“The biggest question of all, however, was wordless. Inexpressible. It encompassed an irrational fear that my prayers and my efforts were wasted..”
I apologize for the heavy material that follows, but this is what I need to write about this week.
I have a friend from high school that I’ve known for years. He’s a very intelligent young man, quick-witted and humorous. But he’s also deeply disturbed. He has struggled with dark thoughts for a long time, living in almost constant depression. Concerned for him, I decided to reach out. I invited him into a new group of friends– my community– hoping that he would perceive the love surrounding him and find meaning in it. I prayed for him. I thought that, given time, he would come around, and that his eyes would be opened to the truth– that one day he might accept the Gospel. It seemed like it was working.
I just learned that he took his life.
The questions came right away. Why did this happen now? What was the point? Was there anything I could have done differently? Useless questions, but I heard myself asking them anyway. The biggest question of all, however, was wordless. Inexpressible. It encompassed an irrational fear that my prayers and my efforts were wasted, and that if God didn’t come through on this– when I knew it was Him that had put it on my heart to pray for my friend in the first place– then how could I truly hope He would affirm any other prayer?
Determined not to let my faith be shaken, I looked to a few difficult verses at the prodding of my good friends. Romans 9:14-23 reads,
What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
You will say to me then, Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will? But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.
I am a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. I believe that He holds time and circumstance in His hands; that nothing occurs outside of His knowledge and nothing can take Him by surprise. Everything happens for a reason, and that reason will result in our good (Romans 8:28) and God’s glory. That’s a promise from Him.
And yet, human fallacy rises up and shakes its fist with a dangerous and misguided hubris. In our own wisdom, we see what looks to be injustice, and we accuse God. Job did the same thing in the midst of his affliction, with a self-righteous pride that he assumed gave him the right to play the victim before God. But God said to him, “Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (Job 40:8-9) God then reminded Job of just who was the Creator and who was the creation. Faced with the truth, Job had no choice but to realize his error and repent. So must we, when we are tempted to judge God’s decisions. In our pain, in our confusion, and in our questioning we must remain steadfast in unwavering trust– and not just because we owe it to Him as our Creator out of a sense of duty, but because He earned it by what He did for us.
Whenever I find myself slipping into doubt, I remember the cross. I remember what Christ did to reconcile me to Himself. I remember that I deserved eternal death and separation from God because of my willful disobedience to Him, and He saved me anyway. He took my sins upon Himself and died a death He should never have had to experience so that I could be called a son of God. Because of that, His perfect love has been proven definitively for all time, and there is therefore no excuse for ever doubting Him. My friend may have been lost, but God’s plan is greater than that loss, and His love is the guarantee that good will result from it, even if I can’t understand it.
That will be good enough for me.