Trusting God When We Don't Know Why

Trusting God When We Don't Know Why

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There was a season in my life where within a six-month period everything that made sense was turned upside down. It started with being laid off from my dream job and ended with the death of a grandparent, and a bunch of other really hard things in between. When the dust settled and I had some perspective, I told a friend that I just wanted to know the reason why some of these things had happened, because that way I would know God had a purpose. And I would be OK if I could just figure out the purpose. But my friend, being much wiser than me, asked me a hard question: “What if God never shows you the reason why? Can you still trust Him?”

I found that my faith depended way too much on that answer. I could trust God with the painful things in my life but only as long as I knew why He allowed them. The not knowing was driving me crazy and made it hard for me to trust that God was working good in my life.

I’ve been reading Trusting God by Jerry Bridges (check him out on the recent podcast) and have found his thoughts on this really helpful.

“It often seems more difficult to trust God than to obey Him. The moral will of God given to us in the Bible is rational and reasonable. The circumstances in which we must trust God often appear irrational and inexplicable. The law of God is readily recognized to be good for us, even when we don’t want to obey it. The circumstances of our lives frequently appear to be dreadful and grim or perhaps even calamitous and tragic. Obeying God is worked out within well-defined boundaries of God’s revealed will. Trusting God is worked out in an arena that has no boundaries. We do not know the extent, the duration, or the frequency of the painful, adverse circumstances in which we must frequently trust God.

"Yet it is just as important to trust God as it is to obey Him. When we disobey God we defy His authority and despise His holiness. But when we fail to trust God we doubt His sovereignty and question His goodness. In both cases we cast aspersions upon His majesty and His character.”

Ultimately, when I begged God to show me why, I was really saying that I didn’t trust Him. I doubted that He was really in control of my life, instead wondering if God had somehow forgotten about me or made a mistake. But God doesn’t owe me an explanation, and my belief should not hinge on Him doing that. Scripture is clear that God’s character is loving toward us, and even the painful parts of life that He allows are so that He might be glorified in us. As Bridges writes, “He has designed His eternal purpose so that His glory and our good are inextricably bound together. What comfort and encouragement that should be to us.” 

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  • --"Ultimately, when I begged God to show me why, I was really saying that I didn’t trust Him."

    I don't think this is always true. I have two friends who are incredibly strong believers who are having their worlds rocked by a problem pregnancy while ALL of their friends and family are lifting them up in prayer. I honestly don't understand why God would not intervene for them -- it seems like the perfect opportunity for him to reveal himself and gather up some glory to him. I don't understand why. I don't think it's innapropriate to ask, and I don't think less of my friend's faith as she grieves over the frustration of the uncertain health of her unborn child.

    It is easy to say from the back side of a troubled situation that "God is unquestionably good."  But If you walk through life never struggling with the goodness of God, the odds are good that you have not experienced very much of life. We are not just children of God obeying a parent and we are not merely the creations of God at the whim of the master. We are called friends of God -- and when I percieve my friend does wrong by me, even if they do it to my long-term benefit, it is my right under the friendship to question them, their motives and the authenticity of their friendship.

    Questioning God is not the mark of weak faith, it is the testing ground by which our faith is made stronger. People who never question God have weak faith in the same way that someone who constantly says "Yes" no matter the consequence, without thinking and without condition is a weak friend. Is good unquestionably good? Yes.  Is that always an easy conclusion? No. No, of course it isn't. And sometimes the inherent goodness of God is meager comfort, like a too-small blanket on a long, cold night. I can question my circumstances without doubting the truth of the goodness of God. When I ask him why I am not asking "Why are you so horrible to me?" I am asking "Why do you not show your face?"

    There is strong biblical precedent for questioning the methods of God. We see it time and again throughout the old testament, and often we even see the heart of God swayed by his love for his people. Sometimes feverent, intercessory prayer can change the outcome of our circumstances -- and yet sometimes it does not. Even in those cases where we don't understand why our why goes unanswered, the problem happens not because we ask "Why," but because we cannot come to grips with the veil being pulled over the goodness of God and the answer that his face is turned away.

    Someday, I do hope that we will better understand those circumstances which make no sense in this earthly life -- but to say that asking "Why" is evidence a weak faith, or that those who ask "Why" ask only because they mistrust God is incomplete.

  • --Ashley, loved the post, I was going trough a tough season of not knowing what is going on in my life  and asked God for the answer to the "why"s but they never came and and slowly things improved but there are still some things that make no sense or hasn't changed but I have come to a point in my life where I know He is good and his plan for my life is good its hard to understand that and accept in the midst of the storm but the more I trust he is good and has a good purpose for it all the more peace I fill and am okay with not knowing the answers to the why because some of this answers we will not get on this side of eternity. To back to you point to me now "its trusting in a good God and truly believing there is good in it". God bless.

  • --This is such a timely post!

    God has been very faithful in teaching me to trust Him...especially when I don't understand and when it just doesn't make any logical sense. Sometimes I am tempted to either help Him along or just do things my way. But then I am reminded of all the times that the Lord had shown Himself strong in very dim situations and circumstances in my life and I am encouraged to continue to trust in the Lord no matter what.

    About a week ago, a song that I had heard before came into my spirit...you may have heard of it..."Trust and Obey" by Big Daddy Weave.  I downloaded it and have had it on repeat since then.  This past Sunday, my pastor began a new series on trusting God.  Today, this article was posted. Coincidence? I think not. God has my full attention in this matter.

  • --Both Ashleys have some great points here.

    I've definitely found that trusting God when you're not in control and don't understand what's happening or why is a journey with ups and downs. I agree that questions do reflect a lack of trust, but I also would add that where we do lack trust that needs to be expressed.  Questioning God, crying out to him to speak to us, explain things to us, comfort us, reassure us that he really is there and really does care is an appropriate childlike response that I believe is encouraged in scripture, portrayed again and again in the Psalms, in Job, in Ecclesiastes - the searching and the struggle to trust without understanding is one of the most fundamental experiences of being human.  So yes, I think it's important to identify the root problem, but it's just as vital to acknowledge our struggles before God and lay ourselves raw in his presence, rather than censor our emotions and resist the urge to question God.

    I think there are times in our lives (such as in the situation Ashley TOF describes) when all we can do is hang on - we can't control or censor our responses, we can't muster up faith (or indeed questions), we can't believe it's going to be okay or talk ourselves into rejoicing.  When you're living through your worst nightmare you aren't always able to choose how to react.  In those times, we live off the faith we've cultivated through the good times, we let go of our own strength because we don't have any, and we literally fall into God's mercy.  We actively choose to trust God in the times we can make those choices, and when we can't we just give up and let him carry us.

  • --I read Trusting God by Bridges a couple years ago.  Very convicting.  There were times when I had to stop reading and just spend some time in prayer confessing my lack of trust and asking God to help me learn to trust Him in all things.  

    I do agree with MrsAshleyTOF, though.  I think we are allowed to ask "Why?" sometimes.  I know that it is often that very question that makes me dig deeper in God's word and spend more time in prayer, therefore strengthening my faith and trust.  There have also been times when I "blamed" God for something that in reality was something I'd brought upon myself through sin.  When I asked "Why?" God showed me exactly why.  Ouch.    

  • --I truly don't understand why some recent events took place. I earned a decent degree last year, and everything was looking up. But since then, I have had to move back in with my parents, I have completely unemployed, and I am now living in a new town where nobody knows me. Plus, everyone is only hiring the best of the best, even for entry-level work, which only makes things even worse. I don't see things getting any better anytime soon. My situation may never improve.

  • --Interestingly, I've found that sometimes God does answer the why, and maybe I don't like the answer so much.  

    Recently someone shared with me some struggles she had suddenly dropped in her lap.  But her response was interesting: time to ask God the reason for the interruption.  I thought it showed remarkable faith: assuming God had a reason and would reveal the next step she should take.

    Sometimes the way to phrase it is, "OK, what is the lesson here?"  

  • --"Trust", is something that is extremely hard for me, and so many others to do, and I think it's because we live in a fallen world. Often we are surrounded by people growing up that pick on us or talk about us behind our back and it causes us to have low self-esteem and ultimately thing EVERYONE things the same way about us. But with Christ it's not true. He loves us unconditional no matter what, even when we had a tendency to throw little fits. haha

    I, also believe that both Ashley's nailed it on the head. Something that I noticed a lot at my Christian University is people are so afraid that being mad or upset with God isn't normal or they are afraid of how they will be perceived. There are times in life to be angry, to be made, to weep, etc. At least that is what I got out of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

    There are so many questions in my life that I want to know the answers to, but I know on this earth that won't happen. I will have to wait until I am in heaven and I know God will impart me with all of the knowledge I've ever needed that I could not have on this earth. Ultimately it's for His good, and to glorify Him. Whenever life starts to get me down I have to go back to Jeremiah 29:11-

    "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

    It will all work out for His good and for our good! :)

  • --So good and helpful in learning how to further our intimacy with the Lord. Agree that it's truly in our 'tests of faith' that it is in fact strengthened and we come to a greater understanding of the character and heart of God, which at the end of the day, is really HIs desire for us. To grow in love with WHO He is and not simply what He can or can't do for us.

    I do believe, however, we have to question the integrity and attitude of our heart though when we 'question' God and be careful to not allow the enemy room to accuse God to us when we're hurting and then from that place, we accuse God of being mean, cruel, absent or ignorant of our pain. Because He is none of those things nor does He cause any of those circumstances in our life. But deception, fueled by the enemy, is sneaky especially when we're hurting. To say that God COULD have intervened or done this or done that and staying in a place of discouragement or disappointment can exalt our own opinions, ideas or preferences above the holiness, goodness and sovereignty of God. And not only in the midst of our faith test do we wrestle with God, but we then fuel those lies by speaking out unbelief, doubt and fear. We cross a fine line of Holy ground when we allow our motives in questioning Him to come from a place that's demanding or arrogant simply because we don't understand or we think things could or should have done a certain way. Joseph is a prime example of someone who had multiple reasons to question God and I'm sure he probably did. But at the end of the day, the integrity and character of His heart had been tested to continue moving forward, despite not fully understanding or knowing why, in obedience, trusting that God WOULD use his pain and cirumstances FOR his good....and He did...and I'd imagine many things began to make sense for him. God not only used those hard circumstances to prepare Joseph's heart in receiving the platform that he had but he redeemed the loss of those things as well. THAT'S the God we serve.

    Zechariah and Mary are 2 that 'questioned' God...both with completely different heart motives. One that was rooted in unbelief and another who's wonder of God was bathed in great humility. The outcomes of both speak for themselves, one went mute and the other birthed the Savior. It wasn't the questioning that was wrong but the attitude in which it was done.

    There's an essence completely missing here that hasn't been fully touched upon that is at the heart and core of who Jesus was and should be at ours when we have questions. It was one of 2 characteristics that we see Jesus describe Himself as...humble. Andrew Murray says it perfectly, "Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.” It's this place of confident faith and hopeful expectation that God IS good. God IS love. God IS just. And whether I see Him move today, tomorrow, or next week, He cannot lie and will make good on HIs promises, whether in this life or the one to come.

  • --WLiscano, I like your post. I think David also asked "Why God?" in the Psalms many times, but usually he ended with something like, "You're my only hope, so you see I'm desperate with no one else to turn to" which is a more godly response than, "Why?? I deserve better! You're so cruel!" Job tried that approach, but at the end of his debate with God he said, "I shut my mouth and repent in dust and ashes"

    I've been dealing with an unknown health problem for about 2 months now, pain and dramatic weight loss. It's very hard to trust when you don't know anything and your body seems to be steadily wasting away. But I guess every situation is technically unknown, even if we think we know. Was it Corrie Ten Boom who said, "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God"?

    The funny thing is, I was convicted recently of how thin my faith is in God...I cried to Him many times to make me stronger and trust Him better, and now He sends me this...my mom tells me, that often happens. If you pray to be more patient, He will send a series of aggravating things your way. Maybe to make us realize what we are asking for is *His power* not ours, to carry us through tough times, to test us.

    Hoping I can live all the words I say and trust God for my future completely.

  • --I agree with you wLiscano.

    ""people are so afraid that being mad or upset with God isn't normal or they are afraid of how they will be perceived. There are times in life to be angry, to be made, to weep, etc. At least that is what I got out of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8."" No, this passage does not speak about normality in being mad with God.

    Actually, Ria, not even Job was saying : """Why?? I deserve better! You're so cruel!" Job tried that approach, but at the end of his debate with God he said, "I shut my mouth and repent in dust and ashes" Job said he is innocent, he didn't sin, but didn't say God is so cruel because he is suffering.

    In fact, David and Job and others who suffered expressed their suffering, feelings, attitudes but never said God is cruel, unjust, or anything that is contrary to His character.

    In fact, I hope I will continue to maintain the same attitude with my spouse: whenever he hurts me, I express my hurt, I am ""bleeding"" but not getting mad at him or angry, calling him names. i may be wondering how come that he did that thing, but I know him well enough to not misjudge his character or our relationship based on one (or more) things that hurt me. Same it is with God - if there is genuine love and authentic knowledge of Him in personal intimate encounters.

    Yes, I would say being mad or angry at God is not normal for a child of His. feeling hurt, betrayed, left behind ...etc is part of human pshychology, but that does not mean you can point all that to God and make Him responsible for your attitudes and feelings.

    I don't see any believer in the Bible being mad at God. Oh wait there is Jonah but again..why was he mad? because people would repent and not die because of their sin? What a heart attitude - is it of  child of God?

  • --King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3: 16 I guess this explains it well "Can we say even if he does not"

  • --I think it is natural to ask why but it really is fruitless.  My husband and I have four babies in heaven with the latest returning to Him only a few weeks ago.  My own life was put into danger in the process.  Of course, there are medical reasons that can be pursued for my inability to carry a pregnancy to term but the spiritual reasons allude me and I've come to the point where I am OK with that.  I know my babies are with Him and really that is the best place to be.  I don't know what I'm supposed to learn other than trust.  Right now my biggest obstacle is that those around me feel like they know the answers to God's plan in letting my babies die and then feel the need to preach those answers to me.  That hurts more than anything because any human answer is so unsatisfactory and paints an image of an ugly, spiteful God.  That's not the God I serve.

    I do continue to ask because I'd love to see the bigger picture.  I hate questioning Him. No matter how much I ultimately trust Him, I will always ask and feel hurt and betrayed when my world comes crashing down.  In those times I just have to discipline my mind and tell myself that He loves me even though it doesn't seem like it.

    MrsAshleyTOF - I will think of and pray for your friend.  My only living child was the result of a complicated pregnancy.  I can't even begin to describe what it meant to me to know that everyone was praying for me.  Even people I didn't know were praying as friends got their small groups to pray as well.  Even with the babies I lost it meant so much that people had been hoping and praying for the best along with us.

  • --So who was the ""angry at God"" child of God? Nebukanezar or daniel? I don't see either of them being mad at God.

    Tara, I feel your pain. As WLiscano said, let's not paint the image of God thorugh our feelings of pain. He is who He says He is even if what happend doesn't make sense.

    All I am saying - and yes, you don't need to defend yourself before me, and yes I have suffered enough to be eligible to speak on the matter - one believer needs to come to a point where his/her love and worship towards God are UNCONDITIONAL.

    That starts without the bad theology that God has to do this or not that. Everything is because of His GRACE: the fact that we are alive, that we stand, that we eork that we have shelter, job, families, friends etc/  YOu and I came with nothing to this world and will leave the same way. So God does not owe as ANYTHING> In this fallen world we do have our share of suffering, as any human being! But the advantage is that somehow God will work things for better, here or just in heaven. We need to begin with that and progressively gorw our love to God to BECOME UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

    I don't have the answers to why your babies died. But I tell you - the answer is NOT to get angry at God or paint a different picture of Him comparing to the one of the Bible. This is Satan's work - through anything that happens, to ""help"" us turn away from God, plonjing in disbelief, getting desperate or madly frustrated. Hang on even tighter to God, even with your hurt feelings, and He will bring you through.

    For those interested in the apologetic answer of the gratuitous evil, see Bruce Little ""God why this evil?"" -  a Creation order Theodicy.

  • --@Dreamer Guy

    I can't say for sure why God has you where he does, but this sounds like a great opportunity to work on yourself. I spend six months unemployed and living with my parents, and it was awful, but it gave me a lot of time to develop myself as a person. Don't waste this time and instead use it to grow into a stronger man of God. Deal with your emotional baggage. There's no time like the present, and it will pay huge dividends down the line.

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