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Why is God Doing This to me?
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Keep a Quiet Heart.” It was published in 1995.
An article appeared in the National Geographic years ago which has affected my thinking ever since. "The Incredible Universe," by Kenneth F. Weaver and James P. Blair, included this paragraph:
How can the human mind deal with the knowledge that the farthest object we can see in the universe is perhaps ten billion light years away! Imagine that the thickness of this page represents the distance from the earth to the sun (93,000,000 miles, or about eight light minutes). Then the distance to the nearest star (4 1/3 light years) is a 71-foot-high stack of paper. And the diameter of our own galaxy (100,000 light years) is a 310-mile stack, while the edge of the known universe is not reached until the pile of paper is 31,000,000 miles high, a third of the way to the sun.
Thirty-one million miles. That's a very big stack of paper. By the time I get to thirty-one-and-a-half million I'm lost---aren't you? I read somewhere else that our galaxy is one (only one) of perhaps ten billion.
I know the One who made all that. He is my Shepherd. This is what He says: "With my own hands I founded the earth, with my right hand I formed the expanse of sky; when I summoned them, they sprang at once into being.... I teach you for your own advantage and lead you in the way you must go. If only you had listened to my commands, your prosperity would have rolled on like a river in flood... (Isaiah 48:13,17,18, NEB).
Hardly a day goes by without my receiving a letter, a phone call, or a visit from someone in trouble. Almost always the question comes, in one form or another, why does God do this to me?
When I am tempted to ask that same question, it loses its power when I remember that this Lord, into whose strong hands I long ago committed my life, is engineering a universe of unimaginable proportions and complexity. How could I possibly understand all that He must take into consideration as He deals with it and with me, a single individual! He has given us countless assurances that we cannot get lost in the shuffle. He choreographs the "molecular dance" which goes on every second of every minute of every day in every cell in the universe. For the record, one cell has about 200 trillion molecules. He makes note of the smallest seed and the tiniest sparrow. He is not too busy to keep records even of my falling hair.
Yet in our darkness we suppose He has overlooked us. He hasn't. I have been compiling a list of the answers God Himself has given us to our persistent question about adversity:
1. We need to be pruned. In Jesus' last discourse with His disciples before He was crucified (a discourse meant for us as well as for them), He explained that God is the gardener, He Himself is the vine, and we are branches. If we are bearing fruit, then we must be pruned. This is a painful process. Jesus knew that His disciples would face much suffering. He showed them, in this beautiful metaphor, that it was not for nothing. Only the well-pruned vine bears the best fruit. They could take comfort in knowing that the pruning proved they were neither barren nor withered, for in that case they would simply be burned up in the brushpile.
Pruning requires the cutting away not only of what is superfluous but also of what appears to be good stock. Why should we be so baffled when the Lord cuts away good things from our lives? He has explained why. "This is my Father's glory, that you may bear fruit in plenty and so be my disciples" (John 15:8, NEB). We need not see how it works. He has told us it does work.
2. We need to be refined. Peter wrote to God's scattered people, reminding them that even though they were "smarting for a little while under trials of many kinds" (they were in exile---the sort of trial most of us would think rather more than a "smart"), they were nevertheless chosen in the purpose of God, hallowed to His service, and consecrated with the blood of Jesus Christ. With all that, they still needed refining. Gold is gold, but it has to go through fire. Faith is even more precious, so faith will always have another test to stand. Remember God's loving promise of 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is all you need; power comes to its full strength in weakness" (NEB).
But Thou art making me, I thank Thee, sire.
What Thou hast done and doest Thou knows't well.
And I will help Thee; gently in Thy fire
I will lie burning; on Thy potter's wheel
I will whirl patient, though my brain should reel.
Thy grace shall be enough the grief to quell,
And growing strength perfect through weakness dire.
Diary of an Old Soul, October 2 [40-42]
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