A dear young woman I am blessed to know wrote me an email this weekend. She’s asking hard questions—questions I’ve asked and still ponder.
Why do those who don’t love God prosper?
Doesn’t God say He will prosper His people?
How can I have faith in God when my basic needs aren’t being met?
Why does God allow people to be homeless, jobless, starving?
Why does God not give us the desires of our hearts?
I am not sure how to have faith with stats like that.
Finally, one last question.
How can I be secure with a God who may choose not to provide my basic needs?
She knows God and loves God. Yet, she struggles and she writes honest questions.
Here is my feeble attempt at a reply . . .
I don’t presume to know the answers to your questions. I’ve been thinking and praying about them and more questions have come to mind than answers—questions I too have wrestled with over the years. So I will answer your questions with questions I’ve asked. I will answer your questions with what I’ve seen and now know, having been taught in the school of suffering allowed by a God who I know is good, even in the hard.
Is God good? I used to waiver. I don’t anymore. I know from experience that God is good.
Is God always good? I used to doubt. I don’t anymore. I know from experience that God is good—always—and that His goodness does not change regardless of our experiences. God is characteristically good—always.
With these two questions settled, other questions remain.
How firm is our life foundation if our belief in God’s goodness fluctuates with changing earthly circumstances? We are like ships without rudders—ships with flimsy sails tossed about on life’s stormy seas with no hope. This is what we are with no firm faith that God is never-changing and always good.
Basic needs? What is our most basic need, really?
Is our need for relationship with God our Maker even more basic than food and water and shelter?
Is God in His essence our food and water and shelter even when physical food and water and shelter are absent?
Why does God/Jesus refer to Himself so often as “the bread of life” which satisfies our most basic hunger (John 6:35), “living water” which satisfies our most basic thirst (John 4:14), our “shelter” which satisfies our most basic need for security (Psalm 91:1-2)?
What does it mean to really prosper?
Does the greatest prosperity possible have to do with basic earthly needs/wants?
Are there needs more basic than flesh?
I ask this knowing how hard and callous it might sound. I do not mean it like that. If we call ourselves Christians, we have no excuse not to pour ourselves out for the physically poor, the emotionally poor, the spiritually poor. But as much as we pour out, as much as poverty of all kinds still exists, is God able to use such suffering for good?
Yes. God is able and DOES use all suffering for good, whether we know it now or not.
I have seen children and adults with no food and shelter who glow with the eternal light of God.
I have been blessed by people who have far less materially than I who are more joyful in their circumstances than I because their eyes are not fixed on their circumstances but on the God who is sovereign over all circumstances. I have seen myself, rich by the world’s standards, feeling so poor. I have seen others, poor by the world’s standards, feeling so rich.
Both prosperity and want can fog our spirit and draw us away from the God who promises to satisfy our deepest longings. Having basic needs met, living in material prosperity does not satisfy our deepest longings. We can be bitter and say, “Well, you’ve never been THIS low.”
And yes, someone on the planet is always in more dire straits. But is it possible to be in dire straits and still be filled to overflow with the spirit of God such that the direst circumstances might cause us to experience God’s presence here on earth more, to long for heaven more?
When Christ died and rose from the dead, the reversal of the curse on creation began. Christ will come again in resurrection power—such power that we cannot fathom—and His resurrection power will complete the reversal—no more decay, no more death, no more suffering, no more tears, no more want.
But that’s not all. Christ’s second coming will be the fulfillment of all longings. Not just the “no mores”, but the “more thans”.
We who believe, who have excepted Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice for our rebellion against God, will experience more than we could ever even dream possible.
Joy—more than we think possible.
Love—more than we think possible.
Success—more than we think possible.
Power—more than we think possible.
Peace—more than we think possible.
And all these will always work together for good because there will be no more evil. We will experience no more temptation, no more longings, no more needs. All will be satisfied beyond our wildest imaginations.
But what about now? What about here? What about suffering to the point of longing for death?
God writes about such questions. And He answers our boldest, most suffering questions, with more questions.
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1:8-11
In the end, God allowed Satan to sift Job like wheat—taking everything from him—everything—except his life—possessions, friends, family, physical and emotional health—to the point where Job even despised his life and wanted to die and be done.
Why would a good God do this?
Why would a loving God allow this?
Job questions God boldly and thoroughly.
And then—in response—God starts asking the questions. “Out of the storm” God answered Job with questions (Job 38:1). And He goes on asking questions of Job for four chapters—129 verses.
When I first read the Book of Job many years ago, I thought these chapters were about God putting Job in his place.
I was partially right, I think. But now I think that when God puts us in our place as He did with Job, it’s because of His grace. We need to be humbled by the holy. We needto recognize exactly who God is. We need to realize exactly who we are not. Such grace ushers us into the place of ultimate peace and joy everlasting. Such grace provides the fulfillment of our deepest longings—our most basic need.
The Book of Job was my consolation and strength last summer when I found myself in the deepest, darkest emotional pit I have ever experienced. I wrestled with God about His goodness and His faithfulness and His love and His provision—not only for myself but for those I loved and for all humanity. And, oddly, I was comforted by these blasting four chapters of God-speak questions of Job.
I reread them this morning and broke down sobbing in new repentance as I prayed Job’s words regarding my questions—all of our questions—all life’s hard and horrible questions . . . .
I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Job 42:1-6
Being put in our place by the God of the universe—the God who made us and loves us—there is nothing more stabilizing, more assuring, more comforting.
And after Job accepted his lot, accepted his rightful position, God restored him and blessed him.
Job 42:12 tells us, “The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first.” The narrative goes on to describe all the material and physical and relational blessings God granted Job.
But I have a few more questions.
Did Job have a different perspective on his blessings having had lost everything?
Would Job still have considered the second half of his life more blessed than the first had God NOT chosen to bless him materially and physically and relationally?
Is it possible to see God in such a new light, from such a high and holy perspective, that the greatest blessing in life is not the blessings God bestows but the blessing God IS?
And as my fingers are flying over keys writing questions, the sun has risen and it’s so bright that I can’t see my screen anymore.
I literally can’t see my questions.
All I can see is the sun.
One last question . . . .
Can the Son shine so brightly in our lives that even the hardest questions are no longer seen but absorbed in the light of His presence–in the goodness of His grace?
I hope, my dear friend, that something in these words so feebly written, will comfort and encourage you in your questioning. And, like Job’s foolish friends, I ask forgiveness of you and God for any way I have spoken of things too great for me. I struggle with this—knowing what to say and when. For it is not my intent to harm but to help and to honor God. But you already know that and I’m thankful for a friend who knows my heart. I hope am a good friend to you.