“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” –Hebrews 11:8-10
Recently I have been asking “why?” The Bible is filled with stories of God’s people asking “Why?” of God, from the people wandering through the Sinai with nothing to drink in Exodus 17 to Psalm 10 in a cry for justice.
Looking at Abraham, the Bible does not give an account of his response when God asked him to leave his country (Genesis 12) other than the fact that he went. But later on, when God starts telling him about children and heirs as a progression of the same promise, Abraham, in his old age, is a bit inquisitive. I can only imagine that at many points in his journey Abraham was at the very least curious about what God was doing in his life and why God had called him away from his home.
“Why” shows a yearning for what we know should be, like the yearning described in Romans 8:19 in the context of suffering (which is an important point). When you think about it, the question “why” most often comes up when there is some dissatisfaction with (or at least a misunderstanding of) the current state of things.
Who wouldn’t be discontent in times of difficulty or hardship? Isn’t that normal? Shouldn’t we want to know a good and just reason for what we are going through? At our core, we want to know that justice will be served, that we are headed somewhere good and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And not only that, but we want to arrive there quickly.
The world in which we live does not offer anything that can completely satisfy this longing. In our world, the ruthless and insolent succeed, orphans go on without parents, people die of starvation and preventable diseases and the cycle of poverty is endless. In the lives of many these situations are hopeless. They accept what the world has given them and they live and die without even the hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
This brings us to the crux. What is the answer to the question “why?” Why God have you brought me here? Why do you have me in this situation? Why is the world the way it is?
This is where we must redirect our focus from ourselves to the one who is all-knowing, all-powerful, just, sovereign and good, and we must redirect our focus from the present to eternity. God is always working for His glory and our good. Why should I rejoice in suffering? (Romans 5:1-11) Because God is good. Because God is sovereign. And because God is saving us. On the cross Jesus suffered for our sake (1 Peter 3:18). And as his followers we have the privilege of sharing in His suffering and also in His glory (1Peter 4:12-16).
We have been adopted as his sons and we are heirs of a better kingdom (Romans 8:15-17). And despite what happens in the short term, we know that we are marching on towards eternity with Jesus.
We can walk through the hardest of times, times when we do not understand, times when we lose things we love, times when we have no food to eat, times when the people closest to us are against us, because we have a relationship with the God of the universe, because He is trustworthy and because we are looking forward to being with him forever. It is for discipline that we must endure (Hebrews 12:7) because God is leading us, he cares for us, he loves us and he is making us more like him.
Whether or not we know the reasons “why,” by faith, we (like Abraham) obey God and walk through difficulty because we are looking forward to the city that God has designed, a heavenly country where God himself will be with us and will be our God (Hebrews 11:13-16, Revelation 21:3). And whether or not we know immediately “why” some things are the way they are, we ultimately know that God has promised us a better country and more importantly, we know that God cannot and will not fail to uphold his promises.
He is worthy of our obedience in all circumstances.