Tuesday, January 27, 2015

When God Doesn't Show Up

Our dog Frodo ran away while we were on vacation.  Our gardener, Paul, was looking after Frodo while we were gone.  He opened the gate only one time that week.  When he did, Frodo bolted.  This was very uncharacteristic for Frodo, so it totally took Paul by surprise.

Paul was devastated.  He looked awful when we came home.  He spent days looking for Frodo.  We put up fliers and offered a reward.  We prayed God would bring him back.  But now it's been a month, and there's no trace of him.

More bad news came our way.  We've been working for years to adopt a fourth child.  There's an empty place in our family.  We were thrilled when we found a Tanzanian friend familiar with the Social Welfare department who was willing to advocate for us.  Recently he gave us the unfortunate news that even he has not gotten anywhere.  They are steadfastly refusing, even though we've proven a fourth adoption is legal.  There is no one else we can appeal to.  It seems hopeless.  We are coming to grips with the fact that it may not happen.

There's other hard things.  The list is long, but some are at the front of my mind.  It's been exactly one year since Jeremiah died.  We have a sister with a hematoma.  We have close friends who at this moment are standing on a precipice, waiting for God to show up.  If He doesn't, the fall will be disastrous.  Too terrible to think about.

Why didn't God answer our prayers to bring back Frodo?
Why hasn't He given us a fourth child when there are millions of orphans in this country?
Why did he allow Jeremiah to die?

If we lived in a world of random chance, then these events would be understandable.  They wouldn't make sense; they would still make us sad and mad, but we could chalk it all up to the whims of the universe.

But I don't believe in a world of random chance; I believe in an all-powerful God who created everything that is, and I believe He is good and every event has purpose.  Yet when dogs run away and children languish in orphanages and babies fall out of windows, it's easy to wonder about whether that all-powerful, good God actually exists.  Or that He actually cares.

So how do I reconcile my faith in a good God with the horrors of this world?  When I pray and beg and all I get is silence?

All of us, every single person in this world, believe some things on fact and some on faith.  It's up to each of us to discern which parts are worth staking our lives upon.

For me, it starts with the facts:
First, I look around me and I see a Designer's watermark on DNA and leaf-cutter ants and glow-in-the-dark jellyfish.
Next, I look to Jesus, and I am convinced that his resurrection is one of the most verifiable facts of history.  And since it can be verified, then that means I can believe everything Jesus said, and it means I can trust the Bible.
Then, I look into the Bible and I see that it mirrors what really is going on in my soul.  I see that it gives a reliable portrait of history and an honest description of humanity.  It has the ring of Truth.

Finally, I check out the other options.  No other worldview comprehensively explains the simultaneous beauty and evil in this world.  No other worldview offers a solution to humanity's insatiable thirst for redemption.

When challenged as to whether he would leave Jesus, Peter said, Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  I get that.

Since I've got the facts cemented in my soul, then I can layer the faith on top.

I can trust that God is in control.
I can trust that He is good.
I can trust His promises:
....that I can't see everything He sees.
....that sometimes He's got a bigger plan than I can imagine.
....that He knows better than I do.
....that He will work everything out for good.

I can trust that even when it looks like God isn't showing up, that doesn't mean He hasn't.  It just might not fit my time frame or my expectations of what showing up is supposed to look like.

The longer I live my life, and the more I am challenged to live out that faith, the more I am shown that what I believe is True.  My faith (on a foundation of facts) actually transforms into more facts as experience confirms over and over again that what I believe is trustworthy.

And that's why, when faced with lost dogs, or adoptions that won't happen, or a dear friend who still mourns her Jeremiah, I can trust my God in the dark.  Where else would I go?

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