When God Doesn’t Make Sense
“1 You are always righteous, O LORD,
when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease?
2 You have planted them, and they have taken root;
they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
but far from their hearts….”
Jeremiah 12:1-2 NIV
This has been a difficult month. Laura completed brain surgery, we were in a car accident, and dad just had a heart attack a few days ago. Sometimes things go great with Jesus, and sometimes things make no sense (to me) at all. I’m sure Jeremiah would agree with me.
Jeremiah the prophet had been witness to one of the great revivals in the bible when King Josiah takes the throne and uses all of his authority and power to remove idols and worship of false gods in Judah. The story for Jeremiah however, doesn’t end there. After King Josiah dies in battle, Jeremiah sees King Jehoahaz come to the throne. Jehoahaz is a wicked man who talked about God but never submitted his life or his actions to God.
Oddly enough, Jeremiah not only sees King Jehoahaz come to the throne, but also sees this wicked king prosper during his reign. That leaves Jeremiah in a dilemma.
Jeremiah understands that God is good. He understands that God’s ways are righteous. He knows that God loves for His people and has compassion for them. He doesn’t question that at all. What Jeremiah does wonder though, is why God would allow the wicked to prosper? He doesn’t challenge God’s character or righteousness. He questions his circumstances. “God I know You are good and I know that You are righteous, but why are things this way? Why is the good King Josiah gone and now it seems that King Jehoahaz is prospering in his place? Why are things happening this way? Why are things going so wrong?”
I understand Jeremiah. I’ve been there. I’ve had to try and piece together why it is that so many people I know truly give their very best to serve and follow God often end up enduring the most challenging of times and circumstances when those who couldn’t care less about God seem to prosper so much more. I’ve had to watch my wife deal with her illness and pray through frustration with God and wondered why things are the way they are. I know God is faithful. I know He loves us. I know He is righteous. I don’t question that. I just wonder sometimes, like Jeremiah did, why do things have to be the way they are?
Today I am glad that Jeremiah 12, doesn’t end at verse 2. I am glad that the chapter doesn’t end with a question, but rather with God’s response. I am glad that He gives Jeremiah some insight about his circumstances, and in doing so, gives some insight into mine as well. Here is what God says to Jeremiah in verse 5…
“5 “If you have raced with men on foot
and they have worn you out,
how can you compete with horses?
If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by [c] the Jordan?”Jeremiah 12:5 NIV
God acknowledges that Jeremiah has been racing “with the men on foot.” He recognizes that challenges that Jeremiah is up against. He acknowledges that Jeremiah’s journey is riddled with challenges, but He doesn’t end there.
Just as significant as what God says here, is what He doesn’t say. God doesn’t chastise Jeremiah for questioning. He doesn’t punish Jeremiah’s lack of complete faith and trust in Him. God is not harsh or condescending toward Jeremiah. Instead He points Jeremiah to the future that has not yet been revealed.
God basically tells Jeremiah, “You think it is tough now? Wait until later. You think running with the men on foot is challenging, wait until you compete with the horses. If you think the safe country is challenging, how are you going to manage in the swamps of the Jordan?” Why would God speak in such a way? It sounds harsh. A bit cruel. What is He trying to say?
Maybe it can be summed up like this. Awhile back, Josiah was asking to skip judo practice and to just compete in the tournaments because he thought he could beat everyone already. Of course if he skips practice and competes in the tournament, the outcome is already set. He’ll lose and he’ll lose badly! The outcomes of tournaments are really determined at practice. The better he can do at practice, the better he can do at tournaments. The more he skips practice, the worse he will do at the tournaments. Practices are difficult for him. Although he may have some natural ability, victory will only come with consistent hard work and dedication.
Practices are physically strenuous, competitive, and require speed, skill, and technique. If he were to complain to me about how hard practice is and ask why he has to go to practice before tournaments, I’d say something along the lines of…
“If you have worked out with the kids at practice, and they have worn you out, how can you compete in a tournament? If you struggle in the safety of your club, how will you manage the pressure of competition?”
When I take my son to judo practice, I am preparing him to be able to earn victories at tournaments. I am preparing him to give his best in competition and to succeed
I wonder if that is what God was saying to Jeremiah.
When you can run with the men on foot, you will be more prepared to compete against the horses. Maybe God is saying to Jeremiah (and to me), “I am preparing you to give your best and to overcome anything that comes your way! When you can overcome the challenges of today, you become better prepared to step into My promises for tomorrow.”
Someone once said, “Champions don’t become champions in the ring – they are merely recognized there.” Sometimes when it seems like God doesn’t make sense, I need to understand that rather babying me and making my journey easy, the Lord is challenging me and pushing me to grow into becoming a champion for Him.
Lord I don’t understand why things turn out the way they do, but I do trust You. I don’t know why it seems that things are so hard and so challenging, but I know that You desire to raise champion believers who will carry the message of Your grace to the world. May I accept all that comes my way and always be confident that You are in control. Amen.