Cases Not Yet Closed
Background: Psalm 42
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; When shall I come and appear before God? . . . O my God, my soul is in despair within me. Psalm 42:1-2, 6a
A friend of mine is a lawyer in the Justice Department. His wife died this week, after twenty-eight years of marriage. I had known them both since before they were married. A year ago, after months of suffering, the youngest daughter of another lawyer friend of mine died. She left behind a husband and three young children. My heart aches with the questions, “How could these things happen? Why, God?”
Certainly Scripture provides some substantial and wonderful insight and guidance. But questions still go unanswered . . . . Why does God seem to ignore some prayer? What is the meaning of marriage, that which even Paul refers to as a “great mystery” (Eph. 5:32)? Why do some experience prosperity and great happiness? Why do others know only poverty and sorrow? How does the doctrine of election jibe with basic notions of fairness? Or accountability? And why would God tolerate ambiguity in Scripture sufficient to divide the Church on such matters?
I cannot escape the conclusion that living with unanswered questions is part of God’s plan for His people. We are to live by faith, not by sight (II Cor. 5:7). There is little doubt that Abraham asked God where he was being taken when he was called out from Ur. In their escape from Pharaoh, in facing a frightening wilderness, the Israelites surely cried, “How will we cross the Red Sea?” “Where will we get food in the desert?” But God’s dealings with Abraham in his time and with the people of Israel for the hundreds of years that followed demonstrate at least two things: that He wanted them only to trust Him and that He wanted them to trust only Him.
Paul writes in the first letter to the Corinthians that it is the “foolishness” of God that He used to confound the wisdom of the world (I Cor. 1:21,25). The sages of the ages have been baffled by the way of salvation in Christ. God in His wisdom has chosen that mystery as the means of redemption. The mystery is part of His plan.
Likewise, in Paul’s own experience, when he prayed that the Lord would remove the thorn in his flesh, he discovered in the result, when the thorn remained, that God had nonetheless answered. “Lord, would you remove . . .?” “No, Paul, I want you to know that My grace is sufficient for you.”
“Prone to wander – Lord, I feel it,” said hymn-writer Robert Robinson. God knows that I am prone to wander, “prone to leave the God I love.” The mysteries of life bind my heart more tightly to His because I have nowhere to go. If and when they are unraveled, it is He that will do it because only He is capable.
We lawyers are looked to for answers and are inclined, I think, to believe that answers must be found for every question. But some questions seek justification for matters that are in the nature of first principles, which as C. S. Lewis wrote are matters that must themselves be the starting point. We should not be troubled by the mysteries of God, not only because they are God’s, and therefore starting points for us, but because they serve to bind our hearts to Him.
Alan Button, Professor of Law at Campbell University
Suggested Additional Reading: Job 1-2; Isaiah 55:6-13; I Corinthians 1:18-31; II Corinthians 12:5-10
A. Button, Week 5: Case Not Yet Closed, in WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE OF YOU 16-17 (L. Buzzard ed. 2004).
Used with permission of the publisher, Advocates International