Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why, God?

I received the following correspondence from a dear brother in Christ who faced—years ago--the untimely death of his wife. His anguish then and his questions now are common to us all when tragedy strikes. We want to make sense of what seems to be senseless pain. Even those who are blessed with extraordinary faith cannot avoid the natural desire to understand. We want to know.

What’s the first question on the lips of any child: Why

Why?” is part of the human condition. I remember watching a sitcom and one of the characters bemoans to God: “You made me smart enough to have the questions but not the answers!”

But God has given us answers, hasn’t He? The answers aren’t to be found within, but without. Only when we look beyond ourselves and to the Christ of scripture can we begin make sense of our suffering. Ultimately, “why?” must be seen through the lens of scripture and with an eye to the goodness and providence of God.

My friend’s words are bold and italicized. May God add His blessing to your reading.

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When my wife died, to say it was a shock is an understatement. Like most people, we think we always have to have a reason and that just isn't so....at least I don't think so. But some of the things that were said to my kids….hurt them deeply. I finally realized that we need to be very careful of what we tell people when they lose a loved one…
If an airplane crashes and kills all 300 people aboard, is it God who gathered them all on the same flight because it was their time? What about 9/11? Did He gather over 3,000 people to the Twin Towers because it was their time? I have a tough time with that and I guess I want your thoughts…

Clichés and trite statements rarely help and frequently hurt in such situations. It's better to turn to scripture.

A couple of things come immediately to mind. 1) We should not presume to speak for God or to know His mind apart from scripture. It's not our place to say "why" God does what He does. 2) In scripture, God feels no compulsion to "answer to" or "explain Himself" to man [c.f. Job].

"The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us...It is the glory of God to conceal a matter" (Deut 29:29; Prov 25:2). God does not answer to us, we answer to Him [again, the book of Job is clear about this].

Also, we must understand that there is a difference between truth and comfort. Truth isn't always comforting! Too many times people are searching for comfort--not Truth. And, too many times we as Christians are more concerned with helping folks "feel better" than telling them Truth in love.

C.S. Lewis once remarked that if we look for Truth we will find it and maybe, in the end, we'll also find comfort. But, if we look only for comfort, in the end, we are likely to find neither comfort nor truth. I think he's right.

As for God's providence and death: Jesus is clear that God's providence [control, directing, governing] extends to the smallest of details. "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will" (Matthew 10:29). Thus, not even a sparrow can die apart from God's will/plan/ordination.

Here are a few verses which speak of God's providence and human death:

"And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven...and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified" (Dan 5:23).

"Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You;You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass" (Job 14:5).

"Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them" (Psalm 139:16).

"The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to the grave and brings up" (1Samuel 2:6).

Now, our Lord Himself was basically asked: Why did these people die? We find this exchange in Luke 13:1-5. The people mention worshipers who were murdered as they were offering sacrifices (v.1). Jesus Himself mentions 18 people who were killed when a tower fell on them (v.4).

Please notice: Jesus never once tells "why" God did this. Rather, He makes one minor and one major point. Minor point: The people who were killed were NOT worse sinners than those who were spared. Major point: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (vss. 3, 5).

The point is, friend, according to Jesus, when tragedy strikes we are not to question God's will or purpose or goodness. Rather, we should take to heart that we've been spared. We should acknowledge God's mercy in preserving our lives. We should act upon God's mercy and repent of our sins.

Personal/national tragedies will harden the hearts of some, but they will soften the hearts of others. Personal/national tragedies are not times to question or doubt God--these are times to question or examine ourselves.

We can provide questioners with biblical Truth. We can show them in scripture the providence and goodness of God. But we should not go beyond the warrant of scripture in trying to give people clichés or the mind of God; because when we do this, we are guilty of presumption and we will miss--in the end--both Truth and comfort.

2 comments:

  1. This actually brings 'closure' to 'why God'...you are right, truth isn't always comforting, and C.S. Lewis statement is ever so wise...thank you for this...

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    Replies
    1. There are times when God Himself is our only comfort. Thankfully, Christ is ours and we are His now and always.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.

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