Jayme Kloss was 13 years old when she was kidnapped on October 15, 2018. A man broke into her house, murdered her parents, and took her.
The story tied my stomach up in knots as I watched it unfold on national news and joined with people all across America in hoping and praying she would be found safe.
When she escaped 88 days later and flagged down a woman walking her dog, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, God …” I said to myself.
And it made me think: maybe it’s right to thank God in a moment like that. But if I hope to have a faith that has any kind of integrity then I can’t just thank God for the girl being rescued without also wrestling with the question of why He didn’t intervene sooner, like before her parents were murdered.
I struggle with these kinds of questions on a personal level, too, with things that have happened in my own life. It’s hard to make sense of a lot of it. Sometimes it would be easier to just say, “God’s ways are higher than mine …” and hide from the questions. But if I fail to engage with the messy realities of life then I’m afraid my faith is little more than just wishful thinking.
These aren’t the most comforting thoughts when talking about the inspiration for a song I hope people will hear on radio stations that aim to be positive and uplifting. And yet, if we are to be “ready to give an answer for the hope we have” (1 Peter 3:15), we must do the work of honestly grappling with questions like these and follow where they lead us. We may be surprised by what we discover along the way.
The book of Job is a good companion for this work.
Job, a good man, loses nearly everything and everyone he loves. As he sits in the ashes of the catastrophe of his life his friends gather to comfort him, but they only make things worse with their cliché paint-by-number answers, hollow sympathy, and the kind of dumb math that says, “as surely as 1 plus 2 equals 3, if something bad has happened to you, you must have done something to deserve it.”
After 29ish chapters of this nonsense, God shows up in a whirlwind and finally speaks. What He has to say more or less reminds us that there are a lot of questions in life that don’t come with answers, or at least the kind we could understand.
Job’s story saves its most profound truth for last, suggesting that, in the end, answers may not be what we desire the most anyway.
In Telling The Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale, Frederick Buechner writes, “the words of the comforters are words without knowledge that obscure the issue of God by trying to define him as present in ways and places where he is not present. God himself doesn’t give answers. Into the midst of the whirlwind of his absence he gives himself.”
As the whirlwind falls silent, Job says, “my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you …” his voice raspy and hoarse, ravaged by grief, and yet settled (Job 42:5). In the end, seeing the God he’d always heard of turned out to be enough.
We think we want answers when the catastrophes of life hit. But the story of Job reminds us that an answer isn’t always what we need or even desire the most. Answers rarely — if ever — bring healing.
But to experience the presence of God in the midst of our suffering is very healing. Our questions burn away like fog at sunrise and in their place comes the deep sense that we are held and that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Or as Isaiah 63:9 says, “in all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy, he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them. …”
Centricity Music recording artist Jason Gray has combined insightful and heartfelt lyrics with infectious pop melodies for over a decade. His last full album, 2016’s Where The Light Gets In, debuted in the Top 5 of Billboard’s Top Christian Albums Chart. Learn more at JasonGrayMusic.com
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