We’re a peculiar people that make little sense. We put our thoughts in weird places that don’t stand up to reason. When you really stop and think it through, there’s a nonsensical quality to us, isn’t there? I see contradictions of thought and logic in a variety of places. I hope you’re still with me, even though you may be teetering on being offended and moving on.
I recently had the honor of sharing my thoughts on a friend and co-pastor, Ally Weaver who finished her battle with cancer one week ago this morning. The imagery of this sweet friend crossing that finish line and falling into the waiting arms of Jesus is perhaps more poetic than it is anything else but its so helpful to me (and so many) at times like this when we feel the sense of loss. I’m incredibly comforted with the truth that just as I sit here at my keyboard forming the next thoughts that will spill out of my fingers and appear on this screen, my dear friend is staring at Jesus who is right in front of her. Like I said at her recent celebration service, I’m there by association. Someone I know is right now in the full presence of God, taking in His glory through all of her senses. If I knew that my friend right now was meeting a celebrity, or the President, or the Queen of England I’d be so excited for them and I’d probably even talk about it at the time the scheduled meeting was taking place. So, let’s just multiply that by…oh, I don’t know….a million, trillion, gajillion. That’s how I feel when I think of Ally right now.
As true and amazing as that is, there’s still a struggle to understand the “why” behind the facts. This remarkable young woman—a dearly loved wife to an extraordinary man and a mother to two sweet young children—is now not with us physically. Why in the world would God seemingly ignore our cries for help on her behalf? Why would God choose it best to take His precious daughter home to be with Him instead of leaving her here to be with us? What good can come of this? I just don’t understand it. And its sometimes in the non-understanding that we struggle most. Its in the myriad of unanswered questions that faith can find its biggest fight. Indeed, the very existence of God is argued by atheists worldwide through the argument of pain and suffering. According to research, there are between 450-500 million atheists and agnostics in the world. I’ve talked to a few. Their #1 evidence against the existence of God? The presence of pain and suffering.
So it’s no wonder why those who believe in God and even follow His Son Jesus get tripped up when deep pain comes along. We just don’t get it. We don’t get how an all-powerful God who claims to be all-loving would allow such a travesty like a sweet young woman facing, fighting, and falling to the monster of cancer. It’s maddening. Let me share a rough analogy that might help. It struck me yesterday and I’ve been rolling it around in my mind. It’s simple in nature so it may not suffice the deep pains we feel through loss. But maybe it will help a little.
I love to fly. Anytime I get to fly anywhere I get giddy. I try and play it cool when I’m standing in line at TSA, or walking the concourse on the way to my gate, or getting my ticket scanned by the ticket agent. But inwardly, I’m thrilled to be flying. I’m like a little kid inside. One thing I always do whenever possible as I step through the curved doorway onto the plane is to sneak a peek into the cockpit and catch a glimpse of the walls, floor, and ceiling that are virtually covered in knobs, levers, slides, gauges, and screens. For that brief moment I take it all in and am astounded at all that goes into flying this machine I’m in. Think about it. It’s a multi-ton (a 747 take-off weight is 735,000 lbs) hunk of metal that is about to use the sheer power of lift and wind to propel itself and its passengers to some far away land, under propulsion of jet engines which are essentially a controlled, consistent explosion.
As often as I have flown, I have never once stopped at the cockpit door and demanded a thorough explanation of every one of those knobs, levers, slides, gauges, and screens. Not once. I walk past that door, marvel at the equipment I see, and make my way to my seat. I’d bet my bottom dollar that if you’ve ever flown on a commercial airline you’ve done the exact same thing.
Why don’t we stop at that door, hold up the line, and make our expectations clear to the pilot and co-pilot that we aren’t moving another inch until our questions are satisfied? After all, this three-quarters of a million pound metal bird is very soon all that will be standing between us and plummeting to our death. Why in the world are we not more adamant about receiving a full explanation of how it all works? We can’t possibly be expected to simply trust the pilot, can we?!? It can’t possibly be that while we know next to nothing about aviation there are those who do and who have dedicated hundreds of thousands of hours to understanding every knob, every lever, every slide, every gauge, and every screen–for the sole, express purpose of making sure that the passengers of their plane have a safe flight to their destination? Nah, we can’t be expected to believe that, can we?
I hope by now you’ve made the connection. There are things that are mysteries to us passengers. We might catch a glimpse of the cockpit, but we won’t ever fully understand how all that really works. I think Deuteronomy 29:29 says it well:
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”
There are always going to be things that happen that we just don’t understand. And there are even going to be things that happen in our lives that we CAN’T understand. They’re simply non-understandable by us passengers. But just like I glance that cockpit, take the right turn and find my seat while putting full trust in the pilot to know how to fly this plane safely while I simply enjoy my beverage and tiny pretzels, I can fully trust God to know far more than I do. I can rest in simply knowing that He sees more than I see, knows more than I know, and loves more than I love.
So here I am. Still hurting. Still not having all the answers. Still wondering how all this could possibly work for good. Still sad. But fully trusting the pilot.