Thursday, June 24, 2010

On Trusting God

This is an excerpt from my weekly newsletter, The Dogwood Digest. It is in answer to a question I was asked on a recent retreat. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, use the link on the right of this page. Thanks!

How can I trust God when he took my husband and left me to raise my 3 ½ month old daughter alone?

My heart absolutely goes out to this young mom, struggling to trust God in her daily life while struggling with the loss of her beloved husband.

Trusting God through grief is perhaps one of the most challenging things we will face in this lifetime. It is true that God sometimes does things that defy human logic. We are hurting, and knowing God could have stopped the death from happening makes it even harder to accept.

I wish I could quote a verse that would answer why God allows bad things to happen. But finding answers is not always that easy. God is about our relationship with Him, and He works in each circumstance to bring us into a deeper, intimate knowledge of Him. This knowledge most often comes at a price; only after painful searching and struggle do we begin to see and understand Him on a deeper level. This is why pat answers ring false in our ears. There is nothing easy about the process. Trying to make things better with a few pithy words only trivializes the struggle.

Our God's ways are far beyond our level of comprehension. He makes no apologies for not making sense to us at times. Deuteronomy 29:29 states, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God." Paul remarked on our limitations of understanding as well: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?" (Romans 11:33-34)

While we may not have specific answers on why God allows tragedy in our lives, Scripture does give us guiding parameters as to where the answer must lie. One of my favorite seminary professors, Jonathan Master, illustrated this by drawing a playing field on the board. He used the following Scripture as the "fence posts" which defined the boundaries of the field.

1. God is not the author of sin (James 1:13)
2. Sin is the direct result of conscious moral volition (Genesis 3:1-6, James 1:14ff)
3. God sovereignly chooses to allow sin and its consequences (Romans 9:18-23)
4. God limits and controls evil (Job 1-2)
5. God will one day fully separate sin from us and from His new creation (Revelation 19:11-20:5)

Whatever we conclude about God's involvement in our tragedy must fall within the parameters of these truths.

One additional truth that has helped me in recent years is in knowing God is totally good. He cannot be anything but good-it is a part of His nature. Therefore, I can consciously count on His goodness even when circumstances might tempt me to think otherwise.

So what do we do while in the process of the struggle? When my mom died, my grief threatened to overwhelm me. As a leader on our church worship team, I could hardly sing praises on Sunday morning, because God remained silent in my pain. My agony became a spiritual battle as I prayed without answers. Yet in my head, I knew that God could be trusted, and so I kept on serving Him, even though my heart was broken and I had lost any sense that the Lord was with me. My husband kept telling me, "Just keep on being faithful. This storm will pass." It did. And instead of losing ground, I gained a deeper understanding of the Lord, and learned to trust him on a deeper level.

Our trust cannot be based in our circumstances or how well we interpret them or guess at God's intentions. Our confidence must be based in the character of God alone. And the better we know Him, the deeper will be our level of trust.

2 comments:

Cynthia Lott Vogel said...

Julie,
Amen! God must have put your heart and mine in sync yesterday as both of our blogs are dealing with the quandary between a good God and the presence of suffering in the world. thanks for your comment on my blog, btw.
My article, if anyone is interested is at [http://cynthialottvogel.blogspot.com/2010/06/age-old-question.html]
To the young woman who wrote the question: you are NOT alone in your suffering! Not only do each of us bear our own load, but the God of the Universe is there with you, weeping with you, and offering you His hand as you stumble through the coming days and years. We suffer with or without Him...it is SO much better to find endurance with Him as our source rather than going it alone with only our bitterness to accompany us! Is He trustworthy? Only the very end of the story will tell us for sure; but if you decide to extend Him your trust now, He will ratify the wisdom of your choice as you grow to know Him. God bless you in your journey.

Julie Coleman said...

Thanks, Cynthia! Amen to that!