Why Lord, Why?

Our friend Dave Mallet was killed this week, and all of us are asking why Lord, why?

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV Strong’s)

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Prayer

I have to tell you that after this week I feel like the grace by which I stand sees me barely standing. There’s been a lot of horrible stuff going on, culminating in the absolute worst bit… the loss of a dear and valued friend, Dave Mallet. It’s times like these that we, in our confusion, struggle to make sense of life, and struggle to rejoice in the hope of God.

 

IS IT OK TO ASK WHY?

 

If we get what we want our faith is built up, and we are ok with that. When we believe God and He makes it happen, we celebrate our faith, and rightly so. But can we have faith in the dark times, when people attack, when tragedy strikes, when we don’t get the answers we wanted?

 

We can. God has taught me that this is a greater and deeper faith.

 

When tragedy strikes, is asking God why an anti faith act? I believe it’s ok to be honest with God. So if you have the question “why God” it is not sinful if it comes from a genuine heart of faith. God is ok when we honestly share our doubts and struggles, but He’s not ok with our disobedient disbelief.

 

Habakkuk was honest with God,

 

Habakkuk 1:2 (ESV Strong’s)

O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

 

He’s asking why, Lord, why? So am I. A man in a stolen car killed our friend this week, and we have every right to ask the question like Habakkuk, why the righteous suffer because of the unrighteous. Consider Job…

 

God gave permission for Satan to severely test Job, and in his suffering Job asked God questions too! His questioning and doubts were understandable, but his faith is astonishing.

 

Job 1:21-22 (ESV Strong’s)

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

 

At times like this, it’s ok to honestly and openly ask God why. But it’s not ok to walk away from your faith, as many do, and it’s not ok to charge God with wrong and sin. The act is, sin is in our world, Sin produces suffering, Suffering produces pain, and we humans don’t like pain, so we avoid it at all costs. Yet through the prism of God’s promises, pain can produce gain.

 

THE DARK ROAD OF THE SOUL

 

I cannot tell you why Dave was killed, and why his beautiful wife Julie and his beloved family have to suffer through this tragedy. I can’t tell you why babies die, or why sometimes even Christian marriages fail. I can’t give you a reason why strong believers suffer death, sickness or financial loss and ruin. Look around.., There’s no shortage of loss, tragedy and pain in this fallen world, and one thing I have learned is that much of it you just can’t fix! You just have to walk the dark lonely road somehow.

 

Experts tell us that grief and loss goes through 5 stages…

 

DENIAL: Denial is not just a river in Egypt. The first response to tragedy is often, no, that can’t be right.

ANGER: God, how can you let this happen, it’s not fair!

BARGAINING: If only I’d have done this, that wouldn’t have happened, or God, if you make this work I promise I’ll be obedient and do whatever You want

DEPRESSION: Life is a mess, I can’t go on, life’s not worth living

ACCEPTANCE: God, I don’t know why this happened, but I trust You no matter what.

 

Tragedy is beyond reason. It is simply a road we have to walk, and it is better to walk it with God, and with others who love you.  I love how King David describes it…

 

Psalms 23:4 (ESV Strong’s)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

The rod and the staff represent God’s protection and God’s guidance. The rod is a short, heavy club, and the staff is the one we picture shepherd with, with a hook on the end, used to guide and rescue sheep. David says they comfort him in the valley, and as we go through the valleys of life, we can be comforted and assured of God’s protection and also His guidance.

 

And remember, death has no sting for the believer, and Dave and Julie have loved and served the Lord all their life. There’s pain, there’s loss, but Paul writes,

 

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (ESV Strong’s)

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

It’s not that death and separation doesn’t hurt, of course they do, but we know with absolute surety that we will see Dave’s beaming smile again. As the KJV says,

 

2 Corinthians 5:8 (KJV Strong’s)

We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.

 

Right now Dave is in a better place with Jesus, but we who remain suffer loss. Julie suffers loss right now, and all who love Dave suffer loss, but the Bible says this suffering is not in vain!

 

THE PRODUCT OF SUFFERING

 

There is a product, a point to suffering. Romans reveals to us a progression that develops us towards becoming like Jesus.

 

Romans 5:3 (ESV Strong’s)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

 

The Greek for rejoice is kauch-ao-mai, which means literally to boast or glory in something. When we suffer tragedy and loss, Paul is not suggesting that we be happy about it. It hurts, it may even devastate, and it’s hard to rejoice in that. Yay I’m in pain! Yippee, I’ve lost everything! That’s not what he is saying.

 

What he is saying is that through the lens of the tragedy we can see the bigger picture, we see the hand of God, and rejoice and even glory in the fact that God will bring good though it, and will develop us to become more Christ like through it. We rejoice not because of the suffering of the moment, but because of what the suffering opens for us in the long run.

 

We live in a fallen world. God doesn’t make us suffer, sin causes suffering, but God allows this because He has a higher plan. Suffering is the start of a glorious road towards becoming like Jesus.  Here’s the path…

 

1.      SUFFERING PRODUCES ENDURANCE

 

James 1:2-3(ESV Strong’s)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

 

Romans 5:3 (ESV Strong’s)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,

 

Endurance is the Greek word HYPOMONÉ, meaning patient, steadfast and even cheerful waiting, and it implies a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety, by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

 

Endurance is not passive, and it’s not fatalistic, it’s not sitting back and saying, Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be. It is staying the course, keeping on keeping on, it’s holding to your Saviour and never letting go of your trust in the Lord, no matter how you suffer. And it gives rise to…

 

2.      ENDURANCE PRODUCES CHARACTER

 

Romans 5:4 (ESV Strong’s)

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

 

Character is DOKIMÉ, which means a proven specimen of tried worth. Tested, and found worthy.

 

A great analogy is tempered steel. Steel is heated almost to melting point, then quickly cooled. This creates a far stronger alloy, and a far less brittle product. It’s the heat, the fire, that produces the strength, just as it’s the trials that produces the strength of character.

 

3.      CHARACTER PRODUCES HOPE

 

Romans 5:4 (ESV Strong’s)

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

 

Character produces hope. Hope is ELPIS, meaning a Joyful and confident expectation. We misuse the word hope in English. I hope it all works out, I hope you’re OK. There is a possibility it could go either way. But Biblical hope is not like that. It’s a sure thing, it is an absolute surety. Hebrews says…

 

Hebrews 6:18-19 (ESV Strong’s)

it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,

 

A believer’s hope doesn’t change with circumstances, it is firmly grounded, anchored by a strong character, developed by long-suffering.

 

HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US

 

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV Strong’s)

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

We rejoice in and through and out the other side of our sufferings, not because we are suffering, but because what suffering produces in our lives is beyond value. We have hope, no matter what! Hope stands, despite circumstances, despite hardships, and it is our source of true joy.

 

When we have descended into a pit of despair, when we are surrounded by trials and tests and suffering, when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can come forth with incredible hope, tapping into the strength that comes by faith. This is a resource beyond our understanding or ability to cope, within a divine plan for hope and a future. So this week of all weeks I ask, Are you living that truth?

 

JOYFUL HOPE

 

True joy is not what the rest of the world thinks it is. In their mind, when things are going well we are happy. When we get what we want, we are happy. When people love us, when we get a job promotion, we are happy. But that’s not joy.

 

Joy is based not in what we get, or what we experience, it is based in who we are. A few verses after Paul talks about joy in suffering and hope, he writes this…

 

Romans 5:8 (ESV Strong’s)

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Our joy is based on God’s immense, unconditional and sacrificial love for us, not on what befalls us. Today we all feel loss, especially Julie and the family. But no matter the circumstances, God’s love and therefore our joy can be unchanged!

 

These last few weeks and months have been full of doubt, uncertainty, pain, loss and confusion. I wish I could skip straight to next year, maybe the one after that. This last week I’ve cried, I’ve felt loss, I’ve been attacked and criticised, I’ve been threatened and frankly, I’ve been discouraged and miserable. But God said,

 

Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV Strong’s)

do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

 

My joy, your joy, should not depend what happens to us or what we get… It depends on who we are. In suffering, we have joy, because we belong to Him. If we pray and we don’t get what we want, we have joy, because we belong to Him. If my heart is broken, I can take those pieces to the Lord with an unquenchable hope, because I have joy, because I belong to Him.

 

TRUE JOY IS INEXTINGUISHABLE

 

This week, as we reel from the loss of a dear friend, as we stand with Julie  and the family in their pain, as we don’t understand and ask the question, why, Lord, we have a joy that no one and nothing can extinguish. As the Psalmist wrote…

 

Psalms 94:18-19 (NIV-WS)

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”

your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.

When anxiety was great within me,

your consolation brought me joy.

 

It’s ok to ask why. It’s ok to hurt and feel down. But how much better is it to rejoice in something that death, pain, fear and loss can never erase. Our joy, our hope our faith is in the Lord, and in the fact that we are His children. As an old hymn by Oswald Smith says,

 

Joy in the face of sorrow, peace in the midst of pain

Jesus will give, Jesus will give

He will uphold and sustain

 

Whatever pain, whatever fear, whatever hurt or doubts you face today, you are God’s beloved child, and in that you can have everlasting joy. Suffering is a stepping stone, pain is a paver, loss is a lane way to everlasting hope and joy.

 

Habakkuk started questioning God, full of fear, full of doubt, miserable and in pain. But let me read the last few verses to show where he ended up…

 

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (ESV Strong’s)

Habakkuk Rejoices in the LORD

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

 

About Darin

Pastor Darin Browne is the Senior Pastor of Coast Church in Woombye, Queensland. He is an international speaker and worship leader and has toured all over the world, produced 8 albums and authored several books.