If we cannot be guaranteed of an answer to the question “Why me?” then perhaps we will be more fortunate with the partner of this demonic duo, “Why now?” If God, in His wisdom, has chosen not to spare us our trials, will He not make up for it by taking the ebb and flow of our lives, and our need for margins into consideration? One might postulate so, but then one would be wrong. God does not appear to be any more protective of life’s timing than He is of those who suffer.
As they say, “the hits just keep on coming.” Like a flurry of punches in the late rounds of a boxing match, it is easy to feel cursed when we face one troubling experience after another, and each event brings us closer to personal collapse. In a sense, there is never a good time for a trial, but when challenges are spread out over weeks, months, or years we have an opportunity to process our thoughts and reclaim our balance. On the other hand, when we encounter pain in rapid-fire succession, we can easily lose all perspective.
The Bible is filled with examples of those who suffered trials upon trials. I am intrigued by the widow from Zerephath who cared for the prophet Elijah during a drought and famine designed to bring wicked King Ahab to his knees. When the prophet arrived at her home he asked her to fetch some water and bake him a bread cake. His timing couldn’t have been worse since she was busy preparing a last meal for her son and herself before surrendering to starvation. But the widow ultimately responded with great faith and God provided by miraculously replenishing her oil and flour supply on a daily basis. And about that time the unthinkable happened. Her son grew ill and died.
We can appreciate the words of the widow to Elijah: “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (1 Kings 17:18 NIV) How sad. This dear widow had lost her husband along with financial security, faced starvation in the midst of a famine and then watched as her son grew ill and slowly stopped breathing. Even Elijah struggled as he prayed, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” (1 Kings 17:20 NIV) In this case, God responded by using his prophet to raise the boy from the dead.
I will admit this account is problematic at this point. If we knew all of our trials were going to end happily, the wait would be less agonizing. Still, we are able to relate to the widow’s conversation with Elijah. We sympathize with the guilt she carried through the death of her husband and her growing poverty. Surely Elijah had been sent as a final death angel to take her son away and finish her off.
Bad timing not only leads us to ask “Why now?” but it stirs up the first question as well. If our trials merely occurred at an inconvenient moment in our lives, we might more easily endure. But when we experience one jab after another we begin to wonder if God has singled us out, which leads us back to the “Why me?” inquiry. With the widow we shout, “What do you have against me? Why me and why now?” We can’t imagine what we have done to be punished so.
Do you ever wonder if God is punishing you with the trials that come into your life? Do you feel your guilt is justified? Why? Why not?
Dear God, help me manage my burden of guilt. In Jesus’ name, Amen.