I’m sure we’ve all thought it. Maybe even begged for it. Everyone wants clarity in their lives and to have their questions answered, especially when their questions involve pain. Whether the pain is emotional, physical, or spiritual, we all crave the knowledge that suffering is not in vain. This often manifests in asking God for an explanation or “sign”, and here’s why I believe that is setting yourself up for disappointment.
Starting at the ground floor of my thoughts is this simple fact: God is God and we are not. What I mean by that is that God is omnipotent. He knows everything that ever has happened, what is happening, and what is yet to come. He has created the entire universe and doesn’t abide by the limitations we have as humans. In contrast, we can see the tiny speck that is our personal experience. We couldn’t possibly understand the complexities of the Almighty God.
The first of two of my favorite lines in the movie, The Shack, is when “Papa” is telling the main character that he can only see through the knothole of his pain. This means that we are only able to see part of the whole picture. There are things going on that we are completely unaware of and its not in our power to know them.
The other line I found to be worth repeating happens again in a conversation between the main character and the “God” character. It goes, “Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies”. So often we blame God for our pain and ask why He is creating this struggle in our lives instead of asking how we can grow from it or how good can come from our trial. Understanding that while, yes, God does have the power to make the world perfect and painless, we live a life with free will. As long as we are able to make our own choices, there will be suffering in our lives. God is interested in relationship, not robots. Because of that fact He chooses to let us decide for ourselves if we will allow his love and perfect plan shape our lives.
Beyond the basic understanding that God uses our pain but does not create it, asking for a sign sets us up for disappointment and frustration because we don’t know what we’re asking for in the first place. What exactly would a “sign” look like to you? Would you expect a divine voice to audibly speak to you? Maybe a dream that explains everything you’ve been questioning? What about the signs from God that surround us each and every day?
We live on a swirling ball of molten rock covered in water and dirt that orbits a star at just the right distance and tilt to allow us to exist. Just ponder that for a moment. It was once said that “for those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who do not believe, no proof is possible”. At what point would we notice that God was speaking to us? His voice is so often left unheard simply because we are not paying attention. His timing is written off as coincidence or just the universe randomly playing out. It is all too easy to spend all of our time asking questions and never listen for the answers.
One figure told about in the Bible that I relate quite well with is Job. If you grew up in the church or have learned about many of the stories told, you are probably familiar with his life. We know that he lost everything due to Satan attempting to assert power over God and prove that Job only worshiped him because he was so blessed with worldly things. First he lost all of his belongings after being a very wealthy man. Then he lost his entire family. Finally his health was taken from him and he suffered greatly. Those who once respected him looked at him with disgust and his closest friends accused him of harboring secret sins that he was being punished for. We know that through all of it he held tight to his faith. What we often don’t think about is that Job didn’t know what we know as the audience all these years later. He wasn’t privy to the conversation and spiritual warfare between Heaven and Hell. And he never got an explanation.
Job never learned the reason behind his troubles but that is not to say God was silent. Toward the end of the book God speaks to Job out of a storm and asks him why he believes he knows better than the creator of everything. Despite begging for the chance to plead his case to God, Job humbles himself and finally acknowledges that he was talking about what he did not understand. Job did indeed ask for forgiveness of his sins, but they were not the sins his friends had accused him of. Rather, he repented for his attitude and for questioning the sovereignty of the Lord.
Demanding an explanation from God is not going to get us anywhere except straight into self righteousness, anger, and disappointment. His timeline is not the same as ours and we are asked to trust, even when we do not understand. We may never know the “why” behind the struggles of life but we can rest in the fact that God is in control.
God is in control.
God is in control. Of everything.