Have you ever prayed those words after a severe trial that ends “badly” as far as human vision goes? We’ve been agonizing with dear friends lately who demonstrated stellar faith in God during a very problematic pregnancy that “didn’t end well” as most might say. The baby, beautifully named Mercy, who had some severe issues, was born by C-section a few days and then was held dearly in her parents’ arms and lovingly by her sisters and brother, only to die 2-3 hours later.
Hundreds of spiritual family around the world prayed for that family and their precious child. But in the end, though Mercy graced them with her presence for 2-3 hours, she’s fallen asleep awaiting the Master’s call in the resurrection to come. We know she will be healed. She will be made whole and will be in a better and perfect place. And tears of joy will replace tears of anguish and pain at that time.
The story I’ve told you was shared around the world for a couple months by the very open parents. It’s not a unique story in some ways, though each story is like our fingerprints – very unique to us. I say it’s not a unique story because there are millions and millions of parents around the world who have had their children taken from them. Some from brutal ISIS. Some from merciless cancers and other diseases. It’s a world of pain.
In all of this, we know we have a living God who could have healed Mercy. But he didn’t. So we cry out “Why Lord, why?”
Some of the answers to the question “Why?” -- are in my recent sermons about “The Testing of our Faith, parts 1-2” and in other sermons on this site about why God allows so much suffering. So I won’t go through all those points now.
Click on “Continue reading” to the right to read my response to “But why, O Lord… why?”
I think in the end, many of us know God has promised us repentance, forgiveness, salvation, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification, eternal life, fruit of the spirit, gifts of the spirit, and so much more. He gave us his own Son, who went through merciless suffering for you and me. He gave us himself. A parent suffers even more than the child when he or she has to watch and can’t intervene. God the Father was such a parent watching His eternal companion and Son – the Word – anguish on the cross.
We know all that.
We know one answer to the “why” question is that our faith is being tested for its genuineness. Will we STILL look to him in faith even when His answers are not the answers we thought we wanted? Will we continue to trust him even with “no” answers from Him? Father has to know this. So He tests us. It’s a greater faith to remain trusting him when everything is going horribly – than to trust him when everything is going perfectly! YAH needs to know how strong is your faith. And that is good.
We know another reason we go through suffering is so that we can help comfort others with the comfort we received in our trial (2 Cor. 1:3-5). And that is good.
We also know God is working every detail of all the nuances of what we go through – for the good, in the end, according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What each of us goes through may be an interlocking piece of the universal puzzle, a vital thread in the Master Tapestry – that only will make sense when the whole picture is completed and we can see how everything came together. Then our sufferings will make far more sense. And that is good.
The family I spoke of in the beginning here were very open. The baring of their soul and their heart spoke volumes to scores of people around the world. We all suffered with them, for when one part of the Body suffers, the whole body does. Who knows? Maybe their testimony of faith in God, no matter what, will affect some lives in little corners of the world – and Cartwrights won’t even know about all that – until in the world to come it all comes to light. And that is good.
We also know their crisis brought brethren from all the splintered divided groups come together in prayer and in visits – together, as one body at least in this moment. And that too was good.
So we have some general answers to the “why” question. Does that make it all “worth it”? Maybe. Maybe in time. Maybe there’s so much more than that.
But so often those general answers don’t seem complete or satisfactory when you’re so close in time and proximity to enormous pain you’ve just gone through or are still going through.
We personally don’t ask, and we don’t propose, these answers to the grieving family this soon. Even when we know things like “you’ll see her again in the resurrection” and “all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to his purpose” – the fact is, little Mercy still is not here, right now. Sometimes the TIMING of these statements has to be considered. Sometimes grieving young parents aren’t ready for Romans 8:28 right now – but may be ready in a week or two or more. But sometimes, not right now.
Sometimes what works best is not a lot of Romans 8:28 and 1 Thess 4:16-18 too soon. Those will come in time. Sometimes just a huge, big hug with no words speaks volumes. Or just taking care of the issues for someone in pain – is more helpful. Actually taking the time to be with the persons who grieve may be better than just texting “you’re in our thoughts and prayers”. But be sure it’s what they need. So often doing something - - and by that I mean helping them with things that have to be done, taking care of the children, or bringing over some food or chocolate – can mean a lot. Do things that let them rest, let them sleep. Fatigue makes cowards of us all. Give them rest.
We had a problem pregnancy. Several, actually. One of our children came to term, was born under difficult circumstances, and then we thought our David had been healed. The head nurse even said, “That little boy leaves the hospital because of powerful prayer”. And then 4 months later, we found him dead on our bed. His face was blue and his body was already becoming stiff. WHY? At that moment, I wasn’t ready for Romans 8:28 and the promise of resurrection. I wasn’t! All I knew was that our precious David who had graced our lives for 4 months was ripped out of our lives. It hurt terribly. I still don’t know why exactly even now.
One thing that has moved us even all these years later was what happened next: For 2 days we anguished by ourselves, for we had asked for the right to privacy and to be left alone. I was new to that congregation as we had literally just moved there a month before, so I didn’t really know anyone all that well yet. So I asked we be left alone for a few days.
So the phone never rang. Nobody came by. But that’s what I had asked for, so we had only ourselves to blame. But then I came to the stage where we desperately needed some friends.
So I called a good friend in the ministry who lived 4 hours away and asked if they could come and be with us. We needed company. We needed friends. We needed to talk. We needed to be heard and to be with someone we knew would understand us. So I called them – and figured they would show up maybe 6-7 hours later. Surely they would want to pack, shower, and wrap up things they had to get done first and so on. That’s what I figured anyway.
Guess what? They were at our door 4 hours later. They must have literally dropped everything, threw some things into a suitcase and jumped in their car. I can’t tell you how much that meant to us. It meant SO much. I will never forget that all my life.
So often we let other things we have to do get in the way of dropping everything and being right there for someone – when they need us most, when they need us right now. You may never have a moment like that again. Other times, people need breathing space and time. Ask, find out, offer – and let them decide. And if they ask you to come over because they need you, drop everything and go.
Here’s what I’ve come to learn though, when it comes to “WHY, O Lord”. I could give whole sermons on why the righteous suffer. I could give whole sermons on the resurrection and Romans 8:28. But in a way, all of that still doesn’t answer “WHY?” - - for this little child, this specific case, and these specific circumstances.
Here’s what I’ve come to learn.
I don’t need to know how, or when, or what, or where. I don’t even need to know why. When I’m dealing with my awesome God above, and what He’s allowing in my life – no matter how dreadful, no matter how painful, no matter how long, no matter where it’s taking us, no matter what I see happening, no matter how it’s working out or not working out -- I only need to know “WHO”.
It ALL comes down to WHO. And WHO – is God Almighty. WHO is my Father. WHO is my Savior. WHO has a plan. Who is all-loving, all-merciful, and WHO is awesome… no matter what. I just have to know the WHO in this whole thing going on in my life. Even when I don’t understand where this will all end, what will happen next, when will it all be over, or how it will all work out or WHY I’m going through this in the first place.
I only need to know the “Who” in the equation.
And I love the WHO in all of these questions. I love my Abba, my Father, no matter what He decides to do in my life. I trust him. I look to him. He’s my Father. My life is hidden in Christ in God – Col 3:3 – and that’s where it stays.
I didn’t come to this point without first having to go through all the other questions and a ton of pain and suffering. But in the end, God wants to know we have come to KNOW HIM, and to TRUST him, and to have peace – knowing WHO is in every nuance of our lives.
Then and only then can we truly praise and thank Him for everything He allows, for everything He sends, for everything he makes us go through… knowing HE knows best and has our best interest in mind for everything He lets us go through. It’s not an easy answer to come to, but it’s the one that gives us peace and rest.
One more thing: it’s not like Abba – God Most High, God the Father – hasn’t suffered a ton of pain himself. He sure has. So he of all beings – understands, and is therefore the perfect Abba, the perfect Daddy we can go to boldly in time of need and receive the help and grace we need.
We asked “Why O Lord, why”. I don’t need to know why. I just need to know WHO.
Praise you Abba, our dear Father. Praise you, Son of God – Yeshua our Redeemer. Amen.