I promised myself that I would not be the kind of mom to say, “Because I said so.”
I believed in discipline and obedience. But I also believed in helping children understand what was requested of them. Understanding would make everyone happy and make life easier.
So I thought. Until I actually had children.
Have you ever tried to explain to a three-year-old why they can’t have dessert before dinner? Why they really do need a nap? Why they can’t stay at their friend’s or the playground for the rest of the day?
Children have an uncanny ability to find loopholes or come up with alternatives. They don’t have the frame of reference to understand why their parents won’t allow what seems perfectly reasonable.
No parent is infallible. We all learn that some of the things we insisted on really didn’t matter in the long run. But usually we do the best with what we know. And sometimes we have to play the authority card.
Sometimes we want to say, “My dear child. I’ve been around the block a few times. I know you. I know how life works. I have your best interests in mind, really. I know you don’t understand, but just trust me on this. It will make sense when you’re older.”
As Christians, our heavenly Father doesn’t always explain Himself. He doesn’t have to, of course. He is God.
Still, we often want to offer our own suggestions. Or we want to dig in our heels and wail until everything is explained to our understanding.
I think one reason God doesn’t always explain what He is doing because He wants us to trust Him. He tells us plenty in His Word. He gives us some reasons He allows and even ordains suffering. He’s given us multiple narratives that show how He worked behind the scenes to bring everything together to fulfill a promise or to deliver His people. The more we get to know Him, the more we realize He knows what He is doing, the more we can rest in His wisdom and love and care.
But I think sometimes He doesn’t explain because we wouldn’t get it if He did. His thoughts are as high above ours as the heavens are higher than the earth (Isaiah 55:8-9). “Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24, KJV). We don’t see the big picture. We don’t have His frame of reference. No matter how much He explained, we still wouldn’t understand some things.
John Piper has said, “God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them.”
I’ve always felt a bit frustrated that nobody ever told Job what went on in the heavenlies that led to all his suffering. God didn’t explain, but He did manifest Himself. And that satisfied Job. His glimpse of God’s power, majesty, wisdom, and care was enough.
There are songs that say we’ll understand everything better in heaven. I don’t know if that’s actually the case. He is God, and we are not and never will be. Though we’ll understand much more then than we do now, we still won’t know and understand everything He does. But in heaven, we probably won’t care. We won’t see through a glass darkly any more. Our sin nature will have been left behind. Our faith will be turned to sight. We’ll behold the King in His beauty. We may not understand all there is to understand. But we’ll wonder why we ever questioned Him.
It’s not wrong to ask why. Many Biblical people did. A lot depends on whether we’re asking our of defiance, challenge, contempt, or pain and confusion. God might answer. He might not. We might not be able to understand His answer, anyway. But the better we know Him, the more we can trust Him.
Amy Carmichael wrote in Rose From Brier, a book to suffering people from her own experience of suffering:
What, then, is the answer? I do not know. I believe that it is one of the secret things of the Lord, which will not be opened to us till we see Him who endured the Cross, see the scars in His hands and feet and side, see Him, our Beloved, face to face. I believe that in that revelation of love, which is far past our understanding now, we shall “understand even as all along we have been understood.”
And till then? What does a child do whose mother or father allows something to be done which it cannot understand? There is only one way of peace. It is the child’s way. The loving child trusts.
I believe that we who know our God, and have proved Him good past telling, will find rest there. The faith of the child rests on the character it knows. So may ours, so shall ours. Our Father does not explain, nor does He assure us as we long to be assured… But we know our Father. We know His character. Somehow, somewhere, the wrong must be put right; how we do not know, only we know that, because He is what He is, anything else is inconceivable. For the word sent to the man whose soul was among lions and who was soon to be done to death, unsuccored, though the Lord of Daniel was so near, is fathomless: “And blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me.”
There is only one place we can receive, not an answer to our questions, but peace — that place is Calvary. An hour at the foot of the Cross steadies the soul as nothing else can. “O Christ beloved, Thy Calvary stills all our questions.” Love that loves like that can be trusted about this.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I love Ron Hamilton’s song, “Abba Father” (lyrics here). It tenderly ministered to me after transverse myelitis, especially the line, “Help me when I can’t see Your will is best for me.”
(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Hearth and Home,
Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies,
Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)
Amy Carmichael was so comfortable with the sovereignty of God and she bowed to his will with such grace. The wrestling match I engage in from time to time is a red flag to me, a cautionary sign that I have a lot of growing up to do.
It comforts me that Jesus asked “Why?” on the cross, even though He knew the answer. There are depths to that which I can’t fathom.
Grateful for your words today. Especially struck by, “But he better we know Him, the more we can trust Him.” THANK YOU for sharing this today.
Thank you, Melissa. When some awful thing happens to someone I know, I have to go back to trusting His character and purposes and grace for them.
Great post, Barbara. I love that John Piper quote. It is so human to question “Why?” We must be comfortable knowing that we will never know the “Why?” for some things. Trusting that God is good is needed to get through these tough times.
Thank you, Laurie. I love your last sentence especially.
Love this post, and you quote two of my favorites, John Piper and Amy Carmichael! I agree that the parenting analogy is very apt here. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours, and some things we just aren’t going to understand this side of heaven — thank you for this encouraging post, Barbara!
Thank you, Susan! Even though I know these truths, I have to go through them all again sometimes.
Thanks so much, Kitty.
Thank you so much for this wonderful post, Barbara. It’s all about our heart attitude when we ask our Father, isn’t it?I love the quote you shared from Amy Carmichael’s book. Rose from Brier is my favorite book of hers. I read it not long after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
It’s my favorite of hers as well. I’ve read it a few times but could probably benefit from it again now.
Yes, Yes YES! I often think some of the questions that so bother us now won’t actually matter anymore when we get to heaven. And the reminder of that verse “the secret things belong to the Lord our God….” Trust is developed on the journey of suffering, but it is the one thing that makes the journey easier. Thank you
I love this: “Trust is developed on the journey of suffering, but it is the one thing that makes the journey easier.” Sometimes the things we most question Him about are the very things He is using to increase that trust and shape us more in His image.
Yes, I’ve learned so much about following God from being a mom. That is what prompted me to start my blog. God doesn’t always explain, but I do trust He always has a reason. Even when that reason might just be to show someone how a believer in God suffers well. Sometimes that isn’t the most satisfying answer, but I know that God uses our testimony even when we are not aware. Sometimes, He lets us have hints at His purposes, but the Bible makes it clear it all has purpose and that I trust.
Yes–Elisabeth Elliot wrote once that sometimes things happen because the world must be shown what loving faith and obedience look like.
She knew all about that for sure!
I always thought I wouldn’t say “Because I said so” either. And I still tried to use it sparingly, but yes, I did end up saying it more than once. 🙂 I feel God gives me that answer too, and justifiably so. There are SO many things we just can’t understand even if he did explain. Trusting that HE knows has to be good enough. Great post, Barbara.
With all I have read and experienced of His character and how He works, I shouldn’t have any questions. But, humanly, I do and have to remind myself of these things all over again. I am thankful for His longsuffering!
Great post Barbara. My faith upbringing was always peppered with “don’t question” and yet I did. It makes me think of Job and how he demanded an accounting from God and then was put in his place so to speak. While he never lost faith, he did want answers. Thank you for this thought provoking post and thank you for linking up @worthbeyondrubies
Thank you, Diane. Yes, Job’s questions and some of the psalmists’ and even some of the prophets’ questions sound startling to me, but I am so glad God included them in the Bible. God is so gracious.
I’ve been leaning on God and not on my own understanding so much more during this quarantine time. It has strengthened my faith and my joy with Jesus. I don’t understand what the implications of all of this will be or how it will all turn out but I believe that it is in God’s hands. On the news I see people protesting with violence and bigotry and even in our own small towns people are not handling it all very well and I am so grateful for my faith. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.
I know what you mean. I don’t know what people do without Jesus. I pray all that’s going on will turn them to Hm.
What an encouraging reminder that we do not have to know the answers to be able to trust God. I love that Amy Carmichael quote! I’ll need to find that book. I love Corrie ten Boom’s father’s way of explaining this same lesson to her as a child: Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. “Corrie,” he began gently, “when you and I go to Amsterdam-when do I give you your ticket?”
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
“Why, just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need-just in time”. And later in life she wrote, “Don’t be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” That quote is on my mind a lot these days! We may not have answers we crave, but we certainly have enough to trust in God! I’ve been reading and posting about A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (I’ll like a post if interested), and the idea of the vigilant, caring, capable, watchful presence and nearness of a competent Shepherd with his flock is such a powerful image of our Good Shepherd, in whom we can trust and follow wholeheartedly!
I’m going to post this onto my FB feed so others can be as encouraged as I was reading it!
Thanks so much, Elena. That’s such an apt example from Corrie. That reminds me of another when her father told her there were some things that he as a father would have to carry for a while, because they would be too heavy for her.
Love this …. “We wouldn’t get it if He did explain.” Exactly. sharing this one!
Your neighbor at Grace and Truth
Thank you, Mandy!
Your post made me think of my children. In hard times, they’ve asked me why God would allow such suffering or pain or death. I can only say that no matter what happens God is in control and He is good, and that one day we’ll understand. This was such an encouraging article. Thanks, Barbara.
Thank you, Summer. I love your answer to your children.
So much of what you wrote resonates with me. What has helped me through the years is a combination of that Piper quote and the concept of complexity. We naturally want understandable reasons but we don’t always have the capacity to comprehend the complexity of reality.
That’s so true. I wonder if in heaven we’ll learn of some of the behind the scenes happenings–like a detour that saved us from an accident.
Very beautiful post Barbara, I love reading your writing. You always deliver a clear and concise message, thank you! #globalblogging
Thanks so much, Tracey.
Pingback: End-of May Reflections | Stray Thoughts