I previously wrote that Christians aim to live a life that is centered on God, but you can also avoid one. I want to discuss this by looking at the life of Jonah so that you won’t avoid a God-centered life but cultivate one. You can avoid it for a...
Have you ever struggled with the question, “Why is God allowing this”? I imagine that every believer is faced with this question at some point in their life.
I clearly remember asking this question as I was painfully dealing with my son, who was struggling with a mental and physical disorder that we had yet to find answers to. Throughout the hour or more of a heart-wrenching battle with him, as he struggled to regain control of himself, I felt every range of emotion go through me. One moment I felt irritated at the disruption; then I felt compassion and hurt for him; and yet, just as quickly, my compassion turned to fury, anger, and even feelings of hatred for the pain he was causing us.
Finally, after what seemed to last an eternity, he collapsed in exhaustion and defeat. As I looked at him, relieved and exhausted myself, I wrestled with these mixed emotions racing through me. I loved my son, but I felt angry and afraid of how overwhelming and destructive he was. Why would God allow this in our family when we were seeking to follow him? Why would God allow a helpless little child to suffer in this way?
Wrestling with “Why?”
By God’s grace, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes in that moment to see my son through the eyes of God’s character and truth, rather than my emotions. My angry heart began to soften, and my fear began to turn into a plea for God’s strength. This change in my heart was clearly a gift of God’s grace because I know all too well that I am more naturally prone to react in sin out of my frustration and fear.
I slowly approached my son, wrapped my arms around him, and pulled him into my lap. I began to pray silently out of desperation, “Lord, how do I love this child?” Immediately the Holy Spirit brought something to my mind. “Trust me. Trust who I AM. Trust that I have a purpose.”
My son looked up at me with a look of fear, confusion, exhaustion, and anger, and said, “Why won’t God change me? I’ve asked him so many times to change me and heal me, but he still hasn’t. If there really is a God, why did he make me like this, and why won’t he make me better?”
Though my own heart was wrestling with many similar questions, I began to feel a fight rise up within me. Not a fight against what the Lord was allowing, but a fight to hold onto the truth of who God is, despite the ache and confusion in my heart. I looked at my son and said with a small but growing faith,
God loves you even more than I ever could, and he can heal you in an instant if he chooses to. However, since he has chosen not to, then in his love, he must have a greater purpose to be accomplished through your struggle right now than through your healing. I know it’s hard to understand, but I believe God will somehow equip us to endure this for as long as he chooses to allow it. Though it doesn’t feel good and it is hard to trust sometimes, we have to believe that one day we will see God use all of this for our good.
As I look back on that conversation, I am in awe of how Christ spoke hope through me when in reality, I was wrestling with many of my of my own “why” questions. I see now that God was speaking to my own heart just as much as to my son’s.
From “Why?” to “Who”
So what “why” questions are you wrestling with right now? These questions can stem from different struggles in each of our lives, but they always stem from the same struggle to understand why God allows pain when it seems pointless, harmful, and destructive.
The truth is that God often answers our “why?” questions with answers about “who he is.” We need to hold all of our suffering under the truth of God’s character. Though suffering is painful and seems to be nothing but harmful, we can begin to see a different side of the pain when we look at it through the lens of God’s proven and faithful character.
- We see glimpses of God’s goodness in places we never noticed before;
- We see his faithfulness use every ounce of the pain to break up the hardened and hidden places of our hearts;
- We see his overwhelming grace woven through every detail, heartache, change of direction, and seemingly worthless pain, to bring forth something beautiful, eternal, and Christ-glorifying;
- We see our endurance and strength multiply as the Spirit empowers us, moves us, changes us, and strengthens us to run the race he has called us to run.
So I challenge and encourage you today to take all of your questions, confusion, and pain to the Lord. Be honest with the Lord about what you’re struggling to understand, but don’t get stuck there. Pray instead that Christ would take your questions, even ones that seem faithless, and overwhelm you with the truth of who he is. Although we will often not receive answers to our questions, since the answers we seek are often far greater than what we can grasp or understand at the time, we can find rest and confidence in the character of God, which never changes.
Confidence in God’s Character
God Is Sovereign
- “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'” (Isaiah 46:10)
- “The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.” (Psalm 93:1-5)
God Is Wise
- “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
God Is Good
- “The LORD is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:9)
- “For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.” (Psalm 86:5)
God Is Holy
- “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.” (Psalm 77:11-14)
God Is Faithful
- “If we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)
- “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)
These few examples barely scratch the surface of the vastness and all-sufficiency of the almighty God of the universe. However, even after reflecting on these promises alone, I am reminded of how blessed we are to have these guaranteed and undeserved promises through salvation in Jesus Christ.
The outlook we have on our circumstances is only changed when we realize and believe that everything we experience must line up fully and completely with the character of God. Because of this, for the believer there is always hope — not necessarily for our desired outcome of circumstances, but for God’s purposes to be accomplished.