God never explains himself. He rarely gives reasons. The events that unfold in our world seldom make sense. We, therefore, are confronted with the basic tenet of Christianity: The righteous live by faith.
On Saturday, March 9, 2002, three women were killed in Chicago when part of a 25-foot aluminum scaffold fell in high winds from the 43rd floor of the John Hancock Center. These three women were in their cars, unsuspecting of any danger, when the incident occurred. The Chicago Tribune headline stated: "Tragedy at the Hancock."
This tragedy occurred almost six months from the day terrorists flew planes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing 3,063 innocent people. This horrific assault has been labeled "the day that changed America."
Tragedy is hard to understand, hard to explain, and hard on faith. Some people lay the blame at the feet of God and become bitter and cynical toward Him. They ask for explanation, but get silence. They ask for understanding, and are baffled.
Life, indeed, is a mystery. Much of what happens in life is beyond us. And even if it were explained to us, we probably wouldn't be satisfied with it. We long for sensibility. We seek explanation. We are desperate for reason.
We need to understand one fundamental truth that is spoken throughout all Scripture: God never explains himself. He rarely gives reasons. The events that unfold in our world seldom make sense. We, therefore, are confronted with the basic tenant of Christianity: The righteous live by faith.
I. An expression of faith
Perhaps the greatest expression of undaunted faith ever penned came from the Old Testament spokesman, Habakkuk. Most prophets spoke to the people for God. Habakkuk spoke to God for the people. He lived in times that were hard on faith. He saw the righteous suffering and the wicked prospering. He asked God the two questions we often ask: "Why?" and "How long?" Why are these things happening? How long will it be before they are rectified?
God revealed to Habakkuk that the Babylonians, the epitome of everything Habakkuk (and God for that matter) detested, would become God's instrument of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk did not understand. He could not explain it. For a time, evil would win over righteousness and bad things would happen to good people. God's hand would not move. His face would not be seen. Yet throughout this time of punishment, God reminded Habakkuk of correct living: "The righteous will live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4).
Habakkuk realized that though he did not understand God's ways or timing, he could not doubt God's wisdom, love, or reliability. Then Habakkuk wrote his great affirmation of faith.
"Though the fig tree does not bud and there is no fruit on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will triumph in the Lord; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation!" (Hab. 3:17-19).
Habakkuk affirmed that even if everything he relied on failed, if everything that gave stability to his life crumbled, still he'd trust the Lord.
If Habakkuk were speaking today, he would say, "Though the scaffold falls, the stock market crashes, the company goes bankrupt, and the economy heads south, if everything I rely on falters - still I will trust in the Lord. My confidence in God will not waver."
II. The importance of faith
Corrie ten Boom knew something about tragedy and suffering. She lived with a courageous faith. Upon emerging from a Nazi concentration camp she said, "There is no pit so deep that God isn't deeper still." She picked an apt analogy because pain and tragedy is a pit. For some, it appears bottomless. Many experience a falling, disorientation, a terror, as they grab for walls that are out of reach. They see only blackness, and hear only echoes of the life they used to know. And for many, they claim that God is not present. But Corrie ten Boom, like Habakkuk, reminds us that even in the pits of tragedy, God is still there. He is present.
Yes, pain is real. But God, indeed, is real, too. That's where faith comes in.
Faith reminds us we may not fully grasp God's design for our lives now, but in time we will come to trust in the God's love. Until then, we must believe in God.
III. What faith believes
A. Faith believes that God is too wise to make a mistake.
The God of the universe has a plan for our lives, and He is busy enacting it. But it is not easy to discern. It is often above and beyond us.
We view life as though we are watching a parade through a rolled-up program. We can only see what is immediately in front of us. But God is high above us and sees all of life at one glance. He sees both the beginning and the end of things, while we see only the present.
We are always wiser after the event. But while the crisis is occurring, we are unaware of why we are going through a tragedy. Only after we reflect does it strike us that God was in it all along. For that reason, we trust in the ways of God, believing that He is too wise to make a mistake.
On the wall of a concentration camp, a prisoner had carved these words.
I believe in the sun, even though it does not shine. I believe in love, even when it isn't shown. I believe in God, even when he doesn't speak.
B. Faith believes that God is too kind to be cruel.
Over the marble fireplace in the mathematics Building of Princeton University, written in original German, is the scientific credo: "God is subtle, but he is not malicious." God is never malicious in his dealing with us. Whatever he does, He does for our good.
The apostle Paul spoke of the kindness of God and His amazing grace when he wrote
"We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8:28-29).
These verses are as important for what they do not say as they are for what they say. They do not say that everything that happens is good. They do not say that God causes evil. They do not say that everything will turn out okay for everyone.
What they do say is: God is at work in the world, especially in the lives of his children. His glorious purpose is to make us like his Son, Jesus Christ. And to that good end, God can and does use all things - the good and the bad, that which He causes and that which He permits. It assures us that no experience has to be a waste.
C. Faith believes that God always knows best and does best in His time.
When we try to impose our timetable on God, we get into trouble. For example, a man found a cocoon on a tree in his yard. He was intrigued by it and decided to watch it change. One day, he saw a tiny butterfly inside the delicate covering and he watched it struggling, trying its best to break out of its captivity. Finally, the man became so frustrated that he decided to use a razor blade to make a tiny slit in the side of the cocoon, in order to free the struggling butterfly. Soon afterward, the butterfly was free, but it could not fly and finally died prematurely.
There are times of trials, when we want to short circuit the maturation process. We want to "bug out" or "beg off", while God wants to prepare us for a great work or a new phase of life. Like the butterfly, it is only in struggles that we obtain strength.
D. Faith believes that God is in control, and therefore we can rest easily.
George Buttrick has said, "The same sun that hardens the clay melts the wax." It is our choice whether we will let the inevitable suffering and misfortune of life harden or soften us. We can choose to be hopeful or hopeless. We can decide whether we will be an optimist or a pessimist. It all depends on how we look at it, and we determine in which direction we look.
E. Faith believes that when we cannot trace the hand of God, we must trust the heart of God.
Habakkuk presented a great affirmation of faith by saying, "Yahweh my Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights!" (Hab. 3:19). The deer Habakkuk is referring too was a mountain climbing deer known for its sure and steady feet. On the most treacherous terrain, it never fell. This is the Lord's promise to us. He will keep us on our feet as we travel the treacherous paths of life. He may not get us out of the troubles, but He promises to get us through.
God is here for you, too. He will never leave you. He cares too much for you. Even if the night is dark and the storm is raging, know that God is here. Even when you can't see the hand of God, you can trust the heart of God.
Will you trust him? Even if you don't understand why, will you trust him? Trust him because you know that he knows why. Even if you wonder how long, will you trust him? Trust him because he knows the time and the length of suffering. Trust him without explanation, logic and reasoning. Trust him because he is God.