Honesty and confession puts us in a better position to hear God, but they don’t guarantee an answer to the “Why me?” question. In truth, we may never have a satisfactory answer, at least in this life.
I have always been troubled by the circumstances surrounding the death of John the Baptist. John was more than a prophet cloaked in camel’s-hair. He was the little “surprise” born to Mary’s elderly cousin Elizabeth. John never wavered in his mission as the forerunner to Jesus, faithfully calling his culture to repentance. When Jesus appeared he introduced Him to the crowds and humbly stepped aside.
But this was not the end of John’s prophetic work. It is hard for someone called to proclaim the truth to remain silent. When King Herod entered into an immoral relationship with his brother’s wife Herodias, John called him out. Then Herod locked him up. Perhaps you have heard the sordid details of the fateful party where Herodias’ daughter Salome danced before Herod and he offered her a reward up to half of his kingdom. Herodias prompted her daughter to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter, and the request was promptly carried out.
As evil as these events were, they are not the source of my trouble. Instead, I have always struggled with the communication between Jesus and His cousin John before his execution. Depressed by his dark demise, John sent word to Jesus asking Him to confirm whether or not He really was the Messiah. It is dangerous to read between the lines here, but I have always wondered if John was battling feelings of abandonment. After all, if Jesus really was the Messiah, would He allow His own cousin to rot away in prison? Was it possible John had wasted his entire life on a false claim?
Jesus told John’s messengers to return with this proclamation: “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:22-23 NIV)
I have no doubt these words were encouraging to John, but they still didn’t resolve the issue of his circumstances. Couldn’t someone who was giving people back their sight, curing leprosy and raising the dead find the time to spring His poor cousin from prison? After all, he wasn’t there for his work in proclaiming the kingdom, but rather because he chose to speak out against a wrong. Would it have hurt God’s plan of redemption if He had rescued a deserving servant like John?
I am aware my thoughts are theoretical since we aren’t told what John’s motivation was for his inquiry. Maybe He was ready to die as a prophet, but just needed to be reassured he had heard God correctly. But it is just as possible he died still confused as to why he had been allowed to suffer after doing everything he had been asked to do.
This brings me to a difficult position, but one I have grown more comfortable with as the years have passed. Sometimes, it is enough to know God cares for us and is aware of our circumstances. Not only has He not promised to protect us from all harm, but He has also never said He would provide full insight into His providential plans. Does this reality frustrate me? Of course it does. I want to know “why?” I would also like to be able to answer the same question for others. But I have come to a place where I am more focused on God’s abiding peace in the midst of things I do not understand than I am the logic behind them.
This is where we return to our Pencil Faith metaphor. We have said the shattering of the certainties that make up the greater portion of our faith (80% in my case) is merely a delusion Satan creates to defeat us. In time we recognize we still have a foundation of certainty, but it comes to reflect a more mature awareness of God’s grace and providence as they intersect the complexity of our human experience. In brief terms God’s “divine option” is greater than our finite comprehension, and as our trust in His wisdom grows, the temporary needs in this life begin to fade in light of His eternal glory. I am not suggesting this is an easy process of discovery, but one that is inevitable in our walk with the Father.
Has your understanding of the options God has at his disposal grown over the years? Has this helped you grow in faith?
Dear God, help me comprehend the incomprehensible nature of your providence. In Jesus’ name, Amen.