Like many others believers, we are trying to understand God's will at the moment. We simply can't figure out why he is allowing things to happen in the way that He is. But then whoever said that God always makes sense? Our experience surely shows us that there are many occasions when his ways simply do not seem to make sense at all. So what can we say at times like this and how should we react to the unexpected and often unwanted?
To begin with, we shouldn't be surprised. Christians have not been promised a trouble free ride to glory, nor have they been assured that they will understand all that God is doing. The prophet Habakkuk had to come to terms with this. He stands out as a prophet because he asked questions rather than offered answers. In a similar way the majestic seventh century prophet Isaiah had to remind his people that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts, and His ways than our ways. The apostle Paul came to the same conclusion when pondering the mystery of his people's rejection of Jesus and said "Who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Or who has ever been His counsellor?"
We see it in the Bible. The apostle James was executed by Herod Agrippa. The apostle Peter on the other hand escaped from Herod's clutches and went on to serve Jesus for many more years. Only God knows why it happened like this. It's the same in our own lives. I still wonder why the Lord allowed a beautiful young girl of twenty something to die before she was able to obtain a transplant, and miraculously healed another whose story became national news and the subject of an amazing book (From Medicine to Miracle: How my faith overcame cancer. Harper Collins). Both had faith and both were the subject of fervent prayer. The situation simply did not seem to make sense. God, as the hymnist rightly said, has a habit of working in mysterious ways.
When faced with such challenging accounts – and any news outlet will present us with a daily supply of stories to challenge our faith in God – it is worth remembering that God's timing is different to ours.
Rick Warren, who has suffered more than many of us in recent months, has put it neatly. "Ray Stevens sang a song called Everything Is Beautiful in Its Own Way. He lied. It's not true. Everything is not beautiful. Cancer is not beautiful. Child abuse is not beautiful. War is not beautiful. Everything is not beautiful in its own way. He misquoted Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says, "God has made everything beautiful for its own time." That's very different. God can take even the bad things and, in the proper season, turn them around and use them for good in the way he intends."
But this takes trust, the kind of trust that Habakkuk talks of when he tells us that "the just shall live by faith" (Habakkuk 2:4). The prophet was telling his listeners that there are times when we haven't a clue why God is allowing some things to happen and have no idea how they could ever reconcile our experience with a God of love. But, and it's a very important but, you can recognise a true believer by their faith, their trust.
Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, understands this as well as anyone. In September 1999 a crazed gunman entered his church and killed seven people before turning the gun on himself. Four days later, Meredith stood in front of his congregation and assured them that if was ever shipwrecked on a desert island and could only have one verse of Scripture with him it would be Romans 8:28 – "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose".
In our current situation we could do no better than remember the way God spoke to a friend of ours following the death of his young daughter. "You don't understand now what I am doing, but someday you will." It is something we would all do well to remember.