“Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?”
I came across that verse the other day in my daily Bible readings, and I cannot get it out of my head. I keep thinking about my friend who lost her 7 year old son in a terrible drowning two years ago, my other friend who lost his beloved sister recently and then found out his brother-in-law was very ill, and just today I found out a friend gave birth prematurely and lost her only child. Why?? What do I say to them? How can I possible comfort them? I can’t imagine what they must be going through, and truth be told, I don’t want to imagine what they are going through. I don’t want to imagine what it would be like to lose one of my precious babies. In my prayers, I pray for God’s glory in my family’s lives, but Lord, please don’t take my children to fulfill that purpose. Is that selfish? It certainly sounds like it. Twenty-five years ago I gave my life to Christ, and over the years I have come to know His love in very deep, personal ways. Shouldn’t I understand tragedy by now? Shouldn’t I have enough faith to sacrifice in the worst way?
Jeremiah questioned, “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” Think about that. To some, that may be comforting. You may be facing a turbulent time and to know God is in control brings peace. However, to others, that truth can be terrifying. God gave his permission for my son to die?! I’ve been reading through Jeremiah and Lamentations; so, I know the context of those verses come in the midst of Israel’s punishment for their rebellion. Still, that doesn’t seem very comforting. Why was I, out of wedlock, able to conceive and give birth to a beautiful boy, but my happily married, godly friends lost their baby? Why does one die and another live? Why does one get blessed while another is cursed? I don’t know if there is an answer to all those why’s.
Certainly, it is true what Isaiah says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8). Sometimes, God allows us glimpses into His mysterious ways. Recently, another friend of mine almost lost her husband in a drunk driving accident. If he had died that night, the consequence would have been just, but God spared his life. God’s ways showed great mercy and compassion; He gave him a second chance. Yet, what of the other times when God leaves us in the dark? I can’t help but think of Job. Most of us know Job’s tragic story and how God restored him double in the end. But take a closer look at the end of Job when God finally responded to Job’s pleas. God doesn’t give Job an explanation. He doesn’t have to. God isn’t required to tell us anything. But wouldn’t it help to know?
Finally, I wonder what I have been afraid to ask all along: Does God cause pain, tragedy, calamity? Before you are quick to answer with a “no, of course not,” take a look at these verses:
“I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. . . . the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me” (Ruth 1:21)
“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away . . . Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 1:21, 2:10)
“I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75)
Truly, I do not understand. Yes, each person and circumstance is different, and you need to understand the context of the scripture. But how do you get away from words like “the Lord takes away” and “in faithfulness you have afflicted me?”
As I write these words, God has reminded me of one of the most powerful verses in all of scripture. Isaiah 53:10 says, “But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief.” If the Lord in His sovereignty saw fit to permit (even orchestrate) His only son to suffer such deep agony (to pay for my debt no less), then who am I to escape suffering as well?
Today, I hurt for my friends. Jeremiah himself was hurting for his people. He wrote the Lamentations weeping over the pain they suffered. But he wasn’t without hope. A song by popular artists Kutless asks will we trust Him “even if the healing never comes?” Jeremiah remembered that God is good. He is just. He will never leave us alone, and dawn comes in the morning!
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’”