Sometimes I Ask God "Why?"
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
O.K., I'll admit it right away, that sometimes when I ask God "why?" it's really a stupid question with an obvious answer, and I shouldn't have had to ask.
When I was a little girl, our family read aloud a chapter from the Bible every day. We were in the book of Proverbs, and came to Proverbs 14:12: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Rather than being struck by the obvious warning in the verse, and probably being a little smart-alecky, I said to God, "How come, God, don't you know good English? ‘End' is a single subject and ‘are' is a plural verb; subject and verb are supposed to agree!"
Later I learned that God gave us His Word in Hebrew and Greek. Somebody had translated that verse into English. Furthermore, I learned about a "compound subject" which takes a plural verb. So much for that silly question.
Several years later, sitting on the front porch at night, looking up at the bright Texas stars, I said to God, "God, you're so big and great, why don't you know how hard it is to be a little girl ten years old with so many problems?"
Then I found Hebrews 4:14-16 in my Bible: "We have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to Him and never stop trusting Him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it." My question was answered!
Now, sometimes the questions I want answers from God about are not trivial. They visceral, heart-shredding, about undeniable loss. "Oh, dear Lord, why did you take Tim away from us?" Tim was our first-born grandson, an ardent Christian, a committed husband and father of two little girls, an enthusiastic and competent worker. He died two days after his 36th birthday, shortly after a stem-cell transplant for a rare blood disease. We loved him, and suddenly he was gone. Why did God take away such a treasure?
But God knows me very well, and He knew that, even if He told me why He had taken Tim, I would not understand. His wisdom His love, His strength, are all beyond my human understanding. So in answering my "why," He only said,
Oh, what a wonderful God we have!
How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge!
How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!
So what should I do when my heart is breaking, and I don't understand what God is doing? Here's what King David decided to do:
LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.
I don't concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.
But I have stilled and quieted myself, just as a small child is quiet with its mother.
Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD-now and always. Psalm 131
A baby nestled in his mother's arms doesn't ask questions. His mother holds him, and that's enough. He snuggles, and rests. And that's what the Lord told me to do when I had questions I could not answer: Just trust Him. He is dependable. He i
Changing the Name Won't Fix the Problem
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
Back in the 1930's in Texas, where segregation was a law and a life-style, my father pastored a congregation that welcomed everyone who wanted to come. That included, I remember from those depression and "dust bowl" days, the people who lived in cardboard boxes underneath the Trinity River bridge that separated Oak Cliff from downtown Dallas. As a child, I remember grieving when I saw the crumbling, old "separate but equal"school buildings some children had to attend, and I always wondered why they were required to sit at the back of the bus. Daddy had taught us that we were created in the very image of God Himself, and therefore we owed every person our deepest respect.
Recently here in South Carolina, we've had a spate of requests that the names of buildings be changed because they honor Civil War veterans. I understand and sympathize with the impetus that drives those requests. The only problem, in my judgment, is that changing the name on the building won't fix the problem. There's a deep heart problem that must be addressed, a problem name changing can't cure. It's a heart problem that affects every society, every nation, every community, every individual in the world.
An odd example comes to mind. Walt and I invited a pastor from the Philippines for Sunday dinner, Our seven kids had lots of fun asking him questions about his family and their culture. He said, "Now let me ask you a question. People keep telling what they say is a funny joke, and I can't understand why it is funny. What does Polack mean in jokes?" (You may too young to remember that in the '70's many jokes concerned people from Poland, although American history is crowded with the tremendous accomplishments of Polish people far beyond what statistics would predict.)
How can I explain to a Filipino a stupid American prejudice? I asked him, "In the Philippines, do you have a certain group of people that everybody thinks is dumb?"
He burst into laughter. "Oh, yes! Yes! Everybody thinks people from ________ Island are really, really dumb. . . . So that's what a Polack is! Now I see the joke."
It's a terrible part of the human condition: if you are not "one of us," if you don't act and believe just like me, you are dumb and worthless. It doesn't matter which form it takes: prejudice hurts. I remember how it hurt when a woman at the beauty shop leaned over and said to me, "I don't know who you are, but you sure aren't one of us!"
In the very first chapter of the Bible, God talks about the human beings He intended to give life to (and to give eternal life to, by Jesus' death on the cross).
"Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness;
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea,
over the birds of the air, and
over the cattle, over all the earth and
over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
So God created mankind in His own image;
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them." Genesis 1:26,27
These human beings, Adam and Eve, and every human being after them, were shaped by the eternal hand of God Himself, shaped to be extraordinarily like Him, each one created to be His intimate friend. And that's what should shape our thinking about people we come in contact with. They were created in the image of God, and they deserve our deep respect and honor, no matter their heritage.