“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV)
Last Friday was a sad day for my group at work. We learned that a friend and colleague had died suddenly of a heart attack the night before. He was relatively young and had two small children. My first and natural reaction was to ask, “God, why? How could you let that happen?”
Over the weekend, while still thinking and wrestling with this, Sawyer (our 5-year-old) asked me the question, “Dad, how many days?” I said, “Buddy, how many days in what?” and he repeated the question. We went back and forth multiple times, until he started to get frustrated that I wasn’t answering his question. No matter how I tried to explain or ask clarifying questions to understand what he was really asking, I was unable to make him understand that he was only asking half a question, which I couldn’t answer. At the end of this exchange, my mind went to a story Ravi Zacharias tells in The Grand Weaver:
Some years ago, I was visiting a place known for making the best wedding saris in the world—saris rich in gold and silver threads, resplendent with an array of colors. I expected to see some elaborate system of machines that would boggle the mind. Not so! Each sari was made individually by a father-and-son team. The father sat above the son on a platform, surrounded by several spools of thread that he would gather into his fingers. The son did just one thing. At a nod from his father, he would move the shuttle from one side to the other and back again. This would be repeated for hundreds of hours, till a magnificent pattern began to emerge. The son had the easy task—just to move at the father’s nod. All along, the father had the design in his mind and brought the right threads together.
I love the beauty of this metaphor. How many times do I look at the world and think “how/why/when, God?” The question seems clear in my mind, but just like Sawyer, I’m asking an incomplete question. God is just like the father in the illustration. He has a grand design, and everything that happens fits within his ultimate purpose, even if we only see individual threads that often look random and chaotic. When I remember painful and uncomfortable events in my life, I can see how they have all worked together to bring me to where I am currently. I’ll end with a quote from Malcom Muggeridge, as he says it far better than I could.
Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful. I now look back upon them with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, I say this, if it were possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo-jumbo, the results would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. This, of course, is what the cross signifies, and it is the cross, more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ. (Homemade, July 1990)
Andrew can be reached by email here.