Monday, October 10, 2011

Will God Always Make a Way Where There Seems to be No Way?

Photo Credit: Timothy Patrick Carney

Worship leader and songwriter Don Moen popularized the song God will Make a Way where there seems to be no Way sometime in the early 90’s. I love this song, and had been singing with great delight. I had not really thought about the song until I saw a photo on Facebook one afternoon. At the onset, let me mention that this is not a critique to the song or to criticize the photo, but rather to express my reflection on my own question; Does God always make a way where there seems to be no way? The above photo is beautifully crafted, and seems fit the adage, a 'picture is worth a thousand words'. In today's digital age, however, poses challenge to photography-photos cannot always be trusted; photos are photo-shopped!

Although I admire the beauty of the above photo, my first reaction to the caption was, this is not always true; it does not always happen! Maybe it’s true for others but not to everyone. Why are there so many cancer patients who love the Lord, prayed so hard, yet later died in anguish without being miraculously cured? Why are there so many unanswered prayers if God will make a way where there seems to be no way? Perhaps my uneasy feeling about the photo’s description was due to my recent quest to find answers to ease my ‘emotional’ doubt on the existence of God. It is not intellectual, rather an emotional doubt representing what I feel rather than what I believe and reason out to be true. 

In my quest for answers, I began to explore what makes people disappointed with God. With that, disappointment with God emanates from what one believes but does not have any raw experience to back it up. This means, there is a gap between what we believe about God and what we actually experience. For others, they believe that God is powerful, yet in their experience don’t see any tangible or visible display of God’s omnipotence. For some, they know God is love, but they continually experience emotional and physical suffering--even a tragedy.  The danger of disappointment lies behind every unmet expectation from the divine. In his book, Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey writes, “I found that for many people there is a large gap between what they expect from their Christian faith and what they actually experience.” Then Yancey mentioned a letter he had received from a woman, and I quote: “I kept hearing the phrase ‘relationship with Jesus Christ.’ But I found to my dismay that it is unlike any other personal relationship. I never saw God, or heard from him, or felt him, or experienced the most basic ingredients of relationship. Either something wrong with what I was told or there’s something wrong with me.” In different ways, perhaps, we can identify with the lady’s honest confession.

Meanwhile, I continue to reflect about the problem of pain, injustice, and the misery of human suffering. Intellectually, I know God is love and that Jesus cares, I really do, but emotionally, such description of love and relationship is found wanting. “Disappointment occurs”, writes Yancey, “when the actual experience of something falls far short of what we anticipate.”

Just recently, I read story about two pastor’s kids; born with incurable illness and both died at early age despite lots of prayers from devoted Christians. Why would God ever promise something and does another? How could we understand what Jesus said, “Ask whatsoever you will and it shall be done unto you” with all the unanswered prayers we experience? Although, there seems to be a way for Christians to get around with the unanswered prayers by saying that the problem is not in God but in us; it does not measure up with the experience of many Christians.  

Years ago, a pastor’s daughter was killed defending herself from an attacker who tried to sexually abuse her. The parents were devastated of the loss of a daughter, yet they never blamed God. A dedicated pastor with a growing ministry died in a motor accident, leaving several children behind. About six months ago, David Wilkerson, 79, the founder of Teen Challenge and a pastor of Times Square Church died in a car accident. While surfing news on Yahoo about religion two months ago, I came across of a mega-church pastor of over 8,000 members, Tim Zachery, 42, who was found dead in his hotel room without medical explanation. I couldn't help wondering what the bereaved families said to God in their prayers during the wake of their dead loved ones.

 ...."I came to a pause on the road of my own spiritual pilgrimage to see the footprints of others in the sands of time."
Tragic death, natural disaster, and the problem of pain and suffering do not have satisfying answers. Apologists tried to explain the problem of suffering and pain for centuries, but people are still confused and left wondering why would a good God could afford to see thousands of His own suffer in misery. 

After reading several stories of devoted Christians who had died in tragic accidents or from incurable diseases, I came to a pause on the road of my own pilgrimage to see the footprints of others in the sands of time. Without fear of being misunderstood, when it comes to suffering and pain, even the most devout believer are not exempt from suffering, pain, and even tragic death. 

Although I lavishly believe in the God of the impossible, I also believe that He does not always act the way I think. He does not always give what I want or provide what I need. Although, there are many Christians who claimed they have been miraculously healed or their needs miraculously supplied, such experience do not happen to all people.

Would it be a better description to replace the ‘will’ with ‘can’ in the song to give a proper balance with what is promised in the scripture with what we actually experience? I would put it this way, God Can Make a Way Where There Seems to be no Way. God can, but many times, God will not. The focus here is not our faith, but on God’s sovereign will to exercise His omnipotence. Although God can turn impossible things to possible, He also has the ultimate freedom to refrain from doing it regardless of our strong faith. In His sovereign will, God seems to act known only to Himself hidden-from the frailty of the human knowledge. Don Moen, after all,  is right when he penned the lyrics of his song, "He works in ways we cannot see." Such is the out working of God sometimes-hidden from our naked eyes. Such things are the silence of God’s voice. In the deepest valley of despair and in the darkest dawn of trials God sometimes choose to remain silent. Broken and wounded, we turn to the book of Psalms for comfort. Confused and disappointed, we hang onto a tiny thread on the promises and words of Jesus, "Blessed are you/those...."

It is pretty easy to say, "We don't base our faith in experience but faith in God's Word," but for many people they look for experience to validate their belief and assumption. If they will not get what they expected from their Christian faith or from God's promises, they raise more questions than answers. Others fake their experience with flowery Christian jargon, "nothing is wrong, everything is fine. God is good all the time". If the truth were known, inside their psyche, they are hurting deeply. While we wear a facade of outer smile, the pain is unbearable inside. This lack of honesty and authenticity in our confession hurts us even more.

The question then is not whether or not God will make a way where there seems to be no way; the real question is whether or not you will remain faithful to God even in the darkest night of trials and the deepest valley of doubt and despair. The crucible of faith does not look and trust on the answers of God but rather on the character of God. Will you trust God’s character in the absolute darkness?