“Mom,” she began, tears running down her cheeks, “I just don’t understand. Why? Why did God have to take my daddy so soon?”
My heart broke as I took her in my arms. The tears streamed down my own cheeks. Few things are worse than seeing your children hurt.
And, when you don’t have answers to their questions…
My precious daughter is struggling with the question we all ask at some time or another: Why? I’ve heard it said that we aren’t supposed to ask God, “Why?”
I’m not sure I agree.
Throughout the Psalms, David asks God why questions repeatedly…
O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble? Psalm 10:1
Why do the wicked get away with despising God? They think, “God will never call us to account.” Psalm 10:13
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Psalm 22:1
Job, in his grief, asked God why…
But why? Have I ever asked you for a gift? Have I begged for anything of yours for myself? Job 6:22
Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow! Job 7:19
“Why do the wicked prosper, growing old and powerful? Job 21:7
Even Jesus questioned God, asking why the Father would forsake Him in His time of greatest need…
Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” Mark 15:34
Yes, it’s human nature to ask God why certain things happen, to question why our circumstances are so painful, why the wicked seem to prosper while those with integrity suffer. We want to understand why He seems so distant when we are seeking Him the best we know how. We want to know why He seems so slow to answer our prayers, to fulfill His promises.
The problem is, God rarely shows us the answer to our why questions immediately. Over time, yes, the answer may become clear. Sometimes. Sometimes not. But in the midst of the crisis, His answer is typically, “Trust me. My grace is sufficient.”
I find myself asking how to respond to my children when they ask me why their daddy had to be taken so soon. I certainly don’t have the answer to their why questions. Instead, I find myself encouraging them to ask different questions.
What questions do I want them to ask? The same questions we should all ask in the midst of our trials.
What is God doing?
Even when I don’t understand why God allows certain things to happen, I can be certain He hasn’t left us. He will never forsake us.
I can also be absolutely positive He is still working. All around me. In my circumstances. In my pain.
To make something beautiful.
God promises that all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes. Romans 8:28
God always takes our pain and uses it for our good and His glory. In His time. In His way. We have to be patient. We have to trust Him. We have to surrender to the journey, to His way of doing things. But, we can be certain that in the end, He will work for our good.
How is He working?
Sometimes we get so caught up in the pain, in our circumstances, that we miss God’s hand. We miss the small miracles happening all around us. We miss the Christian brothers and sisters who run to us, pouring out God’s love on us. We miss the words of love and encouragement. We miss the hundreds of prayers cried out on our behalf.
In my own situation, I have found myself literally in tears over the many ways God has protected us, encouraged us, loved on us. God has been so incredibly faithful.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
I am reminding my kids to open their eyes, to keep a pure heart, so they can see God at work around us. He is at work; we must only look for Him.
How can I know Him better through this trial?
Scriptures are full of reminders of how God uses trials for our good. James tells us to count it all joy when we face trials because God uses them to develop perseverance in us and bring us to maturity (James 1:2-4). Trials also help strengthen our faith (1 Peter 4:7).
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 2 Corinthians 4:17
One thing I have learned through the trials of this life is the joy of getting to know my Savior more deeply and intimately. After walking through trials more horrific than any of us could ever imagine, Job exclaims, “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes” (42:5).
And Jacob? Jacob (also known as Israel) referred to God as “the God of my fathers” throughout his life.
Until he wrestled with God.
Suddenly, God became real to him. God became personal. God became an intimate friend. It wasn’t until after he spent a night wrestling with God (Genesis 32) that Israel finally refers to God as “the God of Israel” (Genesis 33:20).
And it’s the same with us. When we walk through the trials of this life, wrestling with God as we wrestle with our circumstances, we get to know our Father intimately and personally. What joy!
What can I learn about His character through this pain?
My kids are wandering in the wilderness, wondering what has happened to the Promised Land. We had hoped this year would be the year of promises fulfilled, the year we saw God pour out His power on our lives, the year we saw Him move mightily in our midst.
This certainly isn’t what we were expecting.
Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell. Deuteronomy 8:2-4
As a mom, I wish I could protect my kids from the wilderness. I wish I could take their pain away, wrap them up in my arms and shield them from everything ugly and evil.
But what I can do is point them to the Great I AM, the One who sees their every need and meets it at just the right time. I can encourage them to look to the Father to be their friend, their comforter, their healer. I can remind them how He came to bind up our wounds and heal our broken hearts. I can remind them of His faithfulness…a faithfulness that becomes so much more obvious when we are wandering through the desert, dependent upon Him for EVERYTHING.
How do we learn to ask the right questions? How do we learn to look for God’s hand at work around us? How do we learn about His goodness and His grace and His faithfulness?
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:18
Somehow, I must teach my children to keep their eyes on the unseen, on our Heavenly Father. I must help them take their eyes off the seen—the pain and the hurt and the grief—and focus on the eternal. We must learn to be transfixed on our Savior, the only answer to our pain.
And then we will be able to experience the goodness of our Father.
Lord Jesus, I am completely unable to lead these precious children through their grief. I need you! You are my wisdom, my guide. You are my only hope, the One who is able to heal broken hearts. You are the One who brings good out of all things, even the most painful circumstances of our lives. I cry out to you, begging you to cover us with your goodness and your grace. I trust you, Father, to do an amazing work in us through this journey.