Jon Schell: When God doesn’t make sense

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 11, 2023

Abraham was given a promise by God that he would be the father of a great nation. And although he and his wife Sarah had no children and were very old, he believed God’s promise and was commended for his faith. It took many years for the promise to be fulfilled, but finally when Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90, baby Isaac came along. He must have brought great joy to the old couple. After years of waiting they had finally received what God had promised. Life was good!

Some years later God came to Abraham again and gave him a  troubling command. He told him to sacrifice his son, his only son. But why would God take back what He had given? And how could God keep his word and give Abraham numerous descendants if Isaac was dead? None of this made any sense. Yet Abraham obeyed. Only later did he find out it was a test of his faith.

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. — Hebrews 11:17-19

Abraham passed the test. He obeyed even though things didn’t make sense to him. And because of his faith and obedience, God rewarded him greatly.

On the night of the Last Supper, the disciples of Jesus were also in a confusing situation. They had followed Him for three years and watched him do amazing miracles including raise people from the dead. And just recently, they were with Jesus when he was welcomed into Jerusalem as a King by the adoring crowds. Certainly, good days were ahead!

But their peace was shattered when a mob came and arrested Jesus that night. He was falsely accused, handed over to the Romans and put to death on cross. Jesus was now dead and all their hopes and dreams with Him. Here they were, huddled together in a locked upper room filled with grief and confusion. None of this made sense. Jesus was the promised Messiah. Why would God allow Him to die? The disciples felt hopeless and their devastation and disappointment can be summed up in the words of one of them  who said, “we had hoped that he (Jesus) was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21) Although Jesus had told them that he would be killed and rise again, to these disciples, God just didn’t make sense.

The workings of God often didn’t make sense to us. Think of Noah who was told to build an Ark, even though it had never rained. Or Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers and jailed for doing the right thing. Think of Gideon who was told by God to attack a huge enemy force, with only 300 men. Oftentimes God doesn’t make sense to us either. Because we have a limited view, we just can’t see the big picture.

What if you bought a large puzzle without a box? Looking at one piece, you don’t know what the picture will look like when you are done, and when you try to fit several pieces together, you end up frustrated and want to quit. The fact is: there are only two people who know what the picture looks like: The puzzlemaker and your future self. Only they know how it will all turn out.

Life is a puzzle too. Only God and your future self can see the final product and make sense of it all. Only they can see what it looks like when it all comes together. What seems so perplexing now will be clear to you in the future and is clear to God right now.

We all face times when God doesn’t make sense to us. When we do, we can fall into despair like the disciples or we can choose to trust God like Abraham did.

Abraham never fully understood all that God was doing during his lifetime. He didn’t know that His experience with Isaac was a picture that God was painting of the future sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. But his story shows us that what doesn’t make sense now will make sense in eternity.

Since we can’t see into the future, if we are going to trust God, we must do it now. He knows how it will all turn out. He knows how it is supposed to be. His Word says, 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. — Romans 8:28.  May God help us trust Him like Abraham did.

Rev. Jon Schell is pastor of St. Luke’s Church in Granite Quarry. This column’s focus is from Genesis 15:1-6 and Genesis 22.

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