What is God up to?
Most of us have had some events happen in our lives to which we react with disbelief, confusion, frustration or anger. The first person we address is normally God, either consciously or subconsciously asking: “What is going on? Why is this happening? Why are you doing this to me?”
It may come as a shock to some, but even pastors ask God these questions as we try to figure out what God is trying to accomplish in any event that is really frustrating or bewildering to us. It may be that something really, really good happened, and our human response is that this is too good to be true. And when something that seems to be really bad happens, we humans naturally cry out to God, often in anger. Our questions frequently are the questions: “Why God? Why me? Why do I deserve this? Why now?”
These “why” questions are really hard to answer, because they are often questions that we can’t answer to our satisfaction under the circumstances. If we knew the answers, or would readily accept instant answers, we would not be asking the questions. The fact that we are asking the question says that we don’t already have the answer.
“Why” questions also require answers that are too often philosophical, or theological, and often leave the inquirer cold to philosophical or abstract answers. One of the most common theological answers is that our situations are because of the sovereignty of God. While God is indeed Sovereign, He is not the instigator of the evil that men do, nor of the destructiveness of sin that flows from man’s choices. Declaring that it is God’s fault because God is sovereign brings us little comfort. It leads to other questions that are similarly difficult to satisfactorily answer, such as: “How could a loving God allow this to happen?”
In a brief column, it is impossible to attempt to answer such questions thoroughly. There are some guiding principles that can help us work through situations to attempt to come to terms with what has happened. For the purpose of this column, I merely suggest that maybe we are asking the wrong questions. If we change the question from “Why did God let this happen?” to “What are some possible things God could accomplish through this situation?” then we move the event into a scenario where we might actually be able to discover some possible answers to our questions.
What is God up to in this situation? For example, I took my car in for service yesterday. I have expenses up to my ears right now, along with a large financial expense on the near horizon. I asked the guys working on the car to also please check a tire that appeared to have a slow leak. Well, the outcome was that the tire had a split internal sidewall, so some new tires were required. I have learned to avoid asking the “Why me?” question, but still had the “Oh great. Why now?” question. But I did not dwell on it. Things wear out (as do our bodies, by the way).
By changing the question to “What is God up to?” it turned into a positive answer. God was preventing a blowout that could have demolished the car, and/or killed me. Thank you, God! God was getting the car ready for winter weather with better traction treads, and God was making me spend money that I wouldn’t have spent until I absolutely had to spend it, so the scenario turned into a “have to do it” decision. Thus God was saving me from a greater expense later or even potential catastrophic consequences.
I know that is simplistic, but it changes the whole attitude in looking at the situation. It is not on a par with getting a cancer diagnosis, but the principle is the same. Such a diagnosis allows for attempts to beat cancer, to prepare for eternity or to get the most out of the time we have left. This actually happened to a friend of mine, who had a serious snowmobiling accident. In the process of being treated for the accident, his hidden cancer was discovered and treated. He ended up saying, “Thank God for my accident!”
Asking “what” can provide potential answers and positive things that accompany it. Asking “why” questions make us mad at God, who is often the only one who can help us in and through our circumstances.
So what is God up to in what is happening in your life?
Award-winning columnist Dr. Ed Jordan is pastor of Gwynn’s Island Baptist Church, Gwynn, VA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.