I wish I had access to the secret thoughts and counsels of God on a day like today, because then I could answer some of our questions.
We ask, “Why, Lord?” when mom gets cancer and a child dies in the womb because of it. We ask, “Where, Lord?” about the eternal destiny of a child who dies in the womb. And since I don’t have access to the innermost thoughts of God, I don’t have absolute answers to those questions. I don’t know why God let this child die in the womb. I don’t know the eternal destiny of all children who die in the womb, because the Bible doesn’t say that they all automatically go to heaven or to hell.
Since I don’t have access to the secret thoughts of God, and since you don’t either, we’re left only with the revealed thoughts of God: the words He speaks to us in the Bible. This is the record of God’s thoughts and actions that He has made known to us. And in that Word, He makes it plain that He’s not going to tell us everything. In Deuteronomy 29 the Lord says, The secret things belong to the Lord our God. In Romans 11, Paul writes about God, How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? The prophet Isaiah writes, Truly you are a God who hides Himself. God hasn’t seen fit to explain Himself fully; and He doesn’t need to. After all, He’s God and we’re not.
Job got this about the Lord. When the Lord allowed Satan to take away Job’s wealth, health, and children, Job says, Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised. And when Job’s wife criticized that attitude and said, Curse God and die! Job replied, Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?
Later though, as Job’s suffering lingered, Job and his friends begin trying to dig into the whys, the whens, and the what-fors, leading God to answer, Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know. In other words, they did what naturally comes to all of us when terrible or tragic things happen: they tried to figure it all out.
But since none of us are God, on this side of heaven we won’t be able to. It might even be best to say that we shouldn’t even try. Trying to speculate about God’s will – the whys, the wheres, the whens, the what-fors – almost always ends up with us seating ourselves on God’s throne or subjecting our Lord to criticism which He hasn’t earned.
So we go back to what we know. We go back to what God has revealed about Himself. And it’s for that purpose that God has given us His Bible. Here we have some absolute answers. At least three of those answers touch upon this tragedy you’re going through.
First, our Lord is a gracious God who does everything well. When God revealed Himself to Moses, He called Himself the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love. This sounds like the God the apostle John knew too when He wrote, God is love. And the proof of that love, for John, was Jesus. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
From that love of God Paul draws a beautiful conclusion in Romans 8: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? The gift of Jesus dying for us, for our sins, opens the door to a plethora of other gifts. One of which is prayer. The God who let Job go through so much, the God who revealed Himself to Moses, to John, to Paul, and to us in the Word, says, “Talk to me. Ask me for things. Pray to me.” He asks us to pray and He promises to hear our prayers. He heard the words that you and many others prayed on behalf of Reagan while she was alive. In eternity we’ll know how He answered those prayers.
Finally, Jesus invites us to come to Him. The death of Jesus bridged the gap that our sins placed between us and God. Jesus spoke those words from Matthew’s Gospel that we read moments ago: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Almost no one on earth needs the rest of Christ more than someone who’s burying their child. In the Word, in the Christian Church, what you have is a Father who’s done what you’re doing: He went to His Son’s funeral. He buried His Son for you. That Son, Jesus, before He died and rose said, In this world you will have trouble. Take heart, I have overcome the world! That’s the amazing good Jesus gives all of us, especially us here today in the midst of this trouble. And you can be absolutely certain about that. Amen.