Making Sense of God when Our World Doesn’t

This is our pastor’s newsletter for November 2018.

 

In our grief, we sigh, “Why, Lord?”  Such words formed in my mouth when Dean Webb died, with Sandy, his wife, a short time later.  Today, as I write this article, I still am grappling with losing them both.  Though I am a pastor, God sends down no privileged doorway into His private deliberations.  So, I can’t answer this question of “why” with complete certainty.

The Almighty doesn’t give me access to His secret thoughts, and neither does He for you.  So, we must grasp with what God decides to reveal, what He speaks to us in Scripture.  Let’s delve into what He determines to disclose, not what we may covet or crave.  For what He unveils to us is based on who He is, not our leanings and longings, which are as surefooted as the foundations of our fickleness.

The prophet Isaiah writes, “You are a God who keeps hidden” (Isaiah 45:15).  The New Testament teaches, “How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways!  For who can understand the Lord’s thoughts?” (Romans 11:33-34).  Perhaps, we are unable to make much sense of His “Godness.”

So, Divinity doesn’t explain Himself in His every action.  “The concealed things belong to the Lord our God.  The revealed, however, belongs to our descendants and us forever, to keep all the words of the Covenant” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  The reasoning behind many of our Father’s actions are unknowable to us but, in His mercy, He allows us to find out what He wishes to tell us.

In his suffering, Job learned to understand this about the Lord.  After God allowed Satan to take away so much from him, Job pondered life in this world.  “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will leave this life.  The Lord gives, and he takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).  After receiving criticism, he dug deep, “Should we accept only blessings from God but not adversity?” (Job 2:10).

The agony and turmoil persisted, and some “friends” of Job attempted to explain why he suffered.  Later, the all-knowing Father needed to correct Job of their defective insights.  “Where were you when I established the earth?  Tell me, if you understand” (Job 38:4).

In other words, we can’t fathom everything or how God chooses to act through life’s events for our eternal well-being.  To speculate about God’s will, why, where, when, and so on, too often seats us on our self-made throne.  In our fallen judgment, we subject Him to faulty criticism, born from our sinful nature.

Not so for the faith given us, which appeals to God to carry out His will in our lives.  Though we may not comprehend what’s going on, God continues to be faithful, but we can’t perceive this as we should until we are in heaven.  For “all things work together for the benefit of those who love God, those whom he calls according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Let’s go back to what we can hold on to, which is what our Lord deigns to divulge about Himself, including the harshness of life we experience.  First, our Father above is merciful, who does everything well.  Consider when God revealed Himself to Moses.  How did He describe Himself?  “The Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in unfailing love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).  The Apostle John wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  The proof of this is Jesus.  For we learn this about love, not ours for God, but His for us, who “sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Take in what Paul also tells us.  With God on our side, “who is against us?  For he did not spare his own Son but offered him up for us all.  How will he not also, with him, grant us everything?” (Romans 8:31-32).  The “everything” is not here, for a sin-infected world cannot give us this.  No, God will bestow all to us in eternity.  On the Last Day, all will come together when our new, perfect, and sinless bodies rise from death and reunite with their souls.

So, what do we do in the meantime?  The incarnate Lord invites us to come to Him.  Though He sacrificed Himself for us, we still must receive what He earned for us in His cross and resurrection.  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), “Sabbath.”  Every week, God does this, coming again to His people to deliver His salvation anew.

Few on earth need our Savior’s respite—and restoration—more than someone who’s burying another he loves.  In Christ’s Church, we find a Father who did what we do when death comes our way—He went to His Son’s funeral.

The heavenly Father also buried His Son—and this Son, before He died and rose, did not abandon us.  “Though you will suffer in this world, be courageous, for I conquered the world” (John 16:33).  In His presence to His people, Jesus fulfills His pledge.  So, we come to meet Christ in His Church, to bask in His triumph over this fallen world, given to us in its fullness when He returns.  Amen.

 

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