Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Tyranny of 'Why'

Have you ever asked the Lord why He is allowing so much suffering or such great trials in your life? Do you think that knowing why these things are happening would help you to persevere and get through it? Sometimes when we ask ‘why,’ we are seeking to control our situation. We think that if we can just figure out why something is happening, then we can change it or do something to make it better. Sometimes when we ask ‘why,’ we are looking to redeem our suffering. We know that something good will come from our troubles, and we want to see it now. Sometimes when we ask ‘why,’ we think that God is being unfair, and we want justice. We want God to placate our sadness by explaining Himself to us. Today, I hope to convince you that lingering in 'why' is a form of bondage and sometimes you and I get caught in the trap.

Do you ask ‘why’ because you want to do something to make the pain stop, or to control the circumstance that you don’t like? Perhaps you believe that if you knew God’s reason for your trial, you could convince Him to ease up. Maybe it’s because you've sinned. You search your heart for some sinful attitude or action so that you can confess and get your ticket out of this mess. But then when you do find sin and repent, the situation doesn't change. Or you can’t find any sin, and you start heading toward legalism thinking that maybe, if you just led a more pure and holy life, God would not be so hard on you. Sometimes God does invoke His discipline on us when we are straying from the way He wants us to go. Sometimes that discipline is painful. But you must understand one thing: God NEVER punishes us! If you are a believer, the penalty for all of your sin--past, present, and future--has already been paid (2 Cor 5:21). Nothing you are going through right now is punishment for your sin!

Do you ask ‘why’ because you want to redeem your suffering? God has promised that “All things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NKJV),” and you naturally want to see that good thing that He has promised to bring about. If you could just see a glimpse of the good that will come of it, you could endure and be joyful. But the truth is that we are called to persevere without any explanation of our circumstances. Scripture commands us to be patient in trials (Romans 12:12), and not to become weary in doing good (Gal 6:9). James 1:12 tells us that we are blessed if we persevere, because we will receive the crown of life that God has promised us. In all my searching of the Bible for verses on persevering in trial, I could not find a single one that is conditional on our knowledge of the reason for it. In other words, there is nothing in Scripture that says it’s ok to lose hope because of our circumstance if we can't see the reason for it. No, we must put on the full armor of God (Eph 6:10-18) and soldier on!

When you ask ‘why,’ is it because you think God is being unfair to you? I have struggled with this one as I compare the outcome of my medical procedure to that of others who had the same one. Most of them are much improved from before the surgery, and they are going on with their lives. I, on the other hand, continue to suffer with the effects of a botched operation. Why did they get the good outcome and not me, Lord? Why must I suffer, while they move on with their lives? So I ask you: Is God unfair? If so, upon what do you base your answer? If you are looking at your circumstances to determine your view of God, you are looking in the wrong place. God loves justice (Is 61:8). God will not act wickedly or pervert justice (Job 34:12). The God of all the earth always does what is right (Gen 18:25). Never use your circumstances as a gauge for God’s justice. Our view of God must always be based solely on the Word of God. When you begin to think that God is not being fair, go back to the Word and see if you can find anything to back up your theory. You won’t.

The condensed version of all this is that God is God, and He does what He pleases with what is His, and what He does is always good. We must place our hope not in our circumstances, but in the God of our circumstances. It would be great to know why these things happen, but when you begin to think biblically about it, knowing why becomes less important. If you get bogged down in the ‘why’ of your trial, it will eventually rule your thinking. You may begin to justify your anger at God because you believe you are entitled to know His plan. Bitterness will quickly follow and oh, what a long road it is back to peace! Spare yourself this pain, friend! Trust God with your circumstances, and tell Him that you will submit to them whether or not He shows you why. Humble yourself under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor (1 Peter 5:6 NLT).