Written By Leslie Koh
After spending a number of years in the media, Leslie finally decided to move from working with bad news to good news. He believes in the power of words (especially when they’re funny). He works as an editor in Our Daily Bread Ministries.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where nothing made sense? When there was no answer to the question “Why?” or when there was just nothing you or anyone could do to make it better?
Perhaps you’ve failed a critical exam. Lost a job. Lost a partner. Lost a loved one. And there is no hope of fixing the problem. No hope of things getting better on their own. No way of telling yourself, “Don’t worry, it will work out somehow”, or “This will be good for me in the long run”.
The Devastating Blow: Experiencing Loss
I found myself in such a situation recently. Several months ago, my grandmother, whom I was very close to, passed away after falling at home. Exactly 20 days later, my wife’s father passed away after a major artery burst. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected, and came as a devastating blow.
For days we mourned and wept as our world collapsed around us. We just couldn’t understand why it had to happen now. I was just leaving my job for a new one, and was looking forward to spending more time with my grandma in the months before I was to start at my new workplace. She died on my last day of work. Why did she die now? Why not later, after I had spent some good, quality time with her? Why did my father-in-law die when he was so healthy? Why were we not given time to prepare for their deaths, or even a few minutes to say a proper goodbye? Why did God let us go through two painful deaths in such a short period of time? How would we ever recover?
There were just so many questions, and no answers.
I tried to comfort myself by saying that God knew our pain and would strengthen us, but admittedly, it didn’t help a lot. The tears just kept flowing. I couldn’t even try to comfort myself with the usual logic. Sure, they were both old (my grandma was in her 90s, my father-in-law in his 80s), and both had led long, productive lives. Sure, my grandma had been diagnosed with cancer, and would not have had many more years (the doctors had expected at least one or two). And yes, it was a merciful end for both of them. But in our grief, these words rang hollow in our ears. Why now? Why?
The Realization: His Sovereignty
One evening, however, as I asked myself these questions again and again, the thought came to me: God gives, and God takes away. God is completely in charge. He’s sovereign over life and death. If God had blessed me with my grandma, then God surely had the right to decide when He would take her back. If He had determined the minute when she was born, then He would choose when she would die. If I truly believed in God and worshipped Him as the sovereign Lord, then I had to trust that He was fully in control—even when it didn’t make sense to me.
It’s probably something that the Old Testament character of Job realized when he lost his family and wealth in one fell swoop. Overwhelmed by the tragic news, he could only say: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
God knows the answer to the question “why”. He knows what is the best timing for us to be born, and the best time to go home. The Bible says God has numbered every strand of hair on our heads (Matthew 10:30). We can trust in Him to decide, because He has our best interests at heart.
Of course, it’s a lot easier to tell this to someone else than to believe it yourself. It’s hard to tell your heart to accept this truth when it’s just been broken. In such times, all we can do is cling on to the very root of our faith in God—our belief that He is the sovereign God—and the hope that, in time to come, He will deliver us from our pain, grief and confusion.
The Response: Trusting and Hoping
It was only as I began to grasp this truth, that I began to learn the true meaning of trust and hope. I had to trust in God simply because He is God, not because I believed that He would make things better for me. I had to trust in Him even when I didn’t understand why my grandmother and father-in-law had to die so suddenly, at such a time. I had to trust that He knew what He was doing. I had to cling on to the hope that one day, all this would make sense. Not now, or perhaps not in my lifetime.
The Bible reminds us that our hope is in things we cannot see, and for things we do not have yet (Romans 8:24–25). How true! I couldn’t see why all this had to happen. I couldn’t see how my wife and I could recover from this double blow. All I had was a hope that God would help us, in His time and His way, and that I would understand some day.
Are you going through something like this, when you can’t understand what’s happening to you? Are you stuck in a situation where there is no end in sight, or every path leads downhill? Are you asking “why”, and not getting any answer?
Perhaps there isn’t an answer, at least for now. Or maybe you will never know why. Sometimes, that’s just how life is. That’s when we need to go beyond the “why”, and just look at the “Who”. We can be sure that the God who created us, loved us and sent His Son to die for us, is in full control of our lives. He is sovereign over everything that happens to us, and knows why. Nothing happens to us without God’s purpose. All we can do is cling on to our trust and hope in Him. He knows our journey—and walks with us every step of the way.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:26–28)
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