Three Questions to Ask When God Doesn’t Make Sense

It was January cold. I was 14-years-old and a brand new Christian, bravely bubbling over with faith and excitement about Jesus, reading my cool Bible and believing and praying.

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My friends were new to this Jesus too. Together faith was a daily adventure of new discoveries.

One frigid Friday night, we were bouncing along on a yellow school bus with our youth group down dark rural roads  heading to a ski weekend on the slopes of what pass for “mountains” in northern Wisconsin.

Jostling, laughing, gossiping, singing in the back of the bus, we were having a great time til someone bumped into me and a contact popped out of my eye onto the dark, sooty grit below our feet.

This is not a crisis except if you’re a teenage girl who wouldn’t be caught dead in glasses. (Plus, contacts all those years ago were darn expensive)

Everyone dropped to their knees, scouring the gross, wet rubber floor for the tiny piece of clear plastic.

We. Looked. Forever.

Nothing.

Still on our knees, we were ready to give up when one of my fellow newbies ventured, “You guys…What if… we pray???!!! Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?”

We closed our eyes, and my friend said, “Lord we can’t find this contact. You know where it is. Please help us.”

I literally opened my eyes, looked down, and astonished, picked up the lost contact.

We were ecstatic.

The creator of the universe – God Himself! – heard and responded to a few teenage girls with a little faith.

To this day I have no doubt that God graciously intervened on our behalf.

Fast forward to last year at this time. My brother David was diagnosed with Melanoma.

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He had everything going for him. He was kind, successful, out-going, strong, fit, and a man of big faith, surrounded by a family of big faith.

So we prayed. And prayed.

We prayed with complete faith in our God who is able to locate lost contacts and lost sheep, able to heal the blind and raise the dead. We prayed to our God who can do more than we can possibly ask or imagine.

And on July 18th David died.

Two prayers. Two answers.

Why would God answer our prayers with a contact found, but a brother lost?

For so long God seemed predictable. And then He wasn’t.

For so long we did the right thing and things went right. And then they didn’t.

I’m guessing you too can give examples of times in your life when God seemed to make no sense at all.

As we all struggle to accept this latest answer to prayer, it is taking some adjustments to our perception of God and ourselves.

I grasp for hope through tears and look to Scripture saying, “What??”

And I find I’m not alone.

Jesus didn’t miraculously intervene and save John the Baptist’s butt (or head as it were). How must John the Baptist have felt when Jesus was off partying, doing “frivolous” miracles like changing water to wine and healing others, not showing up for a cousin who had sacrificed everything for Him? This didn’t make sense.

Jesus didn’t miraculously intervene and heal Paul from his “thorn in the flesh” even though Paul prayed repeatedly about this, and proclaimed the Gospel in spite of every punishment imaginable. This guy was sold out for Jesus. How must he have felt?  It didn’t make sense.

As Sarah Bessey writes,

“Our narratives celebrate the simple wins and victories, not the complex heartache.”

Amen sister.

As I sit with this complex heartache, and the mystery of God (which is very uncomfortable), I wonder if this is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to embrace.

Three questions that I’m asking are:

  1. Am I putting my hope in my plans or God’s purposes?

In Mark 8 Jesus rebukes the disciples: “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
    but God’s purpose prevails. Proverbs 19:21

2. Am I interpreting the goodness of God through my circumstances, or am I interpreting my circumstances through His goodness?

God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5

3. How does my view of God need to change? Do I truly acknowledge Him as God, or more of a cosmic concierge?

“The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.” Mark Batterson

Today is the six month anniversary of David’s death.

We continue to look daily to God, trusting Him for His love and redemptive purposes, anticipating the day when we’ll meet Him face to face and it will be made clear why our prayers resulted in a contact found, but a brother/son/husband/dad lost to us.

8 Comments

  1. I can so relate to this post and was just thinking about prayer, Dave, etc. last night again. Nice timing, Dear Laura! 🙂 Love you!

  2. Laura,
    Thank you for a message so well expressed about a topic so difficult to express. Dave’s unforgettable smile is still a touch point of Jesus which keeps on giving. It is one of my first images when I think of Dave.
    Holding you and your family along with Susan and the kids in our prayers.
    Steve Cooper

    • Thanks so much, Steve. John and I also comment often how David’s infectious ever-present smile is always with us. He was so alive and engaged it’s hard to imagine he’s not here. We trust he is even more alive with Jesus now. We did imagine him cheering for the TCU triple over-time game from heaven 🙂

  3. Hello Laura…I can so relate to your thoughts. Over time I have realized my grief is not only the loss of my sister but the fact that I don’t understand it, just like you. It has lessened some as I have come to this conclusion and defined it-that I won’t ever totally get it just as those who haven’t lost a sibling won’t totally understand my grief. Coming to that decision has helped, knowing that and saying that to myself. I could then move forward just a bit. I hope the same for you at some point-it took me a few years. God will bless us with knowledge of understanding when we are in heaven. The wait is so very hard. Bless you.

    • Thank you so much for sharing Kim – so true that the lack of understanding can add to the depth of pain. I think it can prompt us to turn away completely in anger or draw closer, learning to trust more in the character of a good God even when we don’t understand. I pray you and I will both continue to draw closer in our grieving. Press on sister!

  4. I really like the question of “Do we need to embrace the mystery?” That’s it, isn’t it. We can’t find answers but we can cling to God and know His purposes are good. Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts into words. It is an encouragement to me and helps me to think as well.
    Praying for you and your family. Love, cheese

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