Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.
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On Sunday, we’re finishing up our series that focused on some of life challenging questions. And over the last four weeks we’ve considered the following:
• Why do bad things happen to good people?
• Why don't people understand me?
• Why don't I understand what's going on?
• Why is God allowing this to happen?
And this Sunday, the last one before we enter Easter week, we’ll look at the question: Why doesn't God make things clear? Now, for each, we’ve used the story of Job for some direction as we grappled with the question. And as the one who wrote and delivered each one, I’ve been pleased with how we’ve covered the issues.
Of course, if you’ve come to more than one of the services, you probably recognize that one less than satisfying theme has been present throughout the series. I mean, one of the answers you’ve heard for each of the questions has been that wonderful response, “I don’t know.” And I’ll tell you, that’s something I’ve either explicitly stated or implied every single week. For example, even though good people sometimes bring bad things on themselves and sometimes others bring this stuff to them, in other situations, I don’t know why good people suffer; they just do. And even though some people can and will understand us while others won’t, I don’t know why the “won’ts” won’t; they just won’t. And I can say the same thing about our lack of understanding and the divine will. Again, in many situations, there are definite reasons. But in others, I just don’t know why we can’t understand or why an omnipotent God allows certain things to happen. I just don’t know; we just don’t and he just does.
And I’ve got to admit, I haven’t found that answer particularly satisfying. Even though I believe it’s true, I’d prefer to have some reason I can understand, some reason that makes sense, some reason in which I might find some satisfaction. Frankly, I’m a little frustrated by the ambiguity I’m forced both to face and to accept. As a matter of fact, I really don’t see me being like Job, finding satisfaction with the idea that God is God and I’m not; therefore, there are plenty of things that people will never understand. Although I have doubt that I would have been cowered by the sheer power of a voice from the whirlwind, I don’t think I’d be willing simply to accept this answer. Somehow, when faced with life’s more challenging questions, hearing someone say “I don’t know; it just is”, well that’s a little like being at the end of a buffet line and finding there’s only vegetables left. It’s an answer but not very satisfying.
And even though that’s just what happens when we deal with some of life’s “whys”, there’s a slew of related questions for which this is a wonderful answer, and I’m talking about questions like, “Why does God love us?’ and “Why is this love constant even when we prove to be weak?” and “Why has he decided to lead us into a glorious future, one that we didn’t earn and that we don’t deserve?” You see, these are the kind of questions for which I find extremely satisfying the often unsatisfying answer, “I don’t know; he just does.”