“I just don’t know why God led us here,” my friend said wearily. “Why did He put us through this?”
I’m flopped on my bed, door shut, lights off, phone to the ear. I’m settled in for this conversation—where I try to help unravel a complicated problem with a favorite friend. We’ve phoned and texted quite a bit about the painful place in which she’s found herself. In fact, our friendship is framed with lots of these conversations, mapping out answers to understanding God’s will. While her situation is different from anything I’ve experienced, the question rings with familiarity.
Why, God? Why did you put me through this?
I have, as the saying goes, been there. And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that you have, too. If you read my most recent post (I Held a Baby Today), then you can easily imagine that I press God for answers to this very question. It’s been three years since my last miscarriage, but I’ve got a notebook of journal entries, many of which were written quite recently, with those exact words sprawled, all caps and underlined—Why, God? Why did you put me through this?
Besides asking God the same questions, there’s another common thread linking her problem and mine. We didn’t sign up for this. She wasn’t looking for trouble of any kind; trouble chased her down. I felt the same way about the miscarriage. My unplanned pregnancy at 45–when I was already high risk to begin with–was never part of the plan. Neither of us asked for the situation which caused our pain. It landed in our laps and made a wreck of our lives. And because we never anticipated having the problem in the first place, we don’t see any possible reason that it should happen at all.
Ever since I lost the last baby, I’ve insisted to God that I need to know the purpose for the pain. All the other times I miscarried, and even when my father’s illness and death came unexpectedly, I asked that same question but eventually rounded a corner. Though I still grieved and at times hurt deeply, I eventually gained some insight that helped me persevere.
The most obvious came with adoption. Once we adopted my older daughter, Eden, I didn’t question the why nearly so often. Is it painful? Yes. Would I have it any other way? Absolutely not. I would do it all over again and again, but in the end, I want my sweet Eden. But with that last pregnancy, that never happened, so I do the journal writing version of screaming at God—why? Tell me why You did this to me!
As I listen and search for words to help my friend navigate her own pain, I realize that after three years of asking the question, I still have no answer. Periodically I flip open my journal and press Him—why, why, why? This is a holding pattern; it’s not getting me anywhere.
But sometimes I think that not knowing the purpose is the purpose. He wants me to trust Him. Do I really trust Him if I have all the answers?
A few days ago I surprised myself with something I wrote. It traveled from my brain, through my tappity tappin’ thumbs, and onto a Facebook post. Then I read what I wrote and went, “Huh. Did I do that? Do I know that? Do I walk in that truth?”
My college friend Steve, who is pastor at the First United Methodist Church in Midland, Texas, published the post below, asking for input. It looked interesting, and because I’m opinionated and let’s be honest, a bit of a busy body, I weighed in.
He asks if we agree, “We can either like the goodness of God or we can like to be in control. We can’t like both.”
I responded by saying we can like both, but we can’t have both. “Sometimes when you’re in control, you don’t realize that you’re missing His goodness. I think that’s why sometimes we enter into difficult seasons in life. It’s never more obvious how good He is than when everything is out of your control and you have nothing left but to trust Him.”
After doing my thing, I scrolled through some of the other responses, then read my own again. It’s never more obvious how good He is than when everything is out of your control and you have nothing left but to trust Him.
Wait, is that true? Do I believe that?
I mentally scrolled through my experiences, and yes, I’ve seen Him reign over my circumstances when I could do nothing to help myself. Would I come to trust Him if He’d had a brainstorming session with me prior to the crisis and gave me a play by play of what was to come? Of course not.
Then I thought of the cross. If we boil everything down to our need for a Savior, and ultimately all things do boil down to that need, we reach the inevitable conclusion that our rescue is beyond our control. His goodness saved me. It was out of my control. When I don’t feel sure, when I’m reluctant to trust, I always have the cross as evidence of His goodness.
I think this idea presents a dilemma for Christ followers. When we first come to Christ and receive that rescue which is beyond our control, we don’t realize that God’s goodness and His authority are indivisible. He is able to be so immeasurably good toward us because of His absolute authority. I may desire His goodness and also desire control, but this opposes His authority.
I am indebted to Steve for his Thursday theology question because it made me think about what’s true—and then I had to think about whether I walk in what I know is true. I’m not going to beat myself up for wanting to see purpose in my pain. My need for purpose—to have everything, especially loss, matter—is normal. That need and those seemingly unanswered questions are covered, like everything in my life, with His grace, His goodness, His sovereignty. He walks with me through all the doubt I experience when I feel trapped in the tension that begs to know why, why, why??? Seeking His purpose is part of seeking Him.
But my insistence on knowing all His purpose? Well, it may be normal, but it’s still me trying to assert control. The most obvious reason for being left in the dark I’ve already mentioned. How would He teach me to trust Him if I already know everything? We have to give Him control and trust that He is good.
I responded to Steve’s post without looking very closely at the picture. There’s Eve, asserting control, reaching for what’s forbidden. Her enemy is off camera. His warped description of God led to Eve’s downfall.
“Pssh, c’mon, Eve. You’re not gonna die. God just doesn’t want you to become like Him, that’s all.”
He planted the idea in her head that God was withholding something—that He wields His authority in order to keep her from having what it good. She bought his line and paid the price, and now we all live in a world cursed by sin. We know the end of the story, though.
After being cast out of paradise, Eve may have pressed God, “OK, I’ve learned my lesson. Why? Why all this?” But God, in His authority and goodness, had a purpose–not just to teach a lesson–to not only redeem Eve but everyone who came after. Only He has the authority to bring salvation, and only He is good enough.
Someday, when I’m face to face with Him, He will give me the answer when I ask, “Why did you put me through this?” But for now, I only have to look at the cross.
He has a purpose, and He is good.
“Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
“I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off;
And My salvation will not delay.
And I will grant salvation in Zion,
And My glory for Israel.