The year 2016 has been a year of unexpected surprises. Within the last three months, Great Britain unexpectedly voted to leave the European Union. The Chicago Cubs unexpectedly won the world series, for the first time since 1908. Donald Trump unexpectedly won the presidential election, contrary to all polling data and punditry. But in our home, these global events are overshadowed by an unexpected loss.
As my church family knows, my sweet sister Irene was diagnosed with acute leukemia and entered Jesus' arms five weeks later (on Oct. 29). The journey was stunningly fast. Betsy and I keep reflecting on the strangeness of it all. I'll look at something I did six weeks prior (like, for example, the blog entries below), and the thought will hit me, "At that moment I was totally ignorant of the tragedy that was about to devastate us in a few days. Little did I know." Irene was my only sibling, and we were very close. It's hard. And I am fully aware that many in our church family have experienced deep, unspeakable loss.
What have I learned about God? Nothing new. It would be nice to say something exalted and "pastoral" that would uplift us all in profound ways. You see, we believe in the sovereignty of our omnipotent God, who could have changed what happened, but chose not to. Frankly I'm puzzled with God's timing, and disappointed with His choices (if I can say that). But I feel like Peter when Jesus asked if he too was going to leave him--"Lord, where else is there to go? You are the One with words of eternal life." I agree; and even though our hearts are broken, we have God's peace. Irene was the strong one of the family through all of this, concerned that she glorify Jesus, whether by life or by death. She did both.
Have you ever wondered about Job? It's striking that at the beginning of that book, he was characterized as the most godly man on the planet, and yet by the end of the book he is repenting of his sin before God. Most of us would look at this man's suffering and wonder, "Of what did Job repent?" Job repeatedly asked God the question, "Why? why? WHY? WHY!" until that question became a demand. The problem was not that Job asked the question. The OT Prophets frequently questioned God about His eternal plans. The problem was that by the end of the book, Job's attitude had changed. He didn't just ask; he demanded the answer. He felt God owed him.
Faith is hard. Sometimes it's harder than at other times. And my mind works this way: I think that if I didn't have to exercise quite so much faith--if God would just show me the reason behind his plan--then I could get on board as a cheerleader instead of holding on by fingers of faith, trusting that God knows what he's doing. (Since we are near Christmas and references to Mary are prominent, I would be surprised if Mary, at the foot of the Cross, were not thinking, "Lord, all of these years lead to this? You're putting him through THIS? Father, what possible good could come from this?") There are times when we all call out, "Lord, why?"
As far as the book of Job is concerned, he never was told the answer to the question, "Why?" But he did have deeper insights into "Who" and his heart was changed. ("I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You..." Job 42:5). God is in control. He doesn't make mistakes. If I don't know WHY, but know WHO, that is enough. And the more I know WHO, the less I need to know WHY.