The year following the birth of my first son was a bit of a blur. Four months into motherhood, I found myself beyond “newborn tired” and unable to muster up the energy to get off the couch some days. Sicknesses kept pervading my body, and good health seemed like a far-off dream. I thought to myself, Is this really what happens to women after they have children? My exhaustion seemed even beyond the norm, so I sought medical help to get to the root of the problem.
After months of sickness and questions, blood work revealed my thyroid was no longer working properly. Instead, it was barely functioning, causing me to have little to no extra energy, accompanied by a weak immune system susceptible to illness. When I first received the phone call from the doctor telling me I had a thyroid disease, relief flooded my heart. There was something wrong. However, the relief was quickly countered by fear, anxiety, and even more questions.
“Why God? Why would the blessing of having a child cause me to suffer physically? Why would you allow me to have a condition I will be aware of for the rest of my life?”
“Why” gripped my heart, shaking the foundations of my faith, and causing me to question what I already knew about God in the Word.
This question isn’t unique to my own wrestling of faith. In fact, all throughout Scripture, the people of God asked this very same question when their circumstances turned sour and God’s providence tasted bitter. In the Old Testament, the Israelites questioned God’s love and provision while on their 40-year journey in the wilderness. They had experienced the miraculous salvation of the Lord, but found themselves in another situation they would not have chosen.
In spite of the Israelites’ wandering and waywardness, God’s judgment and grace were woven into their story. Though they doubted and questioned His goodness at times, God faithfully drew them back to his heart and purpose. In Deuteronomy 29, Moses spoke to the Israelites, recounting God’s deliverance and reestablishing the covenant God had made to his people nearly 40 years prior (Deut. 29:12–13).
And yet, even as Moses reminded them of the Lord’s covenant, he also revealed to them, “But to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear” (Deut. 29:4). The Israelites weren’t given full understanding as to the “why” of their circumstances. However, they were given the “Who.” They were reminded of who God is over and over again. It was upon God’s faithful character they were to build their lives.
In Deuteronomy 29:29, Moses explained, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” The secret things—the things we do not yet know or understand, the hard questions that often fill our minds—are not ours to know. Instead, as believers, we have been given more than enough in the Word upon which we can build our faith. This truth, unlike the words of man, is unshakable, a foundation that cannot be cracked, broken, or shaken. The answer to “why” is trusting the “Who.”
When faith-shaking questions crash in on us, causing us to question and doubt, God calls us to go back to what we know in the Word. He has revealed to us tenants of truth that withstand any storm. Just as the Israelites did not fully understand their circumstances, we too will not understand the “why” to everything that happens to us. However, when we flip “why” to “Who,” the earthquake of our soul stills.
What the Israelites did not fully understand in their oppression, deliverance, and wandering, was that God was working out his plan of redemption with their every step. Their deliverance from the Egyptians was a foreshadowing of a larger deliverance that would happen through Jesus Christ—a deliverance of our souls from the slavery of sin and destruction of death. Ultimately, this was God’s end goal, his “why.”
Through the Israelites’ history leading up to Jesus’ birth, life, and death on the cross, we too can see God’s “why” and learn to trust his heart even when unanswerable questions grip our souls. The sufferings we experience in this life reveal to us God’s mysterious glory and redemption. When we can’t understand God’s ways, we can always trust his heart.
This side of the cross, we trust God with the “secret things” we have yet to understand, and build our life’s foundation on the truths revealed to us in Scripture. The “gaps” that have been laid out in the Word aren’t ours to reveal, but what has been given is more than enough to sustain us in this life, through every stormy trial and faith-shaking question of the soul.
It’s true that motherhood and life will cause our faith to shake and tremble at times. There will be seasons of the soul when what we know seems to crumble to the ground. However, these circumstances are always surrounded by the tenants of God’s Word that hold us fast. We look to Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promises, and to his birth with expectation and wonder. He is the culmination of the answers we search for, the truth we cling to in hard times. This Christmas, bring your “why” questions to Jesus, and celebrate Who he is. Lay down what troubles your soul and receive his grace. Let your longing for the truth lead you to the everlasting arms of your Father and your Savior, Jesus Christ.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION/ APPLICATION:
What in your life has caused you to ask “why?” What “secret things” are you currently wrestling with?
How does the story of the bible help us to learn to trust God’s heart even when unanswerable questions grip our souls?
How can you apply what you know to be true of God to your current “whys?”
Gretchen Saffles is passionate about equipping women to dig into the Word of God and find their identity and purpose in Christ. She is the founder of Well-Watered Women, an online women’s ministry that reaches worldwide. She has written several Bible studies including Redefined: Identity in Christ and Proverbs 31: Women of Dignity, Washed in Grace. She is also the creator of the “Give Me Jesus” quiet time journal for women. Through Well-Watered Women she longs to meet women right where they are with the hope of the gospel and ignite a desire in their hearts to know Jesus more. On any given day you can find her with a coffee cup in hand, a baby on her hip, a toddler by her side, a message stirring in her soul, and a God-sized dream on her heart. Gretchen lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, Greg, and her two sons, Nolan and Haddon.