is puny. God is eternal, I’m not--I had a beginning, and from this earth's perspective one day soon I'll have an end. It’s really all about Him, and not nearly so much about me. What a difference that perspective shift makes in the kinds of questions my heart asks.

Then there’s good old Job and the line that is packed with the depths of suffering and the heights of faith: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15, NKJV). As much as it pains me to admit it, God is free to do what He wishes with me—and even with my loved ones. He is, because He is the Creator, Sustainer, unrivaled Ruler of the entire universe. This is Who He is, whether or not I acknowledge it to be so.

Why doesn’t God do what I tell Him to do? Because He’s God and I’m not. He sees a greater scheme—and holds a grander plan in the palms of His hands. I play a role in those plans because of His great mercy, but my role is small—and the entire production is ever so far beyond anything that I am.

What does this have to do with you and the suffering you’re undergoing beside your aging loved one today? When you come to the moment of asking those questions about why God hasn’t given you the answered prayer you’ve sought, I pray you come to the same conclusion as the Psalmist and Job. That conclusion is this: the amazing thing isn’t that you haven’t received what you wanted from God, but rather that the awesome Creator of all things invites you to carry your requests to Him, to trust Him, to know Him. When you come to know Him personally, through His Son Jesus Christ and the Spirit Who lives inside everyone who believes, you will be able to trust Him with the outcome of events in this tired old world that's all subject to continued decay.

So, voice your questions to your Creator/Friend, and then say with me, and with old King David, “Oh Lord, our Lord, Your magnificent name transcends the earth and overflows the heavens” (adapted from Psalm 8). This magnificent God is the best answer to any question your heart could form.

Blessings and prayers,
Julie

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