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Saturday, April 4, 2009

“MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY. . .?”

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

The other day my young adult daughter phoned me. She was quite upset. She had thought she had a firm position as teacher at a nearby Christian school. But after several delays on the school's part, she was once again put on delay. Now she was informed that there might not be enough students enrolled for the upcoming year.

That meant the school would not have enough funds to pay two new needed teachers, she being one of them.

Ooops! Life just slipped out of joint. God just slipped behind a cloud. And my daughter was not at all pleased. She had married in June. The couple had moved into their apartment soon after the honeymoon. Her husband was in his new position. Now she awaited assurance of her job. Assurance would mean pay checks that could be counted on. The salaries would equal money to pay bills.

But her job was not jelled yet. So that salary check was still at bay. Go figure the rest.

"Why does God do this to me?" she asked between tears. "He knows that I need assurance. I need some stability. For the past several years most of my life has been 'up in the air.' And now this. I keep my daily devotions. I keep His day holy. I tithe our moneys. I trust in Jesus, at least I try hard to trust in Him. I know that God is supposed to be a God of love. But I think that right now He is just plain mean. He is mean. Dad, I can't figure this whole thing out right now!"

I replied, "I know just where you're coming from. I have been in that spot many times myself."

This daughter of mine knows how realistically frank I, as both father and pastor, can be. I do not like hedging. And I don't see anything commendable in glossing over life's hard places. Instead, I have been formed by my God to go forth with clear eyes, seeing "spades as spades". In studying Jesus in the Gospels, I find these similarities in His character as well.

"I understand just what you mean," I repeated.

"I know you do, Dad," she answered. "I know what all you and Mom have been through down through the years in ministry. But I just don't want to live the hard life you two have had to live. I don't think it's fair. I'm scared. I don't want God to lay on me all these hard things."

How I wished at that moment that I could have climbed into her skin and absorbed her pain. That's the way real fathers feel. They don't like their children to have to suffer. They would rather take the rap.

But I couldn't. I had to hear her out, though that was torture for me. In addition, this was a long distance call. Further, to visit in person would have meant a wide turf to leap.

Then immediately I thought back to Calvary. Jesus knew what we two were talking about. He could get on our frequency - and quite early. After all, Jesus cried out to Father: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

To me, that says a lot More than can be put into words. It speaks of pain beyond verbalizations. Plain and simple. Complicated and messy. Jesus had been "trialed" in all points as we, so the Scriptures state. Then He, as our Intercessor, has known doubt and confusion. He has known how to hang on the brink of sanity. He knows all that and more for He carried the confused, messy sins of all humanity on His holy head.

My daughter went on: "I know that logically God is love. I know that for sure. But right now He does not seem to be loving."

“Heidi," I said to my lovely daughter, "you are correct. In this sorely damaged world, there are those times in the disciple's life when God does not appear loving. Jesus felt that when stapled to the cross. But more, you are also correct in saying that logically you know full well that God is love."

“And with that juxtaposition we earnest ones often live out our days. So we can say with Job, 'Though he slay me, yet I will trust Him.’" And we do. After all, there really is no other place to go but to Father's heart.

We trust Him because we have experienced not only His complex nature but also His simple love. We have come upon His tenderness as well as His right hand of power.

Further, we know that in this terribly evil world, the planet itself is confused, society is numbed by its sin, and history is filled with tumbles. Therefore, we, being temporary citizens of this sphere, are caught up in all that tangle. In that, God Himself then can appear to be lost as He seems to slip behind life's cloud.

Yet in truth we know that He is always more present than we could ever imagine. And in that presence is His perfect plan worked out—just as it was on Calvary.

Who could have ever thought on that awful Friday that a shining First Day was just around the corner?

So it is with our faith. We keep believing in Him, trusting that our Fridays of gloom and misfortune will eventuate in the First Day promise. And living long enough, we come to the realistic conclusion that that is more than fancy.

It is eternal truth.