And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28
My friend Caroline and I were talking last night about our tendency as Christians to need to sanitize and neatly wrap up messy, painful, disappointing, and heart wrenching circumstances with our own explanations and understanding of God's very good purposes for those particular events. We have this basic knowledge that God is good all the time and that He is in control of all things, therefore, this current suffering I am experiencing must be "good" and here, let me give a whack at explaining just how it is so.
Unfortunately, as a result, some fairly hurtful and off the wall things can be said to the one who is already hurting and feeling disoriented. We mean well, but at the end of the day, it seems more about our need to justify God before one another than about our deep trust that even when we don't know the plans He has, He does. "I know the plans I have for you..." That is His promise and that should be enough. But, as any normal kid who demands to have the "WHY?" explained, I need for Him to move my faith to a place that I trust Him and believe in His goodness and actively cherishing love even if it is never clear this side of Jesus' return what the very good purpose for this or that actually is.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life." John 9:1-3
See, for me, I want to find out whose sin caused this calamity because blaming is really important. Then, had I been in the family of the blind man, I might have demanded to know exactly how God's work was being displayed, couldn't it have been displayed without all the trouble of blindness and is there a clear marketing press release that will make God's glroifying purpose evident to every single person who has observed this suffering or who might ask about it?
The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." Luke 23:36-37
It was not remotely apparent to any onlookers that God was faithful, good, present, powerful, loving, in exclusive control of the moment or any number of characteristics that He has revealed about Himself in all of Scripture. Yet, "I Am" continued to be His name and His reality. Even Jesus, who knew the purpose and how God's glory would be progressively revealed through this excruciating suffering, felt the darkness deeply and with incomparable agony. Yet, an explanation of God's reasoning and plans was not what the hearts of the onlookers really needed nor was God in need of justification before His people. For reasons I won't understand until I meet Him in person, God does not have the same urgent need to clear up misperceptions and misunderstandings that I do. Maybe it is like when I took my newborn babies to get their first shots and their infant screams and big eyes looking at me made me actually start to cry. But an explanation would not have helped them at that age. What they needed was to know that I was with them, that I loved them, and that I had ok'd these painful pokes they were experiencing so they could trust it.
"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Daniel 3:17-18
Jesus suffered so that I could live and I am invited to share in His sufferings, ultimately to participate in fuller life than I have known or settled for before. I am so thankful that His purposes and goodness and love and exclusive control are not dependent upon my (or my friends') understanding or being able to package Him in a marketable fashion.
How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.