When You Don’t Understand

I stood with a grieving mother and father in the cemetery, where we stared at a casket and an open grave. They were each holding a toddler. Their daughter, the children’s mother, had lost her battle with cancer. The heartbroken couple was left with memories, bills, and two babies.

It isn’t suffering that troubles us; it’s undeserved suffering. Those who are thoroughly good suffer as severely as those who are monstrously evil.

Attempts at explanation invariably fall short. I have learned more about trust from those who have it than from those who write about it. Three people—Joseph, Job, and Jesus—have defined trust for me.

Joseph: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

We wouldn’t rush for a front-row seat to hear Joseph deliver a homily on trust back when he was living in luxury, the spoiled son of a wealthy father. But we listen with slack-jawed awe when he declares his trust in the face of betrayal, false accusation, and unjust imprisonment.

Job: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 13:15).

We wouldn’t walk across the street to hear Job spout aphorisms on trust back when he was the richest man in the world. But he has our undivided attention when he declares his trust-unto-death after losing his family, wealth, and health.

Jesus: “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (Luke 23:46).

We wouldn’t even give undivided attention to what Jesus might say about trust before his earth-visit. But we listen in bowed-head reverence when he gasps his trust from the Cross.

From these three, I have learned what trust is:

It is certainty that God is in control even when it seems that everything is out of control.

It is certainty that God is doing what is right even when it seems that everything is going wrong.

It is certainty that God is present even when it seems that he is absent.

Joseph, Job, and Jesus modeled trust by declaring it, not when things were wonderfully good, but when things were terribly bad.

So, I hear God asking me:

You believe in me when everything is going right—would you still trust me if everything was going wrong?

You believe in me when you are prosperous—would you still trust me if you lost it all?

You believe in me when you feel my presence—would you still trust me if you felt I had forsaken you?

Trust means hanging on to an unyielding faith in God when things are not going at all like you want them to: when God doesn’t seem supportive; when you feel mistreated, betrayed, and abandoned.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” wrote Solomon—then added, “do not depend on your own understanding.” Your understanding is limited. God’s isn’t: “His understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5). Trust is an acknowledgment of that truth.

He knows what he is doing; you may not.

He knows where he is taking you; you may not.

And he knows why; you may not.

So through tears, trial, and trouble, trust him—even when you don’t understand.


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