I encourage others to find areas of their lives they can control, while reminding them not to be so consumed they forget to lean on God and the people He sends into their lives. Talking through a crisis is usually a first step in this process. Sometimes the simple act of sharing information with others is enough to help us see our circumstances from a new perspective and reduce our anxieties. When we go through a trial, finding a way to control what we can while letting others help us orders our steps and strengthens our awareness of the hope God has put before us. (last week’s post)
We structure the flow of comfort into our lives, find normalcy in personal influence through control, and lastly look for cause. Cause is the line of logic that seeks to answer “why?” More general than “why me?” and “why now?” the simple undesignated “why?” assumes an intelligent being is capable of influencing circumstances around us.
Why did an SUV slam into a tree killing its driver and sparing its passenger? Did the driver err? Was he intoxicated? Did the driver, unlike his passenger, forget to buckle his seat belt? Did he swerve to miss a pedestrian? Was there a mechanical malfunction in the SUV’s steering system, or did a tire blow out? Was the passenger’s life miraculously saved because God had a job for him to do? Was the driver’s life lost because his work on earth was complete?
Mechanical and technical “whys” can involve painstaking investigations, but offer definitive answers. NASA’s space shuttle program, while wildly successful, will be remembered for two disasters involving shuttles Challenger and Columbia. Challenger exploded during its ascent due to a faulty O-ring. Columbia broke apart on reentry as a result of broken heat shield tiles. When the cause of these tragedies was discovered, measures were introduced that prevented the same malfunctions from occurring again. Still, one wonders: was there a higher purpose at work? Apollo 13 also suffered a catastrophic accident while orbiting the moon. Yet, the crew of Apollo 13 returned to earth alive. Why?
These parallel investigations involving the mechanical-technical and higher purpose causes represent two very important thought processes for anyone working through a trial. I should probably clarify that my use of the word “cause” is not tied to a being, but rather a sequence. Whether God caused or allowed an event, we still want to know if He had anything to do with it. Did it happen be-“cause” there was a divine purpose at work?
I used to cringe when loved ones talked with police officers or doctors about the grizzly details of a loved one’s death. It seemed to me such facts only accentuated the pain. In some ways, they did, but in other ways they were all a part of coming to terms with the cause. Piecing together why something bad happened seems to help people move forward. Sometimes they moved forward with great anger and resentment, but they moved.
Unfortunately, finding a higher purpose is more difficult than uncovering a crime or discovering a faulty piece of machinery. On occasion I have met people who are convinced their circumstances are a part of a bigger plan. Some have even told me why they believe God allowed them to suffer. But in most cases, I find feelings of confusion, anger and abandonment.
This is where I teach the Biblical principle of contending. It is nearly impossible to accept the fact there are questions we can’t presently answer, or may never answer, if we don’t believe we are free to be honest with God. It is fine to say, “God, I don’t like it. I don’t even agree with it. But I am going to live with it because I trust You.” It is also healthy to admit to ourselves the higher purpose “why?” may not be revealed for many years, or ever. To the extent we are able to find peace with this conclusion, we can begin to experience God’s healing.
If we don’t stop to ask how we wish to be comforted, what we need to control, and how we are going to investigate cause, we will find ourselves with too many answers and not enough time to orient ourselves to the questions. Defining how we are going to approach each makes resolution more realistic and helps us create a timeline to resolve later what we cannot comprehend today.
How to you organize the questions that arise when you face a trial? Have you ever tried to answer too many questions at once?
Dear God, help me think it through. In Jesus’ name, Amen.