Tragedy, Providence, and Faith

(I wrote this post about three years ago. Since that time my father-in-law has graduated this life and is at home with the Lord. I published this a few months after I wrote it, but seeing as this still expresses truth, I've decided to post it again.)

An email hits my desk this morning, telling of the death of a 45-year-old pastor, as he prepared to leave for church one Sunday morning.

It leads me pondering on what a mystery are the works of God. At the same second I read about this young preacher being snatched away from family and flock, my father-in-law lies lingering in horrible health and great pain.  While he is ordained, he can no longer actively minister and repeatedly states his desire to be home with the Lord.  Yet God chooses to take a young man with children in the prime of ministry years. And so suddenly … preparing for church on Sunday morning only to be found unconscious on the floor by his wife. No chance to say goodbye or tell his family he loved them. No final message to his flock about what he considered most important for them to remember. No chance to make amends with those who were estranged (and we all have those in our lives, don't we?) It's the same mystery I guess that Job wrestled with.

God is not a capricious God who acts on mere whims. Indeed, "Precious in the eyes of the LORD is the death of his saints." (Ps 116:15) As I recall, the word for "precious" refers to something valuable, something treasured, not to be used or traded away without careful consideration. Therefore, the LORD our God has a reason for this just as he has for all that he does. We evaluate what he does not on the basis of our finite reasoning, but rather on the knowledge of his character … that he is the definition of good and the sum of all perfections. So the apparent evil of the death of a 45 year old faithful pastor who leaves behind a wife and 6 children is not an evil at all but the best of all possible circumstances.

Still, knowing these things to be true does not remove the mystery from our finite minds; it does not lift the thick fog that blankets our thoughts from all except what God has revealed. And the truth of the matter is that God may never reveal why this occurred. His answer gave no response to the question that burned in Job’s mind: Why? 

While the Scriptures don’t really indicate such, still many people in the pew believe that these mysteries will be revealed to us when we are finally at rest in that eternal city. But I'm not so sure. Proverbs 25:2 teaches that in some way these mysteries enhance God’s glory. They work to remind us that he is the Creator, and we are the creatures, that he is completely other, that the vastness of his wisdom we will never discover. 

Perhaps I'm wrong about eternity. Perhaps, because we are now friends of God (and more than friends, but children!), he will reveal these things to us. After all, John 15 15 records Jesus as saying, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." But who knows? Here again is another mystery about God we cannot know until then. 

At the end of the day we must remember that "the just will live by faith." Not only is faith required to remain sane in this inexplicable world, but also because God commands it. Like the mysteries he chooses not to reveal, our faith in response to them enhances his glory. And even if we never find out the answers and eternal faith is required of us, when we are at home with him we will say with joy that this is good enough.