I suppose everyone who suffers wrestles with the question of, “Why?” It seems like there should be comfort in understanding the reasons for heartbreak. There is nothing worse than meaningless suffering – suffering that has no point to it, no purpose, no ultimate end. And my little pea brain seems to think that if there is a purpose to my suffering (and I know there is) then discovering that purpose is the next step. I must comprehend it, search it out and understand it in intimate detail.
Or, if I don’t understand it here on earth, at least I’ll understand it in Heaven. God’s purposes which are mysterious to me here will at last be revealed when I see His Face. Then, at last, true comfort will be found in comprehending the depth and the breadth of God’s high and mysterious ways.
Josh and I had a conversation with one of his professors at Covenant Seminary a number of weeks ago. We were talking about this idea that Heaven is the place where we will at last understand the “why” of suffering. He made the simple point that we are not given that promise in Scripture. We are never told that God’s ways will be laid open to us when we at last see Him. I am human, created, finite, and none of those things will change after I cross the Jordan. God’s ways will still be higher than my ways and His purposes unsearchable and mysterious.
A little while ago I was re-reading Till We Have Faces, one of my most favorite books in all the world. Somehow I began to connect Orual’s story with Job’s story. This is probably something that both literature and biblical scholars would scorn and I’m not sure how it happened but I think it has to do with the way both stories end. Both Orual and Job speak boldly to God, requiring an answer for their suffering, making their case to Him and pleading with some revelation of light into their darkness. And God does reveal Himself, but neither receives the explanation they were seeking. They are simply confronted with His own presence and power, and that is enough.
I love their words of response. I say them often.
Job says, as one translation puts it, “Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and am comforted in dust and ashes.”
And Orual’s words are very similar, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away.”
I am learning not to expect a reason – an explanation – from the Lord. Maybe He will choose to give it to me, but probably not. Even if He did I will never comprehend His ways or His purposes. But I have all the answer I need in the presence and love of the Great Comforter. I know His purposes are good, even if I will never understand them. I don’t know why He has driven us into the Valley of the Shadow of Death but I know He’s with us in it.