Recently a friend, who became acquainted with some of my life’s story, asked— rather bluntly— “Lori, do you sometimes wonder if God is really good and if He really loves you since He’s allowed so much hard stuff to happen?”
It was a bold question— one that momentarily stopped me in my tracks. But it was an honest question— one that’s bounced about in my brain a time or two because my life has indeed seemed to make a habit out of things that are hard.
I was conceived in adultery, nearly aborted, and later adopted— but into a home filled with the strife, struggle, and strain of mental illness. I spent a season as an angry atheist before coming to Christ; endured nearly a decade of being abandoned by my adoptive parents; and have a lived my entire life as a person with autism. I’ve grieved at the graveside of my mom, my dad, my father-in-law, and my precious sister-in-law; and right now, my husband is battling cancer while laboring to plant a new church on the Mississippi coast.
So, my friend’s bold question about the character and compassion of God comes out of that context. My life’s been hard — some of your lives have been harder! The truth is, there are times when we struggle with the course God has carved for us and with the intentions and affections He has for us in light of that.
Into the Wilderness
If God is truly good, then why does He allow things that feel painfully bad to pour down upon His people? If God is really kind, then why does He allow extended seasons of suffering— even lifelong seasons of suffering? If God is all powerful, then why does He not simply wave His mighty hand to dissipate the darkness that envelopes our existence?
I don’t have an “easy button” answer. I often don’t understand the ways of my God, but through the tales and testimony of His holy Word, I am slowly learning to trust the God of my ways.
One place that’s been helpful is the story of the Israelites’ exit from Egypt (Ex 12-14). The plagues were complete and their captor had finally cried uncle. They’d been in a long season of abusive bondage and suddenly they were set free from Pharaoh’s cruel arm by God’s strong hand.
God was sending them to Canaan —to the beautiful and bountiful land promised to them centuries earlier. There were two routes they could take. One was a 4-5 day journey through Philistia. The other would end up being a 40 year journey through the wilderness.
God sovereignly sent them into the wilderness!
Do you ever feel like God has sent you into the wilderness? I know I do, and being stuck slap dab in the middle of long wilderness wanderings can find us slap dab in the middle of long wilderness wonderings. Wonderings of “Why do you have me here?” and “Why don’t you get me out of here?!”
As I contemplate the question: Why did God send Israel into the wilderness? I’m comforted with the answer: Because God is omnisciently wise!
God’s Omniscient Wisdom
In omniscient wisdom, God knew that Egypt— after releasing them— was about to pursue them, with violent vitriol. If they’d taken the short cut, Egypt would have caught them and conquered them instead of being downed and drowned by the waters of the Red Sea.
In omniscient wisdom, God knew that the fierce Philistines, who lived along the short path, weren’t an army they were physically ready to fight. That day would come, but it wasn’t this day, so He sent them the long way.
In omniscient wisdom, God knew how hard-hearted and haughty His people were. He knew the awful arrogance that lay hidden in their hearts (hidden even to them), the pride that goes before a fall and the hubris that needed to be humbled. He knew that the humility that should be a hallmark of His people would grow best, not along the well-trodden ground of the diminutive distance, but out of the sandy soil of a few decades of desert distress. To an omniscient and all wise God, creating long term humble holiness is of much greater value than granting short term human “happiness.”
In omniscient wisdom, God knew that years of physical slavery had weakened their accurate understanding of their spiritual sonship. The toilsome time in Egypt had numbed their knowledge of who their God was and of who they were in Him. He knew they needed to learn of His awesome attributes, laws of love, ways of worship, and precious covenant promises. They needed to know the Giver of the Promised Land before that gift could provide anything genuinely pleasant and prosperous.
In omniscient wisdom, God knew that a tried faith would result in a true faith, and that true proven eternal faith is more precious than fire refined temporal gold and is the only firm foundation upon which a life can safely stand.
So, in omniscient wisdom, He created a counter-intuitive classroom that would teach them eternal lessons about the Redeemer and their relationship to Him that they might know their ultimate end: a life lived for the glory of God and the good of their fellow man.
Our Own Wilderness Wanderings
And you know what? In omniscient wisdom, He’s still doing the same thing: creating counter-intuitive classrooms where we can grow in godliness and in grace imputed goodness.
As a long-standing student in the school of suffering, I am learning (albeit incrementally) that God is plotting our paths in perfect faithfulness just as He plotted Israel’s path. His way is still the right way— always the right way— even when it’s the long way, the hard way, the painful way.
He always knows best what we need most … even when it’s what we like least.
When wilderness wanderings lead me to wondering if God is good, and if I am truly loved by Him, it’s usually because I’m looking at my crisis apart from Christ! In those moments I strive to fix my eyes on Jesus, the all wise author and perfecter of my faith, the ever kind carver of my course, the flawlessly faithful One who preserves me on this path, the good and gracious God who knows exactly what He’s doing with every inch of my journey on this earth— even if I don’t have a clue. The sovereign Shepherd who sometimes directs His disciples into the desert because He knows that the sands of suffering often contain the most fertile ground for growth!
My friend, our God is indeed good, and it is in love that He leads us—no matter where He takes us! May we trust Him with our trials!
About the Author:
Lori is daily amazed at the mercies of God in her life and by the hand of Providence that has carved her every step. Nearly aborted, graciously adopted, and later abandoned, Lori has traveled the road of atheism and lived a life of autism. Along the way she has wrestled deeply with doubt, and through that wrestling has learned to rest in the precious promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through all the ups and downs of her journey – the “many dangers, toils, and snares” – she has found Christ faithful, even when she’s been faithless and has seen the sovereign mercy of her God form hope out of hopelessness and grant light even in the deepest darkness. As a singer/songwriter, worship leader, and women’s speaker you’ll find the silver thread of that hope and light weaving its way throughout all of her music and in all of her message.
Lori is the wife of PCA Church Planter Phillip Sealy and the mom of Joshua (16) and Elizabeth (14). The Sealys have recently moved to Ocean Springs, Mississippi to plant a new church for Grace Presbytery.