From the Pastor's Desk
"Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" Psalm 10:1
The Bible study I lead is currently doing a study on spiritual warfare. Yes, the devil is real and is active in our world! The class discussion often leads to the struggles that the members have gone through or are going through. In my years of ministry I have been with many, many people during their times of struggle. Our own family has gone through various struggles through the years. Whenever we go through struggles, the natural question that comes us is "why?" This seems especially true when we have given our lives to Christ. God never promises, even when we become Christians, that our lives will be worry-free. In fact, Jesus tells us that we can expect trouble and trials just because we are His followers.
I have been with people during the dark hours of grief, bad medical diagnoses, and unexpected traumas. Those are the times in which the "why" question is posed most often. Of course, as a pastor, the question is often directed to me. I have learned through the years that platitudes are what people need the least at those times. I have also realized that most of the time the best answer I can offer is "I don't know." Not very theological. Or is it? Both Isaiah and Paul express the same question: "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or instructed Him as His counselor?" (Isaiah 40:13, Romans 11:34) So maybe "I don't know" is as theological as we can ever get to answering "why".
Well, if asking the question "why" when tragedy strikes will not yield a good answer, what can we ask that might? Again, through years of ministry in church and chaplaincy, I have learned that there is a question that we can pose when tragedy strikes: where do we go from here, Lord? Jesus said that He would never leave us or forsake us. That is especially true when we are journeying through trials and tribulations. If that is true, then the better question during those times would be "How are we going to get through this, Lord?"
Asking that question does a few things. First of all, it recognizes that we may never understand the "why". Then, it recognizes that we know of God's promises and believe them. Finally, it proves our trust and faith in God, that He is not unaware of our situation and, in fact, He is ready and willing to lead us through the trial. Going through the trial is never as pleasant as avoiding it altogether, but knowing that we are walking with Christ through the trial should give us a sense of peace. He DID go through some pretty hard trials Himself!
Often it seems as though the trial we are going through is like a minefield waiting for us to take a wrong step and get deeper in trouble. But if we let the Lord lead, in His way and time, we will make it through. If we try to lead Him, it may not end up the same way. I remember driving on a very snowy day in Pennsylvania on an interstate highway that was so covered in snow it was hard to see where the edges of the road were. The solution was we managed to get behind a snowplow driving down that road and followed in its tracks. The ride was relatively slow but it was safe and eventually got us safely to our destination. Following Jesus through our trials produces the same result.
So what about the "why"? Can we ever ask that question and will we ever get an answer? Possibly. What I have seen in my own life and in the lives of others is that sometimes, in retrospect, we can look back and see where we were, the path we took to get from there to where we are, and discover that there really was a good reason for the journey. The reason is often impossible to see as we are traveling it, but sometimes we have the joy of discovering that, because of the journey, we have somehow benefitted or someone else benefitted by our journey. So the next time you are traveling a difficult road, forget the "why" for a while and ask, "What now and where to, Lord?"