“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! “ (Psalm 139:16-17)
So, why us, Lord? Perhaps you wonder why God allowed some adversity into your life. My beloved Muriel, at 55, twenty years too soon, with Alzheimer’s. There are various theories. One alumnus said it was God’s judgment on me for allowing contemporary Christian music on our radio station. I don’t feel guilty about that, but I do know circumstances contrary to our desires are always intended to make us more like Jesus, and God has surely used these two decades of lingering grief to develop in me more Jesus-like attitudes and behavior where there are deficiencies. Of late I’ve begun to wonder if the Lord put me under “house arrest” so I’d do something my busy life didn’t allow much of – writing books and articles. Of course, whatever other purposes God has in sending or permitting adversity, there is always the purpose of bringing God glory, either through his mighty deliverance from suffering or his mighty deliverance in suffering. And that he has done in wonderful ways I’ll never fully understand. So it’s obvious I have contemplated the “why?” question. Perhaps you have as well.
But I not fretted over the answer. Why have I not demanded healing from God or frantically pursued the many cures friends and strangers have suggested? The bottom line is this: we live in a fallen world- what else did one expect? Theology protects from destructive inner turmoil and allows me to accept reality.
Here’s how. The whole of creation is under the curse of the fall and I’m not exempt, because of God’s love for me, from the consequences of living in a world of vicious cancer and violent winds. Nor from a world of finite and fallen people who inflict harm on me, wittingly or unwittingly. I expect the worst and rejoice when, by God’s grace, it usually doesn’t happen! Sometimes when I wake in the morning I muse, Lord, lots of folks died last night. Why not me? At my stage of life so many of my dearest family and friends suffer painful, debilitating illness and agonizing death. Why not I? That’s the only reasonable “why” question for one who lives in a fallen world.
I don’t want to oversimplify the problem of evil; a whole complex of theological issues intertwine. For example, if God made his own people exempt from the human condition, who wouldn’t become a believer? But what kind of believer would they become? Again, when does God heal and to what end? For what purpose does God protect or remove the protection? The theological questions seem endless, especially when faced with personal tragedy, but the bottom line for me is this: I’m fallen and so is my world. Not, “why me, Lord?” when trouble strikes, but “why not me, Lord?” when it so often misses.
But what kind of God? We discover three stories in the Bible that focus on the kind of God we don’t have. The hired mourners knew the child was dead, so they ridiculed the God-man who said it would be all right. The distraught father, finding Jesus’ disciples failing of the press releases, said to the all-powerful One: “If you can, please heal my son.” The disciples, veteran sailors, despaired of life as the winds howled, and wakened the sleeping passenger, “Don’t you care that we’re dead men?” Some doubted his wisdom- they knew better. One doubted his power- “If you can,” he said. And some doubted his love- “don’t you care about us?” When this snaps into focus, we realize that when we worry about our impossible circumstances- death, illness, and storms—we are calling into question the character of God. Am I really smarter than God to know what is best? Is he truly impotent in the face of these impossible circumstances? Or maybe he just doesn’t care that much about me? What blasphemy!
You may not know what God’s purpose is in sending or permitting difficulty into your life, but that he has a purpose you can be confident. And a God with wisdom to know what is best for you, love to choose that best, and power to carry it through, you can trust. You do not have to be a victim, except a “victim” of God’s love.
How often, when you try to untangle the reasons God seems to have abandoned you, have you returned finally to Calvary and whispered, “Dear Jesus, how could those hands pierced for me ever allow anything truly evil pass through to touch me? Help me trust you when I can’t figure out the why.’’