When someone asks me a question about something I am not particularly interested in, it doesn’t bother me at all to answer “I don’t know”. But when talking of matters which concern me, of things I believe very deeply in and questions arise, it bothers me to have to answer “I don’t know”. As a Christian, it really troubles me to answer “I don’t know” when God’s motives are in question:
“Why didn’t God heal me?”
“Why did my child die?”
“Why is there so much child abuse in the world today?”
“Why doesn’t God do something?”
I don’t know.
When people are hurting, striving to understand the struggles in their lives, searching desperately to find purpose in the intense pain of their experiences, “I don’t know” seems such a terribly inadequate answer. Our inability to explain God is very often the reason we keep our distance from those who are broken, angry, and empty. We know He is real. We know He is faithful. But when we don’t know how to defend His actions, or even more difficult – His lack of action, our ministry to those in despair is often reduced to the sympathy card we find at the pharmacy, or the brief promise to pray before we run from the awkwardness of the moment. We even struggle in our attempts to pray for them because we don’t understand.
Imagine the questions of the disciples and other followers of Jesus many years ago in Jerusalem….
“Why doesn’t He stop this?”
“Why doesn’t He defend Himself?”
“Why is He leaving us now?”
“What will the Romans do to us?”
They didn’t know. They asked the questions of each other, and answered each other the same, “I don’t know.” Some ran from the horror of it. Some lost faith in Him. Some hid in the crowd and guiltily watched Him suffer. One stood at the foot of the cross and cried, wishing desperately that it was all just a horrible nightmare.
God had such an amazing plan in place in the midst of intense pain. His plan through Jesus is our confidence that He is working in our pain. He made a way for us to go through the difficulties and troubles of this life with hope that there is a greater purpose being worked out. The lack of understanding the disciples had did not hinder this plan God was unfolding. They grew to understand more and more throughout their lives, but redemption for sin had been accomplished even for those who did not understand.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6
We rarely place any level of trust in those we do not know. Trust develops in relationships with those we believe in, those we know love and care for us. Our struggles in trusting God stem from the fact that we don’t really know Him. We live our lives believing in the salvation Jesus purchased for us, but mingled with the security of our home in the after-life is the fear that God doesn’t really approve of us right now. We don’t know how He can allow such pain if He truly loves us. We hold back from the absolute surrender of our lives to Him because don’t really believe He has our best interest at heart in this earth life.
Learning to trust Him with all our hearts doesn’t happen just because we become Christians. It takes the pursuit of a relationship with Him. To know Who He is is the basis for trusting Him with all that we don’t know. To know He is good gives us confidence when He allows the pain. To know that He loves us infinitely more than we can imagine gives us the strength to stand in faith in through all our tears. To know He is GOD ALMIGHTY gives us the security that there is a much larger plan working and one day our sorrows will be turned to joy.
When I answer the young abuse victim’s questions about God with “I don’t know”, I must trust that He will reveal to her all she needs to know. My part is to love her, to be there for her, to allow her to voice her fears and questions and perhaps her anger, knowing that God is working even in those moments. I am to pray for His love to be known, His will to be accomplished in her life because I know He is working a bigger plan and it is for her good.
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise. (from “Blessings” by Laura Story)
I don’t know all He is doing. I don’t know all the “whys” of what He’s not doing. I am learning to give Him my pain, my doubt, my fear and trust Him to tell me what I need to know and to stop trying to figure everything else out. It’s ok when I don’t know.