Not Answering for God

Wayne's back from his trip to Spain and Rome and shares with Brad some of his experience there, especially an intense discussion with people who have been involved in great tragedy or suffered prolonged sexual abuse by a relative. Their question, how do we convince people God is a loving God when he allows such horrible things to happen to them? What came out of that conversation was the power of simply saying, "I don't know," and surrendering our need to be on God's public relations staff. Helping people learn to live loved is not a matter of finding logical answers to their deepest questions but simply introducing them to the Abba Father whose incredible love engages our lives. He doesn't always answer our questions or honor the false dichotomies we set up, but his love enveloping our heart make the questions irrelevant. Tragedy doesn't disprove his love; his love is greater than our tragedies. Only God can make that clear.

butterfly people.

Podcast Links:
Dan Mayhew's book, The Butterfly and the Stone: A Son. a Father. God's Love On A Prodigal Journey
The Ongoing Challenges in Kenya


  1. Great thoughts – reminded me of one my favorite poems:

    “As the Ruin Falls” by C.S. Lewis

    All this is flashy rhetoric about loving you.
    I never had a selfless thought since I was born.
    I am mercenary and self-seeking through and through:
    I want God, you, all friends, merely to serve my turn.

    Peace, re-assurance, pleasure, are the goals I seek,
    I cannot crawl one inch outside my proper skin:
    I talk of love —a scholar’s parrot may talk Greek—
    But, self-imprisoned, always end where I begin.

    Only that now you have taught me (but how late) my lack.
    I see the chasm. And everything you are was making
    My heart into a bridge by which I might get back
    From exile, and grow man. And now the bridge is breaking.

    For this I bless you as the ruin falls. The pains
    You give me are more precious than all other gains.

  2. Thanks for that poem David. It fits with the discussion on this podcast. I’ve read some of CS Lewis..this is the first poem of his I’ve seen. Blessings.

  3. For years, the need to have gift wrapped answers was the norm. I do suppose the allure of plausible control is strong to the flesh of all, in general. Somehow, if I just had more knowledge about any given situation, then… Simple child-like faith leans firmer into the one constant reality we can all share, the love of Father. The agonizing and lingering questions fade out of sight when His love is fully engaged within. As Mary chose, this can never be taken away!

    Is it our philosophical old nature being weened from the flesh’s interpretation (of what life consists) which causes us more pain than not knowing? Maybe it’s also one way we qualm our personal fears. The knowledge pursuit (remnants of the tree of good and evil) can never bring true peace, which does pass it and leave it along the pathway of Life…

  4. Thank you for opening up a discussion on this very difficult subject: how to experience living loved when something very serious has happened in one’s life. A lot of people do not go through extreme tragedies, however many wonder how they would fair if they ever faced a major tragedy. Would they experience God’s love in their time of their greatest need? It is definitely easier to snap out of a relatively minor trial and get back into the grove of living loved. In the case of a tragedy such as the one the sister in Spain experienced, it is natural to ask why did this happen even after she prayed as a young girl for deliverance from the repeated situation.

    I wonder if soon after such major tragedies, one battlefront in the mind that obscures relationship with Father is the intense feeling of abandonment. Jesus even cried out the Psalm 22:1 line, which may not have been answered until three days after He died. It is particularly difficult when the feeling of abandonment persists for years and the “living loved pills” have long since worn off. The theory that one day in God’s kingdom we will find clarification is a difficult golden nugget to envision when sitting in a huge pile of odorous brown nuggets.

    For now there are no human answers and each person’s path is unique in getting back to the place of a restored/trusting relationship with Father, especially if the process is taking years, decades or even if ever in this life. What may be encouraging for those in this situation is hearing from others going through major trials that have lasted for years, and I hope Wayne will be able to do a podcast with Dan Mayhew. Again no magic answers are expected from Dan, however it will be encouraging to hear from someone in the midst of a long term trial when there is still no end in sight.

    The feeling of abandonment brings to mind those encouraging lyrics “To the earth you’re now enslaved, to the creatures long depraved. Flesh has now turned to grey, as the larvae gnaw away.” (Cannibal Corpse).

  5. On another but related topic (now that I’m spewing), the book of Job usually surfaces as a potential source of encouragement in the discussion of trials. It is apparently one of the oldest books in the OT, and Job (if he existed) may predate Abraham. This book is included with the OT wisdom literature, and some Jewish scholars suggest that the book may be an allegory of a righteous person in the midst of major trials, i.e Job was not a real person (based on the fact that there is an abundance of magic numbers; 7 sons/3 daughters/3 Chaldean bands/3 friends). Whether Job was a real person (based on Job 42:14-17) or not, I wasn’t there so I don’t know. Although there are some good lines in this book, it definitely has an old covenant flavor to it – Job is physically rewarded in this life with more than he originally lost (Job 42:12, 13). So for me this book is not as helpful as it might seem on the surface since in the New Covenant setting, resolution of trials/tragedies are not guaranteed in this life.

    Also, what the hell is a roused leviathan?

  6. What you might be missing about Job, Jim, is that it is the only Old Testament book that will help people to the conclusion that my sufferings may not be a sign of God’s disfavor. It is a counterweight to all the Deuteronomy’s do-good-get-good-do-bad-get-bad carrot and stick. Yes, almost everything said by Job’s adviser’s and Job in his pain is dead wrong, but that’s what God makes clear when he shows up and reminds Job of God’s compassionate care for all of his creation. Many jewels in Elihu’s speech and God’s declarations. And since it pre-dated the old covenant, it’s even more fun that it helps undermine it, not underscore it…

  7. Wayne,

    I SO Loved this conversation you and Bard had here, thank you so very much. Also I loved Dan’s site as well, funny thing is as soon as I heard you mention the name of his book and when I saw the cover of it, like a flash in my thoughts regarding the title of it, I remembered I had a picture that spoke volumes to me, the picture can be seen on my profile on face book, I tried searching as to where I got it from but failed, the picture speaks such life to me way back when I got and it even much more today!

    Also, I greatly appreciated what you’ve added here into the mix of comments shared here thus far.

    His continued richest and best to you and Sara,
    Richard and Margi

  8. How do we explain all these people’s experiences in the light of God’s sovereignty? Ephesians 1:11 speaks of God working ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His own will. To say that God does not have the power to stop certain man made mishaps or perhaps natural disasters is to say He is not in control of the universe. I came to know God through a very painful ordeal, I still have scars to show for it, however I have never stopped seeing him as a loving Father, coming to see all things in the light of God’s sovereignty and purpose has helped me put all my pains into perspective. To say that God is power is limited by man’s free will is to say that God is not in control and if he is not in control then we are of all men most miserable.

  9. @Isi-May I gently share my thoughts? : ) It seems to me that we’re dealing with very large mysteries here. I also have scars from some painful ordeals and also some ordeals that have not yet been resolved. I wonder if it’s not so much “either/or”…either God is sovereign and He’ll stop all the injustice and twistedness or he’s not sovereign at all and my will or someone else’s will has the power to thwart Him. Rather slowly, through my hurt and sense of shattered justice at times, God is displacing those questions with a more powerful awareness of His character. There are mysteries which God has chosen to keep to Himself. For example..where I have been misunderstood and treated as though untruths were true…I honestly cannot explain how person A’s will intersects with God’s will in this situation. God could have stopped this person or changed their heart but (at least for now) chose not to. When I recognize that both sides of that tension are resolved in a relationship with Jesus, as Father’s love is more and more unfolded I will leave the mystery to Him, He is bigger than this injustice and I can do what He has given me to do today. I hope I’m not “rambling” but that this made some sense. My thoughts just “spilled out” and when I started to write it was hard to stop : )

  10. Isi and Sue hit the deal. I love her question and Sue’s response. Wonderful. This was a good podcast. As I was listening I wondered if the real issue for God’s kids is posturing “pain” as a problem. Lots of books about the “problem of pain” and reconciling God’s sovereignty to our experience of deep injuries. My experience of the death of a child showed me the depth of my soul and gave me a “knowing” (a yada kind, heart and head) of Abba that is life altering and transforming. And in the end quite similar to my experience of extreme joy in that regard of knowing Him better than before the event. It truly is a mystery and a tension that is difficult for us to hold. What if pain is the tool God uses to plumb the depths of our souls. Pain as a tool in the hand of our enemy creates distance between us and God. God is still bigger in the end. He loves us.

  11. May i gently suggest that in God’s sovereignity he has given free will in that He will not force anyone to accept His love or change their heart. Like the rich young man when Jesus asked him to leave behind all he had done and acquired for himself, and simply follow….Jesus let him go his way, he did not force him….we aren’t told if at a later time he did follow. So we may pray for people to be open to God’s love but i believe that neither he nor our prayers compel them. God being sovereign also knows if their hearts will ever change and what would bring about that change. Pain occurs when and where God’s love is denied. God loves and heals and teaches us through the pain, but i don’t believe he causes it because he can’t deny himself.

  12. @Wayne – thanks for your thoughts on Job, however you avoided commenting on the second (and notably more important) question – how many leviathans does it take to change a light bulb?

    @Joni – you are definitely an awesome source of encouragement and strength for those going through “the fire” like the family who tragically lost their young son in the email that Wayne read. You have been through the fire and have experienced God’s love.

  13. Thank you all so much. For the poem, the honest thoughts, and yes God is bigger and he does love us. I am so grateful for this on-going conversation.

  14. “There are no words for this. This is as hard as it gets, but I promise you one thing right here by your sister’s grave. It’s going to be a long, long journey that won’t end until we get to heaven, but its going to be okay.”

    Mary Beth Chapman to her son Will as they stood by the grave of their daughter Maria.

  15. Hi Wayne and Brad, I’ve been listening to you guys (here on the little island of Malta) for many years and I want to tell you what a massive encouragement your conversations have been to me, helping me through an often lonely journey through some very deep valleys. Both ‘Transitions’ and ‘The Shack’ were major stimulants of healing and life to me.

    I am amazed how this subject of ‘not answering for God’ or ‘is God in control?’ have been in the forefront of what I feel God speaking to me about lately. Before hearing this podcast I read ‘ Speaking my mind’ by Tony Campolo who basically suggests that God is not in control and if He was, how do we make sense of the horrific injustices of suffering that saturate this world? In a nut shell, he proposes the idea that God relinquished control to give us free will, without which there could not be love.
    I quote from ‘Speaking my Mind’: ‘I find it a welcome relief to believe in an Almighty God who is doing all He can to recover the lost creation and make it into a realm in which His loving kindness will be evident everywhere and in everything. God says, “I assure you that one day, My love and justice will triumph, and I will reign throughout the universe. Until then, I invite you to join Me in the struggle against the powers of evil and darkness. Go and tell people about my son and His salvation. Join with those who fight in My cause against the injustices that harm the poor and the oppressed. Participate with Me in My struggle to change the world that is, into the world that ought to be.”
    Such a God is the God that I find in the Bible, and who has been revealed in Jesus Christ. Such a God is a loving God, and we cannot blame Him for evil. I found it easy to fall in love with this God – and I did. His name is Jesus.’

    Thank you guys for being such an amazing blessing 🙂

  16. Wow… I just listened to this podcast today.. the day before the 10th anniversary of 9-11. There are more people who need to hear this.

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