Like many of you, it bothers me to no end when I don’t understand the reason behind an upsetting or frustrating event. ‘If only I knew why it happened, I’d be able to get some closure’ is a lie I tell myself frequently. My dissatisfaction with bad things in my life has much less to do with not understanding why they happened, and more to do with me being angry at God for doing something outside of my little plan.
There have been many instances in my short life so far that have made me question God’s authority and sovereignty. I’m almost certain you can agree. We spend a great deal of time constructing our feeble plans only to see them changed, bent, and sometimes flat-out blown to pieces. My first instinct when God wrecks my plan is typically to demand an answer.
Psalm 74 - Asaph is Spicy Mad
We see this sort of reaction all throughout the Psalms, but one chapter that I can particularly identify with is Psalms 74. Asaph isn’t too cheery in this one, so buckle up, because things are about to get rocky.
“1 O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?” P 74:1
“10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!” P 74:10-11
I’d encourage you to read the entire chapter, of course, but for the sake of length and America’s ever-shortening attention span, I highlighted just the zestiest parts of Asaph’s Psalm 74.
In order for you to really pick up what I’m laying down, we’re going to need to get into Asaph’s head. Let’s look into the context of these verses.
Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon, seriously rude dude, overall kind of trash) has just destroyed the temple where God’s people went to worship and to pray. Asaph, along with the other Israelites are justifiably furious, and Asaph begins to plead with God. He practically demands answers from Him. In the midst of turmoil, we like to ask God for a reason, an answer, or something we can desperately cling to separate from God’s sovereignty and omniscience.
Asaph may have felt better if God would have answered in an audible and booming voice, “My people idolized the temple and have forgotten the reason for its existence. I allowed the king to destroy it for your good and my peoples’ benefit.” but Asaph didn’t get an answer.
In the middle of Psalm 74, we see a change of pace. Instead of crying out to God and questioning His allowance of the temple’s destruction, he glorifies and praises Him.
“Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.” P 74:12
“Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.” P 74:16
He stops the questions, pauses the challenges, and relinquishes his need to know ‘why’ to praise God. How interesting. I’ve decided to put a pin in that idea for a moment because Asaph gets right back to his frustration and drops this line at the end of chapter 74:
““Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!” P 74:22
I started asking myself something I’m sure Asaph was asking himself in Psalm 74. What do we do if something catastrophic happens and God does (seemingly) nothing?
How should we respond if something feels wrong and we don’t understand why it happened?
Hebrews 11 - Prepare to Be Peeved
This brings me to a lovely and ferociously convicting chapter I read last night - Hebrews 11. It was the answer to the question I’d been asking God for so long - what do I do when I have no reason, no answer, and no ‘why’?
If you’d like to take a quick break and read Hebrews 11, I’d encourage you to do so now. If not, I’ll give you a little overview with some of the basics, but I promise you, it’s an interesting chapter.
In Hebrews 11, we take a trip down memory lane and remind ourselves of some Bible stories and how the people in them responded to God’s plan for their lives. It mentions how Noah when building the ark, Abraham when offering up his son, Moses when walking through the split red sea, Rahab when she provided safety for God’s people, and many others followed God’s plan because they had faith, not because they knew all of the answers.
That’s the thing - we’ll never know it all. Never once in our life will we be able to fully see the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how hard we try to understand or how much we desire to know God’s purpose in everything, we will never have the full picture. This is where faith, trust, and a close relationship with God have to surpass our need for answers. If they do not, we’ll find ourselves stuck and unwilling to accomplish all of the beautiful things God laid out for us in our plan.
The verse in Hebrews 11 that first struck me was H 11:13. It mentions that many of the people God used to further the gospel never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises and never got their ‘why’.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” H 11:13a
All of those people died before they saw the end of the story, and unfortunately for me and my fleshly need for answers, I probably will too.
I’ll probably die before I fully understand why God allowed this pandemic, why He let bad things happen to the people I love, and why some people never get to experience Him, but instead die apart from God.
Not knowing the answers used to drive me insane.
(By ‘used to’ I mean before last night, so don’t worry - I’m new to this too.)
I’d like to share another section of the chapter that just slapped me in the face and launched my sinful desires out the window.
“They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated - of whom the world was not worthy - wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” H 11:37-40
What a lovely passage. I simply love reading about faithful Christians being killed in various gruesome ways. I feel so blessed. Oh - and when it says “stoned”, it doesn’t mean high off their rockers. It means they were killed with rocks.
Honestly, the chapter ending this way was somewhat aggravating for me. I felt like there was no resolve. It seemed like there was no happy ending for these people.
But there was.
All of those people died after living a life devoted to God. Their lives were full of joy from his never ending cup of satisfaction. Their hearts were full of contentment because they knew He was all they needed. Like the last verse says - apart from God, we can’t be perfect.
With God, we can be made perfect, and that has to be enough for me.
I can challenge God like Asaph, I can wrestle with God like David, and I can cry with God like Jesus, but I am not entitled to an answer.
It’s not the questioning that’s sin, it’s the idolization of my own curiosity. My heated prayers to the Lord asking ‘why’ aren’t wrong - but loving God only when I understand His plan is.
To feel fully content, I have to resolve to walk in faith when I’m given no answer.
To experience joy the way He wants me to, I have to remind myself that God knows the answers, even when I don’t.
To trust Him with everything I have, I have to have confidence in His ‘why’ even when I can’t see it yet.
What are some questions we do need to know the answer to before we can whole-heartedly follow God?
I need to include this section because there are some things that blind faith should not be covering in your walk with God.
Some questions you need to feel confident in the answer to are listed below:
Is Jesus the son of God and do you believe He died and came back to life to save us from sin?
Do you believe that we are in need of saving and that we can’t be in the presence of God without Jesus’ sacrifice?
Do you know who God is and desire to follow Him?
Is it true that God’s plan for your life is better and more beautiful than you could ever imagine, despite some incredibly terrible things that happened to you as a result of the world’s sin?
There are questions like these that are incredibly important to know the answer to. When I say I am striving to surrender my need for answers, I do not mean the answers to these questions. I mean that I don’t need to know why God takes certain people out of my life, why God lets people hurt the people I love, or why we’re in a global pandemic. Those things, while very significant and important to me, do not determine God’s goodness in my life. I can see that even though I don’t have those answers, God is in control and is sovereign.
As I move forward, I am actively working on seeking answers, but not demanding them. I have been working on trusting His plan for a great deal of time, and it’s time I start listening to His call without wondering if my way is better.
I’m working on taking steps of faith, even when they seem risky. I very clearly hear the Lord’s voice in my life (which I could get into in another one of my writings), and I need to start responding to his voice with faith instead of hesitance. I’ve delayed so many good and wonderful things in my life because I wasn’t willing to make that scary step into the dark. I need to understand that even when I can’t even see the next step in front of me, God sees the entire path. He is my guide, and as long as I pursue Him fully and trust His goodness and grace, I don’t require the why. Moving forward, I’ll be working on relinquishing my need to know the ‘why’.
Links that aren’t cited in MLA or APA because I didn’t want to do so:
Psalm 74 ESV:
Psalm 74 commentary by Charles H. Spurgeon:
Information on what Asaph was angry about:
Hebrews 11 ESV:
John Piper’s Sermons on Hebrews 11:
Vocab definitions for some extra clarity:
Relinquish: verb (used with object)
- to renounce or surrender (a possession, right, etc.):
- to give up; put aside or desist from:
- to let go; release:
- lack of contentment; dissatisfaction.
- a restless desire or craving for something one does not have.
- the quality or state of being sovereign, or of having supreme power or authority.
- the quality or state of being omniscient.
- infinite knowledge.
- (initial capital letter) God.
- to worship as a god.