What’s Wrong with Asking God Why?

Continued from here.

What’s wrong with asking God why? It focuses your thoughts on the problem rather than on the Solution. It also presumes that you have the capacity to understand God, which none of us can do. This is why God’s reaction to Job’s demand to know why was to turn the tables on Job, challenging Him to answer God’s questions, as if a human could ever understand the ways of God. There’s no answer that, in our humanity, will make us say, “Sure, God. I welcome this pain and suffering. That’s the way I want my life to go.”

And yet, we can experience peace as we transition from asking God why to inviting Him in and trusting that He’s going to take care of us. Interestingly, I have learned this lesson best through two Christian comedians. Check out this poignant testimony from Christian comedian Anthony Griffith, who lost his three-year-old daughter to cancer:

I don’t recall the name of the second Christian comedian, so I don’t know who to credit. (If you know the name, please post it in the comments.) Like Anthony Griffith, his young daughter also had cancer. He shared that the doctors drilled a hole in her chest so that medication could be administered quickly. When his daughter awoke with a high fever in the middle of the night, he drove her to the hospital, where she knew that needles and more pain awaited her. She sobbed, begging her father to explain why she must go through the pain.

The father knew in that moment that there was no way an adult could explain to a young child why she had to endure the pain necessary to save her life. All he could do was ask her to trust him. And then he understood – Just as a young child does not have the capacity to understand why she must endure the pain of a hospital to save her life from cancer, no human has the capacity to understand why we must endure the sufferings that God allows into our lives. Like the young child, we find our comfort when we stop asking why and, instead, trust that our Father loves us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: YouTube video of Anthony Griffith’s testimony.]

 

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God Doesn’t Want to be Explained Away

Continued from here.

I am currently reading Lysa TerKeurst’s excellent book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. While I have enjoyed everything I have read by TerKeurst, this book is in a league of its own because it’s so real, raw, and authentic. She wrote the book while she and her husband were separated due to his ongoing affair, and she did not know at the time that God would restore, heal, and reconcile them in the future. (They renewed their vows in December.)

Of course, TerKeurst questioned why God allowed her husband to be seduced by another woman and why their many counseling sessions had not seemingly born fruit. For someone who built her ministry on being a Proverbs 31 wife, this kind of attack on her marriage had to be particularly devasting. One of the things she learned through this extremely painful season, which she writes about in her book, is this:

God does not want to be explained away. He wants to be invited in. ~ Lysa TerKeurst

When we place God on the witness stand and cross-examine Him, we put him in an adversarial position that He never intended. He doesn’t want the barrier of a witness stand erected between you and Him. Instead, He wants you to invite Him in to hold and carry you as you suffer and struggle. He wants to be your safe place to curl up and cry when nothing in your life is making sense. And He wants you to trust that He is working this – even THIS – for good. He wants you to trust His character and His heart when you cannot trust what you see.

I know this is tough to do. I’ve lived it. I wanted God to provide me with answers for why he let a helpless little girl be sold to the highest bidder as her body was exploited by one evil person after another. I wanted Him to explain why He didn’t step in and rescue me from the hands of those evil people for three more years after I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8. Why, God? Why? My healing didn’t come from receiving some magical explanation that enabled me to see how much sense my suffering made in the grand scheme of things. It came when I invited God in to heal my shattered heart by taking the dust of my brokenness and crafting it into something new.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. Courtesy Amazon.]

Why, God? Why?

whyA couple of people in my life, whom I love dearly, have been enduring long seasons of perseverance. That’s a Christian-sanitized way of saying they have been suffering from such gut-wrenching, I-don’t-know-if-I-can-survive-this agony for so long that they both have questioned their ability to endure even one more day of misery. I’ve been there. I know from personal experience that they only way out of the pain is through it, holding onto God with both hands and trusting that He will bring good out of situations that appear to be anything but good.

When we are neck-deep in the muck and mire of gut-wrenching pain, it’s human to ask God why. “Why is God allowing this to happen in my life? Why isn’t He intervening? Does He not love me? Am I being punished for something I did in the past? Why would a good God allow such evil to prevail in my life?” As someone who battled post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, an eating disorder, self-injury, and a whole host of other aftereffects from severe childhood trauma, I understand the drive to call God on the carpet like Job did and demand to know why He allowed such suffering into my life. It’s human to question why when we hurt, particularly when our pain persists long past our breaking point.

I have found that asking God why makes the suffering worse, and so I have made a life decision never to ask Him why. I know that sounds crazy, but since I gave up asking God why, I find my life challenges to be easier to navigate. This week, I’ll do my best to explain this.

As for how I first came up with the idea to stop asking God why … I got this from Joyce Meyer’s TV show, Enjoying Everyday Life. She shared the story of a preacher who lost his wife to illness. They were either high school or college sweethearts, and he didn’t know how to live without her. He told God two things after she passed away: (1) Help me remember that other people are watching my reaction. I am fully dependent upon You to help me do this right. (2) I will never ask You why.

I was intrigued by the concept of removing my questioning of why from my seasons of suffering. This week, I’ll share how freeing it is to let go of the quest to understand and replace it with trust in a loving God who works out everything, even this, for good.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Discomfort as an Invitation to Spiritual Growth

healthy_livingContinued from here.

As part of my ponderings over this very uncomfortable topic (pun intended again), God led me to a different perspective: discomfort is actually God’s invitation to spiritual growth. Whenever I experience discomfort, whether it’s simply annoying to severely painful, God is inviting me to grow in my dependency upon Him. He’s inviting me to move away from where I have been comfortable and into a new place of deeper intimacy with him. Perhaps this is how Paul was able to say:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (1 Cor. 12:10).

We only delight in weakness when we recognize that it drives us to deeper dependency upon God, who can be fully trusted. We must give up the illusion of being in control over anything and rest knowing that God will empower us to be strong in our weakness.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lews said,

The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered.”

Lewis goes on to say:

We cannot therefore know that we are acting at all, or primarily, for God’s sake, unless the material of the action is contrary to our inclinations, or (in other words) painful, and what we cannot know that we are choosing, we cannot choose. The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination.”

To put this in simpler terms, restoration to a relationship with God requires us to let Him define what’s “good” rather than our own inclinations. To accomplish this, God must repeatedly place us in situations in which our inclinations differ from God’s will. It’s only when we choose His way over our own – when we forgive those who hurt us, for example – that we are restored to the place of restoration with God. My will must surrender to God’s will, even when it hurts. In this way, the discomfort I experience in my day-to-day life becomes an invitation to breaking my self-will, surrendering to God, and developing deeper dependence upon Him. As I do this, intimate relationship is restored between the Creator and the created.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace eating a salad over the words, “Healthy Living.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

The Role of Discomfort

Continued from here.

If God says that discomfort is “good” and should be my expectation, with comfort being an exception provided in the short-term to refresh me, then there must be more to discomfort than I’m seeing. (Not sure I would have received this message well on the tour bus after my fourth hour of nausea!) What positive role might discomfort serve in our lives?

I’m very comfortable in my bed at night. After a busy day of work, I relish curling up under my quilt and burrowing myself in my pillows. Left to my own devices, I would never leave the comfort of my bed in the morning. Why do I leave it? Because of the discomfort of my full bladder. The discomfort in my bladder when I awaken in the morning motivates me to leave the comfort of my bed. In other words, comfort lulls me to stay where I am whereas discomfort motivates me to move.

When I sin, I generally enjoy the immediate, selfish “benefits.” What motivates me to repent? The discomfort of conviction. If God let me remain comfortable in my sin, I would continue to do it because, quite frankly, it takes no effort to do whatever I feel like doing in the moment. However, it requires considerable effort (at least at first) to make countercultural and counterintuitive choices, such as blessing someone who wrongs me, obeying laws I don’t agree with (such as the speed limit), or humbling myself when everything within me wants to assert my rights.

In his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lews said,

The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it…pain insists on being attended to … it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

In other words, discomfort is the cattle prod God uses to drive me toward spiritual growth. If God removes the cattle prod, I’m inclined to stay comfortably where I am … and as I am. Since God’s will for me is spiritual growth (transformation into Christlikeness), He must keep me uncomfortable to keep me motivated to change. Thus, discomfort is actually GOOD for me. (Again, I don’t like this message any more than you do!)

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Problem of Pain. Courtesy Amazon.

 

If God is Good, How Could He Want Me to be Uncomfortable?

fruitContinued from here.

If this topic is making you uncomfortable (pun intended), I’m right there with you. I’m not a natural martyr. I don’t like this concept any more than you do, but God pounded me with it in Ireland, immediately following up this revelation in my quiet time with a full day of motion sickness on the tour bus as we drove the Ring of Kerry for 8 bumpy, windy hours (with lots of photo stops). I did not pass the test. I’m still learning the lesson, which is one reason I am blogging about it.

Why would God want us to stay in a perpetual state of discomfort with only short seasons of comfort provided to refresh us? Isn’t God good? This is how the enemy attacks me. When God’s ways don’t align with what I want, I’m prone to question God’s goodness. I assume that whatever I want (in this case, comfort) is “good,” and since I’m not getting what I want, it must be “bad.” And since God is allowing the “bad,” perhaps He isn’t good after all … which is exactly what the enemy wants me to believe. If I doubt God’s goodness, then I’m more prone to disobey Him.

I have learned through experience that God’s ways are always best, no matter how I feel. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I am not capable of distinguishing “bad” from “good” because my perspective only considers how I am personally affected. God told Adam that the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was bad, but Eve didn’t take His word for it. The enemy lured her into questioning whether God was holding out on her, and she made up her own mind about whether the fruit was good. She saw a tasty piece of fruit that looked good to her and ate it. God had already warned her that the fruit was bad: He saw a broader perspective that Eve could not see. Eve’s comfort in eating one piece of fruit came with the cost of separation from God and Jesus’ sacrifice to restore us.

I am no different from Eve. I call “good” what looks pleasing to me (comfort) and “bad” what doesn’t (discomfort). How do I learn to adopt Paul’s perspective of actually delighting in discomfort?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and leaning against a large peach. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Why Do I Expect to be Comfortable?

cucumbersContinued from here.

Back to my quiet time in Ireland…After God asked why I have the expectation of being comfortable and I replied with, “Huh??,” God led me to examine the role of the Sabbath. God commands us to work for six days and rest for one. He asked what the purpose of the Sabbath is. My response was that it’s to rest, rejuvenate, and reconnect with Him so I have the energy to dive back into six more days of work. He asked why I don’t have the expectation of resting for six days and only working for one. My response was that he designed me to bear fruit, and that requires work. He led me to see that the Sabbath is a day set aside to enjoy the fruits of my labor, but it’s the exception, not the rule. He designed me for work, not rest. The purpose of rest is to prepare me for more work so that I may bear much fruit.

He then asked why I believe that comfort should be the rule rather than the exception. I again responded with, “Huh??” Comfort is so ingrained in me as part of the American culture that I had a very hard time following where God was seeking to lead me. (God knows that I can be rather hard-headed!) OF COURSE I want to be comfortable! Who in their right mind would choose discomfort?

God then placed on my heart that in addition to bearing much fruit, His will for me is to transform into the image of Christ. Transformation means change or growth. There’s a reason for the term growing pains — growth is painful. Not what I wanted to hear.

I once heard it said that there’s not much growth in a comfort zone or comfort in a growth zone. When I choose to stay comfortable, am I actually impeding my growth? As I seek out ways to be comfortable in how I spend my time, who I choose to associate with, and where to invest my energy in my day-to-day life, am I actually choosing NOT to grow into the image of Christ?

Perhaps comfort, like the Sabbath, is intended to be a brief respite that enables me to rest, rejuvenate, and reconnect with God before diving back into the next growth spurt. Might my pursuit of comfort actually be stunting my spiritual growth?

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying on a pillow with cucumber slices over her eyes. Courtesy Bitmoji.]