Romans 11:33-36 33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? 35 Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
Twenty trillion gallons of water fell on Texas from Hurricane Harvey. Several dozen people have been killed. Over thirty thousand people have been displaced from their homes. Houses have been destroyed. Businesses are closed. Houston is under water.
And, many are probably asking the question, “Why?”
Some have taken to social media to say this was a result of global warming. Some have used the tragedy to score political points. Some have said that it was God’s judgment on America.
What is the real answer? We want to know the reason. We demand an answer.
When God does something that is beyond our understanding, we stomp our feet and raise our voice in anger toward God. We demand to know “why?” Why did I suffer a heart attack? Why is my husband dying from cancer? Why can’t I find a job? Why did my car break down? Why don’t I have any friends at school?
When we struggle with these kinds of things, we accuse God of not caring about us. We feel that He is being unloving because He’s not giving us everything we want, right now. We think that the least God could do would be to give us an explanation. He owes us that much, doesn’t He?
We struggle with hardships and setbacks because our modern expectations are that life is good and easy. … Or, at least, it should be. When the Scriptures describe this world as a vale of tears, we don’t really understand it because that is neither our expectation nor our experience. God, in His grace, has kept most suffering, poverty, and sickness away from us. Here in America, we don’t come close to the kind of suffering, poverty, and sickness that most people around the world experience daily. So, when any kind of hardship comes our way, we don’t know how to handle it.
Instead of thanking God for keeping most of these difficulties away from us, we cry out in anger at God that He allowed something to come our way.
We complain about having to wait for our fast food, instead of thanking God that food is so readily available. We argue with our teachers, instead of thanking God that He has placed educators into our schools who want to assist parents in training children in the way they should go. We get upset about the Packers’ and their play calling, and they haven’t even played a meaningful game yet.
What is the underlying reason we are continuously asking God “why”? It’s because – deep down – we don’t trust God to know what He’s doing.
We have self-imposed blinders on. We are by nature selfish individuals. We don’t have the ability to look to the left or right to see how events affect those around us. We don’t have the depth of knowledge to consider how all of history has been worked out to get us to where we are today. We don’t have the foresight to see what the future has in store – not just for us, but for all of humanity. And, we certainly do not consider the billions of precious souls that make up this wonderful world in which we live.
The apostle Paul writes that the Lord God has no such blinders. He can see the past, present, and future. He can work on an individual basis with one precious soul, while at the same time taking into consideration the physical and spiritual wellbeing of every soul on earth. And then, He makes sure everything works out for the eternal benefit of each of those souls.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
The simple fact is that often we just can’t understand! It’s like when your little girl asks you, “Daddy, why is it cold out?” Do you explain to her: “Honey, we get cold because the Earth is tilted at a 23.5-degree axis. As the Earth rotates around the sun, we, who are living in the northern hemisphere, are tilted away from the sun. That means that the sun’s rays are hitting the Earth at a much shallower angle. This prevents the Earth from warming up.” Or do you say, “It gets cold because we live in Wisconsin.”
Your child might drive you nuts continuously asking, “Why?”. But, you know that a child can’t comprehend all the intricacies of why you make the decisions you do. That’s why you answer the same way your parents did … “Because I said so.”
Sometimes … most times … God’s answer to our questions of “Why?” is “Because I said so.”
God’s wisdom is too deep; His knowledge is too wide; His judgments are unsearchable; His ways are untraceable for the human mind to comprehend. We cannot know God’s mind. We cannot be His counselor.
When we are going through difficult times, we must trust that God knows what He’s doing. He has a plan. He will work everything out for our eternal benefit.
In a video that has gone viral, a man named Jeremiah is walking hand-in-hand with his six-year-old son in Houston after having been rescued from his flooded home. A reporter approaches, asking what happened. Jeremiah talks about the rain, and of being rescued. He then looks straight into the camera and says, “We thank God. We thank God. This all we got. We lost the car, all the clothes, school clothes, everything’s gone. Everything’s gone.”
The reporter asks where they’ll go next. Jeremiah says, “We don’t know.” The reporter is clearly taken aback by Jeremiah’s gracious thanksgiving to God in the wake of losing everything and asks, “But, you’re thankful?”
Jeremiah replies, “Yeah, we’re thankful. God is good.”
I don’t know Jeremiah, but I’m impressed with his Christian faith. How do I know he’s a Christian? Only a Christian can have a faith like that amid that storm.
Jeremiah’s faith recalls the faith of other faithful Christians I have ministered to in difficult times.
One older Christian man, who joined our church in Kentucky, told me that he had left his church years ago and had fallen away from his faith. But, then, God gave him a heart attack. He told me, “The heart attack was mild enough not to kill me, but strong enough to get my attention. Now I’m back in church.”
Another former member from Kentucky once asked me why I thought God allowed her mom to get cancer. I told her I had no idea, but God always has a purpose. I asked her if her mom went to church. She said, “My mom actually started going to church after she learned she had cancer.” I didn’t have to say any more.
More recently, I visited one of our members in the hospital after he suffered a heart attack. Both he and his wife were grateful for the heart attack. They learned that he had much more serious heart problems which were corrected after his open-heart surgery two days after the heart attack. They understood that if God had not been gracious in allowing the heart attack when He did, it could have been much, much worse later.
One of our members whose husband is dying from brain cancer isn’t mad at God. She doesn’t blame God that she is losing her husband much earlier than planned. Instead, she said she is appreciates every day of grace that God allows her to spend with her husband.
Another member recently suffered a heart attack at home. She told me she was grateful that she had been able to put on makeup that morning, before the paramedics showed up.
In all these times, they did not sin by asking “Why?” or demanding an answer to their suffering. Instead, they trusted in the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. They had faith in God’s unsearchable judgments and His untraceable ways.
Sometimes what we are going through doesn’t even have much to do with us. Your heart attack might be so that you can give a strong Christian witness to your children who have fallen away from the faith. Your cancer might be so that your church family can lift you up in prayers. The hurricane might be so that people forget about rioting in the streets or bathroom wars or political parties and just start helping people again. Perhaps God is forcing us to focus on what unites us instead of focusing on what divides us.
Because we are inherently selfish, maybe God sends difficulties to encourage us to look away from ourselves and look to God and God’s children for help.
Sometimes we may pray for one thing and get exactly the opposite. But, that’s because what we prayed for is exactly the opposite of what we needed. God in His infinite wisdom knows better than we do.
I like this prayer attributed to a soldier from the Civil War:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for - but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am, among men, most richly blessed!
Whenever we struggle, we are going to ask questions. The beauty is that all our questions are answered in Christ.
Like so many other passages in Scripture, these words from Romans remind us that God knows infinitely more than we ever will. Thankfully, our God is many times smarter and more knowledgeable than we are. He sees the whole picture while we often are left to wonder why He did this or allowed that. Often, we sinfully doubt God or question His will. We get frustrated and demand to know why He is doing what he is doing. As Christians, we do well to simply trust Him and know that His will in the end is always so much better than we could ever have thought or imagined.
That is certainly the case with God’s plan of salvation. From the beginning, God had a plan to save us from sin, death and hell. It’s a plan we maybe haven’t always understood fully, but what a wonderful plan it was! In a nutshell, the plan was to send His only Son into this world and to sacrifice Him for a world full of sinners. That’s not what we would have come up with. Our plan might have involved some way to try to earn our own way to heaven; a plan that could only end in failure and eternal condemnation. As our WLS children sang today that our salvation is in “Christ Alone.”
We will always have lots of questions in this life. We may at times wonder why God does what He does. One thing we need never question is God’s love for us. He has proved it in sending Jesus. With hearts full of love for our Savior, we trust God to continue to do what He knows to be best for us.
God’s ways are so much higher than ours! He sent Jesus to be our Savior from sin and promised that through faith in Him we will receive eternal life in heaven. Now we can stand back in awe of His infinite wisdom and His untraceable ways. “To him be the glory forever!” Amen.