“Why is this happening to me?”

Every time my husband and I begin a new semester of DivorceCare, we meet a room full of people who, each in their own unique way – and on their own timelines – are dealing with the reality that their marriage is ending, and that they are in the midst of an incredibly difficult season of life. They are also often struggling with the idea that God is allowing this trial to come over them.

Sometimes the second part of that equation – that God is allowing this trial – is as painful to accept as the demise of the marriage itself. Oftentimes they rail against their Creator: “Why is this happening to me?!”

Believe me, they typically don’t want a theology lesson at that point. They aren’t asking for an explanation of how sin came into the world and hopelessly tainted every aspect of life. They are crying out for a very specific, very personal answer. “Why is this happening to me?” The emphasis is almost always on how, and why, this suffering has come into their lives, specifically.

Particularly true for those who don’t initiate the divorce, or those who feel they worked hard to save the relationship, they really struggle to understand “why God is allowing this.” They struggle to believe that God really is working all things for their good (Romans 8:28). After all, how can “good” come out of having one’s family torn apart?

It’s a fair question. And it’s an especially tough one to answer when the person asking it is clearly in a lot of emotional pain. The absence of an answer to this question can lead people to deep anger, bitterness and fear.

I’ve certainly asked that question before, too.

I’ve lived through times of trial, brought on by my own sin and stupidity. I’ve lived through times of suffering, wherein others maliciously and intentionally brought real pain and deep loss into my life. I know what it feels like to think your life is out of control, to think everything you hold dear is being threatened. I know what it feels like to rail angrily against God, accusing Him of abandoning you or demanding answers for why He would do such a thing.

I know what it’s like to think, “If I could just understand why this is happening, I might be able to accept it.” And I remember desperately wanting to know the end of the story – how would this horrible season in my life turn out? Would it all eventually be okay?

It was in this period of time that I began reading my Bible more, searching for those answers. One of the most immediately-relevant books of the Bible is, of course, Job. I’m sure many of you are already familiar with Job’s story: his life was going well, and God had blessed him with many things – wealth, respect, and a loving family that included many children. And then, one day, for reasons we are not given, God gives Satan permission to begin tormenting Job. He loses everything – his beloved children, his wealth, his reputation, his status in his community. He is left with nothing, including (or maybe “especially”) answers.

Job is a long book, and much of it (I’ll be honest), is a back-and-forth conversation between him and his less-than-intelligent “buddies” who try to help him figure out what on earth happened to him. But it’s when the Lord “answered Job out of the whirlwind” that I was struck by what I read in a way I hadn’t thought about.

God asks Job in chapter 38, verse 4, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”

God is the infinite creator of everything we know to exist. He created the foundations of the earth, and He knows how He did it. I, on the other hand, have absolutely no idea, and wouldn’t understand even if He chose to explain it to me…but I don’t need to know this to trust that when I get out of bed in the morning, my feet are going to hit the solid ground He created when He laid the foundation of the earth.

In chapters 38-40, the LORD proceeds to ask Job quite a few more questions, all making the same point. His point to Job? “You have no idea how I created the universe. You have no idea how I uphold it all even now. You have no idea of all that I am doing in you, and around you, and through you. And you couldn’t understand even if I told you.”

There is so very much I don’t understand about God’s ways…and thankfully, I am not called to understand. I am instead called to trust in Him (Proverbs 3:5) and to believe God’s promises – that He is with us in our trials (Isaiah 43:2-3), that He will strengthen us through those trials (Isaiah 41:10-13), He will never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5), that he will use it for our eternal good, even if not in this life (2 Cor. 4:17; Romans 8:28).

God’s Word, when read by hearts that cry out for understanding, does an amazing thing. It leads us to understand that we don’t have to understand, certainly not in the moment. We simply have to trust God that there is a reason for our trial that goes beyond the temporary pain we are experiencing, and has an eternal goal that only God knows fully.

God gave Satan permission to torment Job, to bring trial into his life. The Bible never explains why He allowed it, though from our perspective we can see that through this trial, Job’s faith was strengthened. We don’t know if Job ever knew why those tremendous losses occurred in his life. We may never know why tremendous loss comes to us, either, in a specific sense. But we can trust that just as God had a purpose in what He did in Job’s life, He has a purpose in our lives too.

God has a purpose in our pain. He has an end in mind that we cannot possibly see, any more than a toddler can understand the purpose of inoculations as they experience the acute pain of the needle thrust. And that end reaches far beyond the trial in front of us. It reaches far beyond this life. I can’t help you understand this truth…I can’t even help myself understand this truth. But God’s Word can.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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