Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Darkness Deepens, Lord; With Me Abide

Death of a loved one from cancer. Job insecurity. Health concerns. Financial worries. Deeper questions about goals and life's purpose. I saw these in others a couple of months ago, and I see myself facing every one of these today. Add to these the problems faced by many friends with regard to their marriage, relationships, addictions, et al. Requests for prayer are increasing by the day. Such situations come up frequently and when they do they result in at least some questioning. We cringe at least a bit when we hear the truth of Scripture expressed in familiar sentences such as "When God closes a door, he opens a window" or "God wants the best for us and it is all part of the plan." Some of us who have already been through and come out stronger from a crisis of faith may not question so strongly as others do, but none of us get quite used to the valleys of life. Such is our nature.

My own questions have to do with God and His ways. We know that life is uncertain. Who can tell if we may not die from cancer in the future? Who can tell if our careers will go the way we want them to go? Who has control over what our loved ones go through? Given that these uncertainties cloud of lives, I've often wondered if life may be worth living at all, if it were not for the purposes that God has ordained it for- viz, the announcement of His kingdom in the world and the hope of eternal communion with Him.

Here is my life of questions- qhich I may never know the answers for.

1. If we are to trust God when we are in pain, will we truly be shielded from much pain? For instance, if we trusted God when dealing with a job loss, will this lessen the pain when I still need to pay the bills and put food on the table for my family? Everyday I'm reminded that the cash is dwindling and prospects bleak. We have heard of situations in which God's people have been fed miraculously- Elijah, George Mueller, and often ourselves in less dramatic ways. We know that Jesus never failed to heal, feed or comfort those who approached Him during His earthly life. We also know that He continually pointed away from the miracles and towards Himself and the Father. If there is an inference we can draw from this, it is that He uses miracles only to point to Himself. Secondly, he uses pain as a way to demonstrate His healing and comfort. This is a double-edged sword. In order to feel the comfort we need to feel the pain. Indeed, Jesus himself prayed that the cup of suffering pass from Him- and it did not. If our trust was so strong that we did not feel the pain and our chest swelled with confidence in the Lord when our body went up in flames, is this then pain at all? What then is the purpose of pain?

2. God expressly forbids divining, astrology and fortune telling. We know that such practices are from the enemy. We know that such desire may be to control the future which is not ours to control. But who among us has not wished that we could know what is to come, especially in times of suffering? Even if we were to trust God that He will work things out we still need to sweat it out in the here and now, living each day with intermittently rising and falling hopes. Is there a way to clearly hear God's voice in such times? Many say there is, but I have not yet found a foolproof way to experience such clarity of His purpose. Let's face it- very often (and more often than not)- in times of suffering, God is silent. I have experienced clarity in the past, so I cannot deny that He responds, but his silence is his most common response. Wise ones urge us to wait during this time. But waiting does mean doing nothing. Our circumstances demand that we actually do something to keep ourselves going. For instance, when we lose a job, we need to keep ourselves working on something until God shows us a way out. Do we simply wait on Him and pray? Some have found success in this method. A friend of mine did precisely this, but his waiting period was a week's time. Those of us who go for months without success find this unnerving. Besides they will question- and I think they should- whether doing nothing else besides prayer is the right thing to do. How can we hear from God?

3. Will we get to know God's purposes through pain? Some say we will- in eternity. I do not find a verse in the Bible that supports this. It does say that God will comfort us in eternity- He will wipe away each tear from our eye. In heaven there will be no more weeping. The Bible urges us to simply trust.

I hope you will see that I do not ask the above questions in a spirit of rebellion. I question some of our easy answers to the deepest questions. In the book of Job, the wretched man found out that the answer God gave him was that Job knew very little. God humbles us so much that we are silenced before Him. We may not get an answer to our "why's". Some of us fall away from the faith (if that is possible at all) during trials. Others turn to God more and more. All I can say is that the "whom" is more important than the "why". Perhaps our real question is also "who can I trust" rather than "why is this happening." It doesn't seem so- but I think it may be our real question. If so, it is interesting to know that Jesus himself went through that question in the garden. The Scriptures say that angels comforted Him at that painful point in his earthly life. We may groan and trust His promises, but He still needs to wipe every tear away.

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