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November 12, 2015

from why to how to whom

She was pregnant, she told us. My mom asked how she got pregnant—not a question you usually need to ask, but in this case it seemed natural. As far as we knew, she had no boyfriend, and she certainly didn't have a husband. "At a party," she announced. The frizzy-haired girl with a broad smile, only thirteen, seemed happy for the extra attention her news and later her baby garnered for her. That snippet of her story stayed with me—she was a child carrying a child.

Around the same time, Mom told me that a family friend gave her some tapes about godly parenting. The friend had bought the material when expecting to have her own children. But as the years passed and no children were born to them, she finally asked my mom to give the resources away for her. My tenderhearted mom told me that disposing of those materials almost made her cry, because in her hands she held a reminder of her friend's disappointment.

Before I left home, I learned about one of the great ironies of life: well-educated, loving women who would seem to make wonderful mothers remain childless...and frizzy-haired thirteen-year-olds who hardly know how to read and write produce children like it's the easiest activity on the planet.

In our circle of friends here there are two couples for whom having babies has not been easy. They have been married nearly ten or fifteen years and unable to have children. Both are very invested in our local fellowship. Recently we had a thanksgiving service, and people were invited to share testimonies of the good things God has done in the last year. The first couple delicately announced that they are pregnant—after nine years of waiting. The second couple had no similar announcement to make. In fact, when it was the second couple's turn to share, the wife was weeping. Elation and sorrow often sit only a few rows apart, but the space between them can seem cavernous. 

The first question that comes to mind is, "God, why?" Why is the irresponsible teenager's womb healthier than that of the responsible lady in her thirties? Why did the couple that helps with the outreach work get pregnant when the couple that helps with the teenagers did not? And it doesn't stop there. Why does the neighbour's husband make more money than mine? Why does my coworker have more desirable talents? Why is my best friend happily married when I am not? Why did my car repair use up all my savings? Why can't my boss be kinder to me? Why do I struggle with my weight? Why do I have to move again? Why can't my family get along better? Why did my professor make my research project extra difficult? Why, why, why?

But maybe a better question is "God, how?" How does God say I should live in the circumstances in which I find myself? How would God have me respond to the person who has what I do not have? How would I want to be treated if I were in their situation? How does God's Word speak to this situation? How, how, how?

The answer to "Why has God allowed this situation?" is often unclear. Focusing on why often leads to doubt and disobedience because God's plan is not fully understood by me. 

The answer to "How can I please God in this situation?" is usually clear. Focusing on how leads to growth if I respond in obedience to His revealed plan for my life.

His instructions are plentiful, but the first how that comes to mind is His command to "rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn". He wants the expectant mother to shed tears with her infertile sister, but He also wants the barren woman to express sincere joy at her sister's pregnancy news. If He has commanded it, He also will empower us to cross the aisle or the cavern to find a place where happiness and pain can embrace.

When I have no answers to the whys, I am tempted to ignore the clear hows. I don't want to obey unless I know a reason first. But another of the great ironies of life is this: if I am not obeying what is clear, the unclear will certainly remain hidden from me. As A. W. Tozer wrote, "Truth will not give itself to a rebel." When I obey the hows, I may begin to see a few more of the whys....

...but even if I don't, in obeying the Truth, I find a much better Answer—the Person for whom and to whom and through whom everything exists. I learn that He is both loving and trustworthy.
Laying aside my whys,
as I live out the hows
I display how I answer the ultimate question:
whom do I trust?

"Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
—Abraham to the Lord

"It is the LORD's will. Let Him do what He thinks is best." 
—Eli to Samuel, of the LORD

"To whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life."
—Simon Peter to his Master

"It is always possible to do what He tells us."
—Elisabeth Elliot

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, 
neither slave nor free, 
nor is there male and female, 
[barren or pregnant, single or married,
rich or poor, talented or untalented, 
fat or thin, healthy or unhealthy]
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
—Paul to the Galatians
(Words in brackets my own)


  1. Julie, I have had many friends struggle with infertility, so I appreciate you touching on this topic. I loved this: "But another of the great ironies of life is this: if I am not obeying what is clear, the unclear will certainly remain hidden from me." So wise and so true. I'm happy to have discovered your blog! (And thanks for visiting mine today!)

    1. Likewise (ie: I'm glad I discovered YOUR blog :) ).

  2. This is such a great perspective on how we can turn our questions around. I just finished reading Laura Story's book When God Doesn't Fix It. She has more of these kind of questions that I want to meditate on: How does my story fit into God's greater story of redemption? How might God use my current trial to glorify himself? How might God use my weakness, infirmity, or disability to display his power? How might God use my hard circumstance to show me something about myself? How might God use my pain for a purpose? How might God make this mess into a message?

    1. Jodie, I had never heard of her book, but I am familiar with her "Blessings" song which is along those same lines. Thanks for adding some more good "how" questions to this post!