Friday, November 12, 2010

I Don't Know, Maybe Never Will

I guess when you set yourself up as someone who knows something about the Bible people think that you should have the answers for a lot of their questions about God. Usually, you get off with the easy ones, like “How was Jesus both God and man?”, “How did God part the Red Sea?”, or “How does the Trinity exist?”. I say these are easy because the last few days I keep bumping into the hard ones, “Why?” and “Where was God when my life fell apart?”

I am not writing this to say that I know the answers to any of these questions. And the last two, the really important ones, the where the rubber meets the road questions are the hardest. The truth is I don’t know why, and while I believe God is in the midst of our tragedies I don’t know how to point him out to you. I wish I could, maybe then broken faith could be mended and we could begin to make some kind of sense out of the chaos of our world.

Sure I could give some pat Christian answer, “Just have faith and God will get you through this.” But when has that ever been enough for a heart that has been shattered by disappointment and loss? I could remind you that the Bible is true, and that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose, but seeing the good, or even the purpose, of suffering isn’t always possible in the dark.

It is in our darkest moments that we begin to search out some way to make sense of the cruelty of life. We ask ourselves the hard questions, is this because I have sinned? Maybe, I don’t know. Is it because God doesn’t care enough to move on my behalf? Or is He powerful enough to move on my behalf? Maybe I don’t have enough faith or strength or my breath isn’t fresh enough. All of these thoughts we entertain trying to find a reason. In the end we all pretty much end up at the same place, “I don’t know.”

Is it an issue a faith? Absolutely, but the thing about faith it is a tricky substance. Sometimes it is like a hundred dollar bill that has been run through the washing machine a few too many times. The ink is faded almost past the point of recognition, and if you hadn’t known what it was in the first place you might be tempted to toss it out like any other scrap of paper. Other times, faith is so crisp and clear you almost want to frame it.

Lately it seems like everyone I talk to is hanging onto a tattered piece of faith, hoping they haven’t mistaken an old Wal-Mart receipt for what was once a thing of value. People who are wondering if they were fools to believe in the first place.

I could give them a list of facts about how I know that Bible is true, but honestly that isn’t what they need. I could try to console them with trite clich├ęs or even pray for them, which I do, but there is a need that goes beyond all the pretty church answers. There is an ache that no one person is going to satisfy. A place so deep in their heart only they and God can touch. I wish there was an easy answer, a magic wand, a secret word, but if there is I haven’t found it yet.
The other thing about faith is once you have had it, once you have experienced what it is know that gift you can never be content without it.

“Where is God?” “Where is God when I am crying out in pain for him?” “Where is God as people suffer and he seems not to care?” “Why did he allow this happen?” “I don’t think I can believe in a God who does this to his creation.”

These are the questions that have ripped at my heart the past two days. Over and over again I have heard them coming at me from all directions, friends, loved ones, and strangers who speak the questions through tears of brokenness or in defiant rage. And I set there repeating the few words I know to be true, “I don’t know.” I don’t know. At times I wish I did so I could offer an answer to help them through these times of pain and doubt. At times, I am thankful that the mysteries of the universe are not mine to bear.

I have sat with those probing their hearts trying to unearth some hidden sin that prevents them from hearing God’s voice or keeps them from his blessing. I have looked into the scornful eyes who demand why I can so blindly believe the unbelievable. Each time I have found myself at a loss for words, knowing that arguing will win nothing, and empty words will bring no comfort.
All I can say is I have seen his hand at work. I have experienced his presence, and though I may not see him now – I know he is here and he loves you. Experience is all I have to offer, experience that is lost to the day to day struggle, but reclaimed in those moments when life threatens to overwhelm me.

I don’t know why God does what he does. I don’t know why he allows those who have sacrificed to serve him suffer. I don’t know why children die, and I don’t know why dreams must be killed. I don’t know.

All I know is he loves you. He has orchestrated history so that you could know him. For you sake others have suffered and died. For your sake many have been persecuted so that you could hold his word in your hands, speak his name with no fear, and assemble with others who love him. All of history is one big bloody effort for you to be here, for you to have this chance. Perhaps it is your suffering that will pave the way for the next person to hear his voice, maybe this is greater than you.

Because when you strip away all of my conjecture, all my theories, all my hopes, all I truly have to offer is I don’t know, but I will stand beside you until we do.

No comments: