The mysterious why

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33, NKJV).

One of the courses which I teach is “Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament” which includes the Book of Job. In that book a central theme is the question of why good people suffer. Or as Job himself expresses it, “What have I done to You O watcher of men? Why have you set me as Your target? (Job 7:20). Job had no problem understanding that whatever happened to him, God is ultimately responsible. But he did not understand why.

We often have the same problems today. Whether it is the presence of evil in the world, or some doctrinal nuance that we cannot understand, we question God. We feel entitled to an understanding. There is the perception that God owes us an explanation. Otherwise it just is not fair. Why should we have to obey a command if we do not understand the reason why it is given to us?

There are two problems with that reasoning. One is that humans do not have a standing with God that permits calling him to account. We are not his equals. He does not owe us anything. That is admittedly hard for us to accept, and it is not surprising that we often struggle against that understanding. But it is nevertheless true. As an illustration, would you argue with your cat over the brand of food you purchase for it? That is simply not inherent to the relationship between you.

The other problem is even more basic. God’s actions are beyond our understanding. We are mortal and finite. God is eternal and infinite. There is absolutely no possibility of our comprehending what he does, let alone how and why he does it.

In the book of Job, God finally makes an appearance. But he does not give an explanation. Rather he asks Job where he was when God created the world. He asks Job to tell where God stores the rain, and how he orders the planets and the stars in the heavens. Only if Job can reveal how God performed all of his marvelous works, can he begin to explain to him his motives and purpose.

The apostle Paul stated it beautifully, “How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33). It is not that God is unwilling to explain himself. It is not that he has anything to hide. We are simply incapable of understanding.

That is precisely why faith is so important. It is when we are in the dark, unable to see where to go and what to do, that we must trust the directions that we are given.

There are many things in life which we simply cannot figure out for ourselves. There is much which we do not know. We don’t like that, and we don’t like to admit it. But it remains true. But God knows all of those things. And God will guide and direct us, if we will trust him, if we will only “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

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