The Test of Wondering Why

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Recently, a friend’s letter arrived that reminded me of the importance of resting our hearts on what we know to be true about God, especially when faced with circumstances that lead us to question His will.

He wrote: “As a family, God has been speaking to us recently through the death of my youngest sister, Freda, on August 31. We have no details yet. She sailed on September 18 of last year... after 10 years’ patient waiting for the way to open.

“Many of our friends in their letters of sympathy speak of God’s mysterious ways, and I know there is an element of mystery. But I shrink from the suggestion that our Father has done anything which needs to be explained. What He has done is the best, because He has done it, and I pray that as a family we may not cast about for explanations of the mystery, but exult in the Holy Spirit, and say, ’I thank Thee, Father....Even so, Father.’ It suggests a lack of confidence in Him if we find it necessary to try to understand all He does.

“Will it not bring Him greater joy to tell Him that we need no explanation because we know Him? But I doubt not there will be a fulfillment of John 12:24.” —Rev. Frank Houghton (China Inland Mission).

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We Need No Explanation

Our hearts rejoice in that word for so great a matter. It is, indeed, the only perfect word. But perhaps sometimes in an incomparably lesser trial, the tempter has disturbed us, persuading us to look for an explanation. We find ourselves saying, “I wonder why.” Faith never wonders why.

Among our several hundred of all ages in the Dohnavur Fellowship family, who are being taught in the ways of prayer, there were many for whom this lesson was set when the answer to their prayers was turned to the contrary, just as they thought they had safely received it. For on a certain evening there was a special prayer for the healing touch for me. That night the pain was lulled, and natural sleep was given.

The blissfulness of the awakening next morning is still vivid and shining. I lay for a few minutes almost wondering if I were still on Earth. No night has been like that since. No sleep like that has come nor any such easeful wakening.

I knew something that morning of what it will be when He “shall look us out of pain.”

All the dear household rejoiced. Down to the tiniest child who could understand there was gladness and thanksgiving. Had they not asked for healing by the touch of God? Was this not that? So they accepted it with a reverent and lovely joy.

But my nurse was careful in her joy, and nothing was done, no carelessness occurred that could account for what followed. The pain returned and increased. The nights were as they had been. And some did, I know, find it very confusing and very disappointing. For was there not prayer? Indeed there was.

The loving care of those who led the prayer of our fellowship had divided the day into watches; there was never an unprayed-for hour. But the bars closed down once more. Was it strange that to some, who have not known Him long, there was the trial of wondering Why?

Trust His Heart

“I am learning never to be disappointed, but to praise,” missionary Frederick Arnot of Central Africa wrote in his journal long ago. It was the word of peace to us then.

I think it must hurt the tender love of our Father when we press for reasons for His dealings with us, as though He were not love, as though not He but another chose our inheritance for us, and as though what He chose to allow could be less than the very best and dearest that Love Eternal had to give.

But on a day of more than a little trial, in His great compassion I was allowed to see—for as the ear is unsealed at times, so are the eyes opened—and I knew that the enemy had asked to be allowed to recover his power to oppress, and that leave had been granted to him, but within limits.

I was not shown what those limits were. I saw only the mercy that embraces us on every side. Was that moment of insight merely a pale reflection of an ancient familiar story? So some will understand it.

But the comfort that comes through such a moment never stays to argue about itself. It sinks deep into the heart and gives it rest.

Thereafter, not seeing, not hearing, not feeling, we walk by faith, finding our comfort not in the things seen or heard in that illuminated moment (though, indeed, that which was seen or heard does, with a sweetness peculiar to itself, continue to console), but in the Scriptures of truth: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day….And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (2 Tim. 1:12; Rom. 8:28, KJV).

With Him who assures us of this there is no variableness, neither shadow that is cast by turning. His word stands true. In that truth we abide satisfied.

And so I have come to this: our Lord is sovereign. He may heal, as He will, by an invisible touch or by blessing the means (His gifts) that are used.

He may “save the exhausted one,” as Rotherham renders James 5:15 (The Emphasized Bible, Kregel), or sustain with words him that is weary, as He did St. Paul, and use those words for the succor of others (see 2 Cor. 12:9).

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