WHEN LIFE DOESN'T TIE UP IN A PRETTY BOW

Let’s face it. Life is not fair. Hard things happen to wonderful people. Loved ones die. Diseases strike. Children are born with disabilities. Natural disasters hit. Businesses go under. The list goes on and on, and the longer you live, the more aware you become of the many kinds of suffering people endure. Pain is universal; it just looks different in every life. Things don’t always tie up neatly with a pretty bow and prayers aren’t always answered the way we would hope. 

What do we do with that kind of pain and disappointment? I’ve dealt with my own assortment of difficult trials and have found it easy to get stuck in the endless loop of asking “Why, God” questions?  “Why did that happen?” “Why didn’t You protect her?” “Why didn’t You heal him?” “Why now?” “What did I do to deserve this?” Do you know where those questions get you? ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE! 
 
Constantly asking “why” questions can reinforce a self-image as a victim. You might find yourself hosting a endless pity party (for yourself). It’s almost as though becoming fixated on finding the answer “why” is like keeping a horse confined in a stall when a beautiful trail ride awaits.
 
The first verse of Scripture that I ever memorized was Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t rely on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  Ponder the words “Don’t rely on your own understanding.” God is telling us not to try to figure it all out, but to trust Him.  This life isn’t Heaven, and while we’re on earth, we will continue to have unanswered questions. As a Christian, I believe that the entire journey of my life is designed to make me more and more like Jesus. Suffering, and the accompanying unanswered questions, play a big part in the refining process.
 
Recently, I read the wonderful book by singer/songwriter Laura Story entitled When God Doesn’t Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn But Can’t Live Without. I highly recommend it! One of the biggest lessons I took from her book and from her own painful journey is that instead of asking “Why, God?” we should begin asking “How, God?” “How do You want to use these difficult circumstances as part of Your larger story?” 

As Laura so wisely states: “The story we’re living in is God’s story. In this context, broken doesn’t mean disabled; it means enabled to point to Jesus instead of ourselves. Sinner doesn’t mean failure; it means need for a Savior. The same is true for my story. The reason God wants me to tell my story isn’t because he wants me to be embarrassed talking about my lowlights or bragging about my highlights. He wants me to tell my story because my story points to Jesus. My life is but one minuscule, very broken story in his much larger story of redemption. And so is your story.”
 
The other question I believe is essential to ask God is “What?” “What do You want me to learn from this, Lord?” “What do you want me to learn about Your nature and character?” “What do You want me to learn about myself?” “What do You want me to learn about living with other broken people in this broken world?” “What do You want me to do now?”
 
It’s human nature to hunger to figure things out now. That won’t fully happen, this side of Heaven. If you keep trying, you’ll probably stay stuck in a rut and waste valuable days of your life. You’ll never completely understand the reasons behind another person’s sin. You’ll never understand why loved ones die when and how they do. You’ll never understand cancer or disease or congenital disabilities. You’ll never understand natural disasters. But when you open your heart and ask God the “How” and “What” questions, He promises to guide and direct you as you move forward.
 
Perhaps you’ve spent a lot of 2019, like I have, trying to understand “why?” My prayer for you, Friend,  is that you will be freed from the grips of that lingering question and enter 2020 with joyful anticipation, knowing that our faithful God will direct your steps to beautiful new places.

 
  
“Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” 
Proverbs 3:5-6 
The Message