Over the past few months I've been asking myself the question, "Why do we trust a God who allows bad things to happen?" It's the kind of question that must have begun subconsciously a few months ago but eventually became a conscious thought and prayer. It is a question I've been thinking through as I train to be a biblical counselor but also as I walk the path of faith myself.
The question hit even more deeply yesterday when my 8 week old daughter, Frances, was admitted to the hospital with symptoms of pneumonia. When she was struggling to breathe, when we drove to the hospital, when they put in the IV (in her head, of all places), the inevitable question was, "Why trust God when he doesn't ensure me of my daughter's health and life?"
As I was heading out of the hospital Thursday evening to pick up some food, I ducked into the little chapel, needing to vent some emotions in prayer. In the chapel there is a picture of Jesus on the wall that says, "Jesus, I trust you." I said those words to God, but then asked my question, "But why should I trust you?" I felt akin to the man in the Gospels who sought Jesus on behalf of his seizing son saying, "I believe, help my unbelief!" I wasn't in the chapel long before the good Lord answered in the way that only the Holy Spirit can, driving to heart the truth of Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
In other words, as John Newton, the writer of Amazing Grace, said, "How unspeakably wonderful to know that all our concerns are held in hands that bled for us." God says, "You can trust me because I've bled for you. And if I bled for you, do you think I would ever harm you? You can trust my love because it was my love that gave up my Son. And if I gave him up freely, do you think I would withhold any other good from you?" If the Father's love is so vast that it motivated him to deliver up his Pride and Joy to be crushed for sin, will that same love not motivate everything else he does and allows to happen to his people?
Human logic says, "I will trust God if he promises me my daughter's health." God's logic says, "You can trust me with your daughter's health because I've bled for you." Human logic says, "I will trust God if he promises me to keep my daughter alive." God's logic says, "You can trust me because I gave my Son to die for you." When irreversible bad things happen, human logic says, "God can no longer be trusted." But God's logic says with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," because those operating by divine logic know that no matter what, the God of the Cross is worthy of our trust. And those operating by divine logic also know that God's version of good and bad is different than man's version of good and bad - case in point, what seemed liked the very worst news of all - the crucifixion of the Son of God - turned out to be the very best news, the "good news" of Jesus Christ.
I don't say this is as if it is easy to live by the logic of the cross. I don't say this as if I wouldn't struggle with bitterness and anger and doubt if God chose not to heal my sweet Frances. I know I would. But I also know that no matter what happens, what God spoke to me last night in that little chapel is truth. Not just "true-for-me" truth but capital T, "Truth."
For now, as I get ready to sleep next to my little girl, I will absolutely pray for her health and her life (and I am thankful that she is improving). And I would ask that you do so as well. But as I get ready for bed I don't put my trust in a God who assures me of her health, but in a God who bled for her.
Learning How to Play
"Come play trains with me, Daddy."
"Come on, let's wrestle on the bed!"
"You watch Peppa Pig with me?"
Without fail, when I come home from work each day, I am greeted by one of these requests from Judah. Of course, it comes with a irresistable hug and a big smile. It fills my heart to have the kind of relationship with him where he looks forward to me coming home and waits all day for me to play with him. Mommy doesn't quite wrestle or play trains like Daddy does...
About three months ago, however, neither Judah nor I knew how to play. I'd sit down with him and he'd just start bashing his trains together. Or he'd play with Thomas the Train for two minutes and then go and find his bag of dinosaurs and dump them out, which would last for two minutes before he went to find his giant Lego blocks. He simply didn't know how to "play." He didn't know how to pretend.
And so he and I began to work on that. We focused mainly on his collection of Thomas the Train engines:
But as I said earlier, Judah was not the only one who didn't know how to play. I didn't. And in some ways, I still don't. You see, Judah's lack of play was due to childish ignorance. Mine is far darker in nature. There is often a resistance to playing within me. If it is not there at first, after 30 minutes or so of make-believe, it will be there: a nagging sense of "I've got to get up and go do something real, something that matters." I could give that feeling a harmless name like "restlessness." I could justify it and say that it is just an introvert's need for some "time alone" after a long day at work. But at its core it is a failure to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That may seem like quite a jump. I'll explain. The Bible points out what we all at least subconsciously know - that before God and before the world we as humans are insufficient. We fall short of the purpose we were meant to fulfill. There are two typical responses to that.
The first response is one of unbelief. The second, one of true belief. When I sit down with Judah and play, that sense of "I've got to get up and go do something real" is clearly a result of failing to believe the gospel (response number 2). Instead, being temporarily ignorant of the gospel, I feel that I need to get up and do something that matters (response number 1).
Judah is not the only one who is learning how to play here. As I teach Judah how to play, Christ teaches me how to play. For what is "play" if not a symbol for selfless love? As I play with Judah, doing something that in no way advances my career or builds up my portfolio or really benefits me in any way at all, am I not being formed into the image of Christ, whose entire life was one of serving others with no present return on investment? Was not Christ's coming down into this world, as it were, just one big game of make-believe in which he "wasted" his time and energy and even his very life for our sake?
May God help us believe the gospel, so that we can forget about ourselves for a moment and love others like he loved us.
This blog is written by the authors of Cypress Press, meant for the creative illustration and application of God's Word.