Last week, I paced the isles of the library, scanning titles, unsure of the kind of book I wanted to read. Just when I was about to give up, a little book caught my attention called ‘Why? Trusting God When You Don’t Understand’ by Anne Graham Lotz. There’s just something about little books that I love – the ones I find tend to be rich with insight for life’s journeys. And this one is no different.
Lotz dedicates her book to “those who have unanswered prayers”. I wasn’t sure if I was one of “those”, but it drew me in nonetheless because I’ve always felt that God answers my prayers in ways that are different from what I expect or think I want. Also, oftentimes the answer involves taking me through the very situations I pray to avoid. To be honest, I think many times the answer is “No”. And not understanding the reason, I ask,
But why God?
Why did my young and effervescent aunt have to die so suddenly of a brain tumor no-one knew she had?
Why didn’t you heal her so she could be there for her son, husband, family, and for me?
(To mimic Lotz’s question to God about her son’s cancer) Why is my handsome, six-foot-one inch, twenty-nine year old husband suffering from this horrific disease?
Why don’t you answer me the first time I call, to provide for me at the moment I ask?
“Why?” a lot of things.
The story surrounding Lazarus’ death in John 11 is a profound account which Anne Lotz uses to help her readers, like me, cultivate a deep trust in God. I have been blessed by the truths she has pulled from the passage, so much so that I started journaling again.
My wrestling with the ‘why’s’ in my life, as well as grappling with this little book and John 11 have settled certain things in my heart – things I know will remain with me. Hopefully, they will leave a meaningful impression in the face of your ‘why’s’ too. They are not attempts at answers, but are responses of faith in a living and loving God:
- Jesus loved Lazarus and yet he allowed him to get sick and die. He allowed his family and community to suffer grief and to feel hurt and disoriented because He did not answer immediately.
I accept now that being a child of God does not exempt me from difficulties, like sickness, or the hardship that comes with financial strain. More than that, I think God uses trials to wrench the best out of me; they don’t go to waste.
I accept that God’s ways are far above my ways, but His love for me is never as equally removed. God loves me.
God’s silence or delay is not indifference or meanness.
- Jesus tried to explain to his disciples and to Martha the purpose of Lazarus’ death, but they didn’t fully understand, though they tried.
God knows the reasons for what I go through. Even though He may tell me the reason through the scriptures or other people, I may never really understand until I see His will come to pass. And that’s okay because…
I don’t need to know why in order to trust God.
- Jesus told Martha that he is “the resurrection and the life”. A few verses down reads “Jesus wept.”
Jesus was as much God as he was human. The source of all life who wields power over death is familiar with the things I suffer.
I don’t have to fear anyone or anything, not even death.
When I spent some time thinking about what weeping looks like, I was amazed at the rawness of emotion in the statement “Jesus wept.” Weeping involves tears, draining mucus; there are involuntary sounds – bellows – and jerks of the body. It is unbridled, heart wrenching sorrow. And then, it is Jesus who wept. Imagine, the Creator of Heaven and earth, his chest heaving with the pain of losing a friend.
Jesus grieved for Lazarus. I believe Jesus was also struck by the sorrow of Mary, Martha and others who loved Lazarus. I believe Jesus wept over the cost of sin and the ugliness of death. I believe Jesus had a deep foreboding of his own imminent death. And then there are things He only as the incarnate God could feel and I will never understand.
It is so important to me that Jesus is moved by the things I go through. I am comforted in knowing that “[My] suffering is His. [My] grief is His. [My] torment is His. [My] misery is His. And He feels [my] pain! He understands! And He is enough to meet [my] needs!”
But Jesus is not only moved with emotion. The story continues to tell us that after all the crying and heartache, He brought Lazarus out of that tomb, alive. Later, He would be raised from His own grave by the same power that raised Lazarus! Who am I not to trust Jesus?
This Jesus, whom I’ve been affectionately calling my carpenter friend, is my Lord. I trust that He is who He says He is and the agony that comes with not understanding has all but dissipated. I trust that He will be my light in the shrouded ‘why’s’ and He alone will bring me into a season of new life in His time and in His way.