When We Don’t Understand Why

When We Don’t Understand Why

I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Exodus 33:19

Last year, we moved less than a mile down the road, so we still live in the same neighborhood and we still walk our dog up and down the same sidewalk. When we go by our old place, our dog tries to enter the driveway, going to what he thinks of as his home. He simply doesn’t understand why we won’t let him return and there’s really nothing we can do to make him understand. Buying and selling a home is a concept that is beyond his intellect. All he knows is that he wants to go home and that we won’t let him. It must all seem very unfair. If he could talk, he’d be asking us – Why? With the distance between his comprehension and ours though, he’s never going to see the bigger picture.

That is what I thought of when I read today’s passage. In it, God told Moses that he doesn’t have to rationalize himself. I will do things according to my own purpose that won’t make sense to you (my paraphrase). It may be that God just wants to keep some aspects of his will a secret. It may also be however, that Moses was simply incapable, with his intellect, of understanding everything about God’s purposes. God will do what God wants to do, and man simply doesn’t have the capacity to understand the why of everything God does.

As smart as I may find myself, I have a suspicion that the intellectual distance between my dog and me is less than the intellectual distance between God and me. As far as I think my comprehension is above my dog’s, God’s is infinitely farther above mine. Just as I simply cannot explain some things to my dog, God simply cannot explain some things to me.

Still, when life doesn’t go our way, we go to God, wondering why. It’s not wrong, of course, to ask. We can and should go to God, attempting to understand his purpose. In any trial, we should pray, asking how we are to respond. What is your will for me here, God? What do you want me to do? It would be a mistake though, to think that God owes us some explanation. In this life, we simply don’t have the capacity to grasp everything about God or his will. We may never get to know why because, like my dog, we just don’t have the ability. In those moments, we must choose faith, believing that God will work out all things for good in the end, according to his own purpose, even when it doesn’t make sense to us.

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