Sunday, October 27, 2019


When God Does Not Heal
You’ve heard people say it when tragedy has fallen upon someone. Maybe you have even said it yourself:
“Don’t ask why—just accept what has happened and move on.”
We hear this especially when something has happened that is beyond our control, like a natural disaster or a death of a very close loved one.
“You shouldn’t ask why.”
The advice may at least partially stem from childhood experiences or perhaps our experiences with our own children. For a small child, everything is “Why.”

At first, the parent may enjoy answering the whys of their small son or daughter, and some questions actually have answers to them. There are always the classics: “Why is the sky blue?” or “Why do some leaves turn yellow and others turn red?”

But then there are other questions that do not need to be answered every day or in every situation: “Why do I have to go to bed?” Why can’t I have ice cream now?”

Perhaps every parent of an inquisitive child eventually falls back on the only response that they may feel is worthy of the constant whys: “Just because,” or “Because I said so.”

“Why this?” “Why that?” “Why the other thing?”

“Just because.” “Because I said so.”

Partially as a result of these experiences, as we mature, the “whys” diminish and we are left to accept things without having any answers to what we were wondering. This is not entirely negative, I should say, because sometimes, trying to get to the root of the cause of the tiniest minutia of every single detail only feeds on itself and simply results in ever increasing frustration.

Why did the cashier at the supermarket appeared upset with you? Or why didn’t your friend seem not to notice you the other day? You will never know why. It’s best just to accept that there is no definable reason and to simply move on. It’s not a big deal. 

More Important “Whys”

But then there are those other questions that are of more consequence: “Why did this man, so healthy and robust, suddenly get so sick that he could not recover?” Or even more difficult, “Why did the little child have to get cancer and die?”

Responding to these questions by saying “don’t ask why,” or  “it happened just because,” and simply moving on does not seem acceptable to me. It is true that in all probability, we will never have definitive answer to why these things happen, other than the sterile and unsatisfactory medical response.

But I would never answer these questions by saying, “We do not know the answer and it is best not to ask why. It just happened.”

The statement assumes that there is no answer, and that by insisting that you want to find a reason for what has happened will only frustrate you all the greater. It implies that God acts in a completely capricious fashion and has no reasons for why he does things in the manner that he does them.

Students of the Bible know that this is exactly contrary to his nature. God always acts purposefully, and despite the fact that we can never know in this age every reason for every act of God, we do know that he is moving all of mankind to an ultimate conclusion—a conclusion that is well defined for us throughout the Bible and especially in its closing chapters. 

I Always Ask “Why”

Even though I may never in this lifetime know why certain events happen as they do, I always ask why. My feeling is that, in order to grow in our understanding, we must ask why. How else are we supposed to know the ways of God if we do not seek to know the answers?

Certainly we must learn to modify our expectations, because no matter how deeply into the explanation we delve, we still are looking at it only from a temporal perspective—one that is limited to the few years that we have on earth.

Understandings that require an eternal perspective are beyond us. For the present, that understanding remains only in the sovereign, inexhaustible and infinite mind of God.

God tells us, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Nevertheless, throughout the Bible we see men and women asking God why something happened or why something was the way that it was.

It says in the book of Psalms, “You are the God of my refuge. Why have you rejected me and why must I walk in sorrow” (43:2).

There is also this cry of desperation: “All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you or betrayed you. Our hearts have not turned back; our steps have not strayed from your path. But you have crushed us… Wake up, O Lord! Why are You sleeping? Arise! Do not reject us forever. Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and oppression?” (Psalm 44:17-26)

Then there is the cry of Jesus Himself as he hung on the cross bearing the burden of all the evil and of every sin of mankind upon him, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1).

These are all questions asked in the midst of great agony. Each one sought to know the cause of their suffering. None of these who asked their question of why actually expected a full answer in this lifetime. Even Jesus knew that the complete answer to his question would only come in the future. Nevertheless, each sought to understand.

So do we seek to understand. 

Our “Why” Becomes “What”

Realizing this, if it is our desire to grow in our understanding, then we must probe the whys. But we also must be wise in how our questions are asked. Questions of why a loved one has died are the most difficult. We will never in this lifetime know why this one whom we have loved so much has been taken from us. The answers to that question lie almost entirely within the realm of an eternal perspective.

Instead, we must learn to focus our why questions toward our own experience. Why has God allowed this to be part of what I am required to struggle with? None of us want these difficult times to come in our lives. We prefer all sunny days and balmy temperatures. But rain does come into our lives. Winters interrupt our well-laid plans.

Our questions should not be concerned with why this has happened. Rather than this, our questions should begin to become, “What does God have in mind for me now?”

Our “whys” should become “what.”

This change is actually a natural progression. In many languages, the word why is expressed by saying, “for what purpose.” In Spanish, when one asks why, he says “Por qué.” It literally means “for what?” I am also now learning Swahili because of my new involvement with our orphanage in Kenya. There, the word for “why” is Kwa nini—“for what purpose.”

I think that expressions similar to this are common in many languages—“for what purpose.”

When we ask God why, what we really should be saying is “What is your purpose for me in all of this?”

As difficult as a death or other tragedy may be, God has allowed it to be part of your life for specific reasons. Struggles will always be difficult, but they become agonizingly horrific when we see them as having no purpose. That is the reason that our “whys” must actually be “for what purpose?”

When healing does not come and there is a death or severe change in life, it affects many lives. We do not know why God sometimes does not heal. Nor can we know how the experience will affect others. We can only begin to know this on a personal level for our self.

Kwa nini—for what purpose in my own life? I can know only my own experience and how this affects me.

But we can all know this: whatever has happened, God intends it to eventually turn out to be something positive in each of our lives. That may seem like an impossible statement at the moment of tragedy and for many days after. But remember, we can only see today. Tomorrow is yet to be revealed. 

Our Only Insight into Eternity

It is here that our own relationship to God becomes important, for it is only through him that we can have a vision of the eternal—and without a vision of the eternal, everything is meaningless. Having a relationship with God does not mean that all will become easy for us in this life, but it does mean that what God has in mind for us is something far greater than this present life has to offer.

Here is the way the Apostle Paul put it: “For I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

He then goes on to explain that our present existence is one in which we are “subject to futility” and “under bondage,” but it is one from which the true children of God will one day be freed. The sufferings that we experience presently are ones that in some way are necessary for our own growth and development.

He actually compares it to the process of the birth of a child. We all know and especially mothers know that the process of childbirth is far from an enjoyable process. It involves much suffering and much pain. But the mother endures it, as does the child, with the vision in mind of an existence of a life that is far greater.

In yet another passage, Paul speaks of our present bodies as “tents.” Tents are temporary dwellings and can be easily dismantled. “In this tent we groan,” Paul says, “and we long to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2).

This literary picture is also vivid for me, for I have done a fair amount of sleeping in tents in my life. I like camping, which is why I do it. But I must say, I do my share of groaning as I lie on the ground at night trying to get some sleep—especially as my body is not as young as it used to be. Lying on the ground is not comfortable for me, and I am always glad on first night back home to sleep in my own bed.

So in our present existence we may suffer, we may groan, but we do so with something more wonderful in mind. Paul puts it like this: “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is dismantled, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Knowing all of these things may not make suffering any easier to bear for you at the moment of tragedy or loss, but it does at least help you to see that there is a purpose in it all. It is not simply “Why did this happen?” but “For what purpose.”

God has a purpose in it for you. 

Purpose in Suffering

When Jesus hung in great anguish and dying on the Cross of Calvary, he cried out in great agony, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

No one could deny that the suffering that Jesus was undertaking was greater than just the physical agony. It was also the torment of feeling completely abandoned by God the Father. But Jesus did so knowing that the suffering was given to him in that moment so that he could give birth to greater things.

You and I will never experience suffering to the extent as did Jesus, but we also are called to go through times of affliction. This leads me to a very interesting phrase used by Saint Paul. He calls what we sometimes are called to endure “the fellowship of his sufferings.”

Here is the full quote: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 10-11 NAS).

And that is why the Apostle could also write this: 

I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us… And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose…

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:18, 28, 35, 37-39 BSB) 

Joy Comes in the Morning

Before Jesus was crucified, he spoke to his disciples about the sufferings that they would face in their lives on that day when he would die before their very eyes. In preparation, he told them: 

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman has pain in childbirth because her time has come; but when she brings forth her child, she forgets her anguish because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy (John 16:20-22 BSB). 

At one time, Jesus was speaking to a woman who was grieving because of the death of her brother.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Despite the grief and suffering that we are all called to endure in this present life, we can know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life that is true. If we believe this will never die.

Do you believe this?

I would like to end with something from the book of Psalms. I have made some changes in the song of that book to specifically fit the needs of our own day, but I have not changed the intentions of the composer. The words are ones of someone who has passed through dark days and confusion to arrive into the light. You can read the original in the thirtieth chapter of Psalms. 

I will exalt you, O Lord, for you have lifted me up and have not allowed my sorrow to conquer.

O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me.
O Lord, you pulled me up from despair; you spared me from descending into deep depression.

Sing to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to His Holy Name.
For his anger is fleeting, but his favor lasts a lifetime.
Weeping may stay the night, but joy comes in the morning. 

When all was well, I had confidence in myself and said, “I will never be shaken.”
O Lord, you were favoring me and you made my mountain stand strong.
But then, when you hid Your face, I was dismayed.
It was you, O Lord, to whom I called. I begged for mercy:
I said to you,

What gain is there in my despair, or if I should give into grief? Would that bring praise to you? Would that proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear me, O Lord, and have mercy. O Lord, be my helper. 

It was then when you turned my mourning into dancing. You peeled off my sackcloth and clothed me with such joy that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks forever. 


Right at the moment of loss or tragedy, these thoughts may seem far from you. But understand that God has joy prepared for you. Weeping may stay the night, but joy comes in the morning.

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