Thursday, April 27, 2023

Really! We Don't Want an Explainable God!

It's inevitable.

We'll all do this at some point in our lives as we journey heavenward.

I'm pretty certain it comes packaged in our DNA.

In fact, it's hidden in those early stories we learned way back in Genesis onward.

Every one of us, at some time or another, questions God with a look upward and this query: "Why?"

"Why me?"

"Why now?"

"Why, God?"

I'm certain you've been there. 

I have, as well; so, there's no judgement here. 

Even this past weekend, while speaking at a women's retreat...and, honestly, at every retreat where I've been privileged to well as in the counseling-arena, the "why" arises...

...BECAUSE, inevitably (and this goes back to the introductory blog on suffering) our afflictions take us on roads we never wanted to travel. We'll find ourselves far from where we'd ever choose to be. Life looks a whole lot different than we ever imagined. Our expectations become dismantled right in front of our eyes. 

As I write that last little paragraph, my mind travels to the last few weeks of my dad's life. 

What started as a week-long visit, turned into four, as I traveled bedside to provide care as Dad battled a pain-filled cancer that ravaged his body and took his life rather quickly. 

Never did I see myself in that place of being for my earthly father what he had always been for me, doing things no daughter should have to do for a parent (yet privileged to perform)...

...But, in the middle of those last days of his life, God ordained that I'd be taking an online master's-level-course on God and Suffering (for my counseling degree).

There is no way to peel back the onion that was the entire class; but, I discovered peace in the oddest aspect of God's character:

The mystery of God.

The unexplainable, unsearchable, unaccountable ways of the Lord.


There are times when what God does and what He allows absolutely make no sense.

"There are times," my professor said, "when God looks bad, even while knowing that He is good."

"There will be times when He seems unloving, unkind, and hard-hearted."

"There will be times when we will live with more mystery than clarity."

I wrote those words in big letters in my notes. 

I knew, even as I wrote them, that one day I'd need them again. 

Sure enough, I did and, no doubt, I will. 

Underneath those words I jotted my own little note-to-self: "But, really, do I want a God who is explainable? If He ceases to be mysterious, won't He also cease to be God?"

Part of our DNA-problem is that we allow our suffering, and our questions in the moment, to redefine God for us. 

Instead, as I began to recognize, all our trials, struggles, afflictions, pain, and difficulty must be defined by WHO HE SAYS HE IS. 

Does He have to explain Himself? 


As Job discovered, the Lord may never give us the answers to "why." 

He simply reminds us to look deeply at the "what."


Do you remember all of Job's complaints to God? 

And, do you recall how God answers?

He responds with His own questions! And, this statement:

"Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you declare the answers to me (Job 38:3)."

"Should a faultfinder contend with the Almighty (Job 40:2)?"

Two full chapters of questions, and Job responds: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I even answer you? I lay my hand over my mouth (Job 40:4)."

Still the Lord questions Job for two more chapters...questions that remind Job of God's mystery, His unfathomable and unexplainable majesty, and His ways too wonderful to comprehend. 

Ultimately Job says, "Who was I to ask You to explain yourself, Sovereign King and Creator?"

"Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes (Job 42:6)!"

That's where our "Why?" questions should ultimately take us - to the ground, on our faces, before the mysterious, and sovereign King of Kings!

There, we can only respond with repentance.


Look up the synonyms for "questioning."

Here are just a few: perplexity, distrust, suspicion, doubt, and disbelief.

The bottom layer of that onion?

At the heart of the "why" is unbelief.

At the root of John Mark's story (found in 9:14-29) about the father who comes to Jesus seeking His help for the dearly-loved, demon-possessed son, we discover this truth: 

The beginning of faith is always confession!

"I do believe; Lord, help my unbelief (vs. 24)!"

Often our suffering says more about what's not in our hearts (faith) than about what God is not doing for us (taking away our pain).

At the heart of God is a loving, benevolent, mysterious SOVEREIGN.

We don't want Him any other way!

In all suffering, run to His ARMS OF MYSTERY!

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Two GREAT Promises in Times of Trial

Suffering makes us forgetful people.

I know this.

I've been there in the middle of tragedy and hit a complete mental wall when it came to remembering what is true about God, about suffering, and about who I am IN JESUS

It's why, before hardship strikes, we need a solid theology of suffering.

It's why, in the middle of difficulty, it is never so important to have something to hold onto that helps us remember the Word of God.

And, it is why, when we are struggling, we need to regularly preach the truths of Scripture to ourselves.

When we do, our thinking, feeling, interpreting, and even our behavior can fall in line with God's great and powerful wisdom. 

In fact, in a book that details his own sickness and suffering, Paul Tripp writes, "Bad theology worsens suffering. Bad theology will crush your hope when it most needs bolstering. It weakens faith, when it needs strengthening. Bad theology will leave our heart wondering and wandering when it needs to be rooted and at peace."

As I type this, I'm thinking back to the difficult days following the death of my dear friend at the hand of thieves along the road a mile from our home in Kenya.

She and her husband were on their way to pick up their son, who was in our dorm at the time, and take him and his brother (in another dorm) home for the month of Easter break. 

That incident began to plant seeds of fear inside me; and, if that weren't enough, once the police released her body, my husband left to fly home to the US with the family.

On the day he left, our mission station emptied, as it always did between terms. Our co-workers took off for their own seasons of rest, or to serve at another mission compound. 

On the day he left, the local police allowed the four men, who had been caught in connection with the murder (their police-dogs had tracked the men down that very next morning), to go free. 

The planted seed bloomed and bred full grown-adult-fear. Giant fear.

And, the giant's looming presence gave me a serious case of amnesia.

For at least two weeks, I struggled to remember God's truth.

I'm sure the enemy of my soul thought he had won....

Until, I began to recognize his lies.

Until, I began to dig into the truth of Scriptures and find comfort for my weary, weak faith.

Of all the promises I began to write down and read over and over and over again, when I sensed fear knocking at the door of my heart, two made the greatest difference!

If you're discouraged amidst difficulty, these two promises may be just what you need. They were balm to my forgetful and unfaithful belief system.

The first showed up in Matthew 28:20:  "I am with you always."

"Behold, you shall call His name, Immanuel: God with us (Matthew 1:23)."

What we need most when we're in the HARD PLACES is someone who is near. 

People can't always be with us (as was my case - for almost a month, it was just the kids and me); but, the Lord goes where I go; is everywhere I am; in fact, He is near to all my suffering and never beyond my reach. 

How do I know? He dwells in me...I am His temple. 

He is the ever-near, ever-present God.

The second promise was similar to the first: 

"I will never leave you or forsake you."

Joshua 1:5 greets our every difficulty with these words, just as He did the children of Israel many times over. 

The Lord never abandons us, no matter what it might "feel" like.

He may be standing in the background, but He is there. 

Though the enemy may try his darnedest to whisper doubts in our ears, "Where is your God, now?"

His lies are more about him (the Father of all lies) than they are about our ever trustworthy, faithful God.

As Paul Tripp adds to his testimony, "How horrible (of Satan) to rob suffering people of their only place to look for hope!" 

For the Lord is our "here-forever-after" God.  

And, in His Presence is fulness of joy.....even when in the midst of difficulty!

What wonderful truths to cling to during difficulty and trials: He is with us always and never leaves us.

Preach it often!


Thursday, April 13, 2023

When Suffering Eclipses God's Goodness

It's been many months past, when Bay and I sat in a church service listening to a young couple, fresh from the mission field, reporting to their supporting church...

They'd returned to the US to raise more finances for their ministry, where they served the Lord in a difficult war-torn country.

They described the scenario: rapid successions of bombings, constant listening for air raid sirens, or approaching enemy planes overhead.

They discussed the fear that came when woken in the middle of the night, out of a sound sleep, having to rush to bomb shelters, awakening their young children (who didn't understand what was going on in their world).

They, regularly, assisted friends, who were evacuating, knowing that there was no assurance of a place prepared for their arrival on the other end.

They despaired for the great lack of supplies (simple things: bandages, disinfectant, antibacterial creams, analgesics); the inability to find food or fresh water (as stores were emptying and roads were blocked preventing trucks getting through with assistance). 

They talked of trips taken across dangerous roads, as they attempted to retrieve supplies from the border to bring back into their city. 

They shared of friends who'd fled the land, who hadn't had a word from family left behind in months (wondering were they even still alive)...

Their stories were fresh and raw; honest and vulnerable.

Their pictures were heart-wrenching and difficult to see. 

I heard them say that their faith still rested in God.

Yet, I heard what they weren't saying, as well.

Doubt crept in unwanted.

Despair snuck past the borders of their own hearts and set up camp.

Envy at the good lives of Americans, and our inability to relate to the pain experienced in that part of the world.

I heard them asking, without verbalizing them, the "why" questions.

All of that, perfectly normal amidst the trials and tragedies of war. They were overwhelmed.

But above it all....the greatest unspoken cry of their hearts was this: Is God really good?

In fact, the one thing I missed in their whole presentation, which was well-presented, were the God-stories. 

Where, in all this suffering, did they see God at work?

How had they looked for, and found, His presence?

What specific "Word from His Word" captured their hearts and the meditations of their minds; and, how was this LIFE-GIVING Word sustaining them? And, the church of God/the bride of Christ? How was she faring?

When I walked away, I felt...empty...and left, wanting.

I wanted to hear something of the Goodness of God in the Land of the Living.

Yet, the more I pondered their sharing, it seemed like God's Presence underlined every story they told; but, they seemed totally unaware.

It seemed what they needed was a tour guide pointing Him out in the midst of the suffering that seemed to eclipse His glory and goodness.


Easter just passed.

The empty tomb is still empty.

The reality of the resurrection reminds us God put an exclamation mark on sin, death, suffering, and the life to come.

In fact, the empty tomb proclaims loudly that the Lord guarantees every one of His promises! 

After orchestrating His own resurrection is anything too hard for the Lord?

We don't have to live as if the here and now is all there is... God offers glimpses of a there and then just waiting around the corner...

Jesus is LIVING PROOF, that He takes care of and makes right all suffering, and one day will stomp victoriously over it....that what the world means for evil, He promises to redeem.

He is LIVING PROOF that His presence will never leave us.

He is LIVING PROOF that even amidst our suffering, His goodness will, tangibly, alway be very real, if we but look for it. 

While the enemy may want to eclipse God's good heart, keep your eyes and ears open for Him...

We've all heard the quote, popular, now, for a number of years:
"It's Friday;
Sunday's Comin'."
-E.M. Lockridge-

This is the truth you can bank on...and what the young missionary couple needed to preach often to themselves:

Today, we may be living in the longest Friday of our lives, but there's a Sunday to come when the glorious, risen Lord will make all things new! 

In the meantime, look for His fingerprints all around you, in everything that you're experiencing.

He's there.

It may just be behind the scenes (exactly what I learned from the book of Esther)... 

...and, if you need one, hire a tour guide to walk you through your story; someone who sees a little more clearly, and who will point Him out.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Suffering: The Battle for our Hearts

Happy Easter, all!


Knowing that suffering is a "when" and not an "if," causes me to tarry at verses that speak of it. 

Ponder them.

File them away for future use.

In Paul Tripp's book, "Suffering," he says, "Suffering has a tendency to redefine who we think God is and what we think our walk with Him is all about." 

Then, he expounds, "Remember that a theology of suffering found in Scripture is never, ever an end in itself, but is designed as a means to the end of real comfort, real direction, real protection, real conviction, and real hope." 

Our theology helps us be ready for the WHEN. 

So, here are the verses I landed on this week and what they taught me.

As you read them, hear your Suffering Savior's voice, as He whispers intimately in your ear:

"Fear none of those things which you will suffer...(rather) be faithful (Revelation 2:10a, 11a)."

My interpretation: 

Don't let your trials, tribulations, sicknesses, sufferings, pain and problems scare you away from believing and receiving God's promises. 

Again, Tripp: 

"Too many of us, while battling the cause of our suffering, forget to battle for our hearts."

In the middle of the mess, it's so easy to let our doubts get the best of us. 

It's so easy to let unbelief, and a lack of trust, creep in and steal away what Scripture tells us about our God. 

All of a sudden, in comparison to the problem, a small God emerges.

He is to blame.

He could have.........and, He didn't.

He allowed this to happen....

I prayed...He didn't hear or answer.

The one thing, I began to realize this past week: 

Suffering uncovers, unveils, lays bare the reality of my belief system. 

A week ago Tuesday, out of the blue, I stood up to walk from our family room into the kitchen, when the room started moving in circles. 

Spinning like a fast merry-go-round, I grabbed on to something stationary to stop it, but it just kept whirling. 

Oh, I knew exactly my problem.

I'd experienced the same thing a few years back: vertigo.

Somehow, I made it to the kitchen, grabbed a drink of water, but simply sunk to the floor to station myself against a cabinet - 1) in hopes that I could fix my eyes on a single point and slow the mental tornado down, and 2) not throw up. 


Didn't work.

Bay walked me back to the comfort of the couch in the family room, where being as still and quiet, as possible, at least steadied me. 

While he visited with some company that came to the door, I reflected on this sudden change in my "normal."

The "what ifs..." that show up, immediately...

Mine: "What if this doesn't go away by tomorrow? I don't have time for this..."

"What if it never goes away?"

I began to recognize one truth for certain: I definitely am prone to take my health for granted.

In fact, I assume I'll wake up each morning (with no more than the normal aches and pains of getting older) and be about my business.

However, the greater reality I began to wrestle with is this - what if those what ifs became my new normal? 

How would I respond to the Lord? 

Would I still trust Him without wondering what kind of God allows suffering? 

Would I live in fear or remain faithful?

How would this change, or would it, my belief system?

So, that evening, vertigo became more of a spiritual battle than a physical concern.

A battle to remember at all times, in all circumstances, to give thanks to the Lord who created me, and invites me daily to place my trust in Him alone.

I discovered trust for the Lord within my heart, yes, but found I also trusted in my health and my ability to control it, which is ridiculous.

I settled this quickly within my heart: In all things, God is sovereign...and, in every valley of suffering through which I may walk, His Grace is ever-present, and, the depth of His love my constant. 

He is a very present help in times of trouble.

"Scripture never looks down on the sufferer, it never mocks his pain, it never turns a deaf ear to his cries, and it never condemns him for his struggle. It presents to the sufferer a God who understands, who cares, who invites us to come to him for help, and who promises one day to end all suffering of any kind once and forever (Tripp)."