Trusting God When We Don’t Know Why

There was a season in my life where within a six-month period everything that made sense was turned upside down. It started with being laid off from my dream job and ended with the death of a grandparent, and a bunch of other really hard things in between. When the dust settled and I had some perspective, I told a friend that I just wanted to know the reason why some of these things had happened, because that way I would know God had a purpose. And I would be OK if I could just figure out the purpose. But my friend, being much wiser than me, asked me a hard question: “What if God never shows you the reason why? Can you still trust Him?”

I found that my faith depended way too much on that answer. I could trust God with the painful things in my life but only as long as I knew why He allowed them. The not knowing was driving me crazy and made it hard for me to trust that God was working good in my life.

I’ve been reading Trusting God by Jerry Bridges (check him out on the recent podcast) and have found his thoughts on this really helpful.

“It often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable. The law of God is readily recognized to be good for us, even when we don’t want to obey it. The circumstances of our lives frequently appear to be dreadful and grim or perhaps even calamitous and tragic. Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God.

“Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character.”

Ultimately, when I begged God to show me why, I was really saying that I didn’t trust Him. I doubted that He was really in control of my life, instead wondering if God had somehow forgotten about me or made a mistake. But God doesn’t owe me an explanation, and my belief should not hinge on Him doing that. Scripture is clear that God’s character is loving toward us, and even the painful parts of life that He allows are so that He might be glorified in us. As Bridges writes, “He has designed His eternal purpose so that His glory and our good are inextricably bound together. What comfort and encouragement that should be to us.” 

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