If you've followed my facebook postings the last few days you've seen that I've spent a lot of time praying for one of the families that I shepherd at Beech Street, the Blackwells. In case you haven't, here's a short summary: Dee had been sick for a few days last week. On Sunday afternoon, Allen tried to wake her up and she was unresponsive. She was taken to Baptist in Arkadelphia, then quickly flown to Baptist in Little Rock. As of this writing she has made some improvements-she's off the ventilator and her liver continues to show signs of improvement; however, she still hasn't woken (woke? awoke? awoken? you grammar nerds help me out) up yet.
It's always hard when a family that you love and care for is going through a hard time. It gets even tougher when your kids are crazy about that family. My kids love Ms. Dee. They love going to her house, they love hanging out with her, they love spending the night over there. And so they were naturally a upset to find out that she was sick and in the hospital. Owen asked me, "Why did Ms. Dee get sick?" To which I honestly answered, "I don't know, son." He thought about it for a second and said, "I think it was kitty cats."
I sort of chuckled to myself for a minute, thought that was pretty cute. I also thought it was a little funny that 3 year old Owen was ready to make a diagnosis of Dee's condition. But then I had another thought-I realized that this is pretty much what it looks like when I try to explain why God does the things He does.
Let me explain. Often when things come about that I don't understand, things that I don't like, my first inclination is to try and figure out the reason, to explain why it happened; to diagnose the problem if you will. But there's a passage of scripture that I ought to remember; it's Isaiah 55:8-9 and it says this: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Now often when that verse is read people will say, "What a cop out." But the longer I live, the more I hold to the fact that this isn't a cop out; it's a humble submission to an obvious reality-God does things differently than I do. He has a whole different way of looking at things than I do. And when things happen that I don't understand-like a dear friend getting dangerously sick-there's no way that I'll figure out why it happened. There's no way I can reason myself to the point where the light bulb comes on and I say, "Now I see, God. It all makes sense now!" Unless God decides to tell me why He has done something, I can't figure it out. I've got as much chance to figure out why God is doing something as my 3 year old does of arriving at the correct medical diagnosis.
Remember when Job was questioning God? If anyone had reason to ask God, "Why did this happen?" it was Job. And for 4 chapters God makes it painfully clear that Job is in no position to question Him. He says, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?", Job 38:1. "Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness?", Job 38:19. "Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars?", Job 39:26. God's point isn't to blast Job for asking a question; His point is to make certain that Job-and all of us-understand that the things that are very basic for God, things like laying the foundation of the earth and keeping the light & darkness in their dwelling places, and teaching the hawk to fly, all these things that are so basic for Him are above our understanding. And if the basic things are above our understanding, how much more are the things that are truly complex-like how God can be glorified even when His people suffer?
And so we're left with a couple options. If, like Owen, I'm completely unable to diagnose a complex medical condition, and figure out all the reasons why an eternally wise and gracious God would allow such a condition to come about, then here's all I can do.
First, understand that God is completely within His rights to do whatever He wants. Psalm 24:1, "The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein..." If the earth belongs to God, and everyone who dwells in it it His, then guess what? He can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, however He wants, and to whomever He wants. Why? It's His. We belong to Him. He has the final say in what happens, not us. Now we don't like that; sort of chafes, doesn't it? But the fact is that the world is God's. And whatever He does with the world is His prerogative. That's easy to say when things are easy; hard to say when one you love is suffering. Or when you are suffering. But circumstances don't affect who God is. So when things happen that I don't understand and don't like, I have to understand that God is completely within His rights.
But secondly, I have to understand that God is trustworthy. Joshua 1:5, "I will not leave you or forsake you." God has promised that He will remain with me. Not just in easy times, but in all times. Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." Why? "For You are with me." God has promised to never leave me. He's promised to never forsake me. And He always keeps His word. So when things happen that I don't understand-and they will; when things happen that I don't like-and they do; I simply have to bow my knee, submit to my King and say, "Not my will, but Your will be done." And I have to rest in His unchanging goodness.
Father, thank You for loving me. Thank You for promising to never leave me or forsake me. Thank You for being big enough to understand the things that I can't. Thank You for being so awesome that you can take times of hardship and trouble and still use them for Your honor and glory. Forgive my unspeakable arrogance in assuming that I can understand the ways of One who is higher and greater than I'll ever be. Forgive me for not trusting in You. Help me to bow before Your sovereignty. And help me to remember Your faithfulness. Amen.