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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




The Whys of God

By Robert C. Crosby
Aug. 14, 2011

“Some people are meant to play baseball and others are not.”

The Baltimore Orioles’ doctor prefaced his diagnosis with these words as he looked at the concerned young man sitting across the room from him. With the examination complete, his verdict was about to be delivered. This teenage son, a 15-year-old major league hopeful, waited alongside his father and hung on the doctor’s every word.

Joe Davis, the young man in the examination room that day, already had a promising baseball career and with good reason: At only 15, he had been clocked throwing an 85 mph fastball. At 16, Joe threw four no-hitters over a seven-game period and had an ERA of only 0.58 (an average of less than one earned run allowed per game). If those statistics were not enough, he finished the season striking out 20 of 21 batters in a championship game. All indicators were that Joe was among those who were “meant to play.” But a freak injury had thrown him a curveball that landed him in several doctors’ offices, and now finally in this one.

Up to this point, the Davis family’s sights were set on Joe’s dream for a berth in the major leagues. The top university in the nation established contact with him before he even entered high school. His pitching tutor was a former player for the New York Yankees. Long before Joe’s visit to the doctor, and during his first year in high school, however, he was warming up in the gym with the other ballplayers when, without warning, he suddenly felt something pop in his back. Immediately he knew something was not right.


The diagnosis

At first Joe’s injury seemed to be minor. But each time he tried to throw a ball, the muscle would pop again — so much so that he took a whole year off from baseball. The next year when he tried to pitch again, the muscle just kept tearing. He faced months of specialists and more tests; one doctor suspected leukemia.

Once the doctor’s verdict came, the words fell hard.

“You are not one of the ones who are meant to play ball,” he said. “Your body will not allow you to play.”

Joe’s father, ever by his side, had caught practice fastballs from his son for years, at times until his hand could no longer stand the pain. Now, listening to the doctor, he could only stand by in shock. Joe had pulled the tissue that connects the scapula muscle to the back. While it wasn’t leukemia, Joe’s dream had come to an end. Deeply disappointed, all he could ask himself was, Why? Why am I here?


The questions

When life throws us devastating news and disappointments, questions come for all of us.

Why, God?

Why me?

Why this?

Why now?

As followers of Christ, we often find ourselves moving along our journey of faith toward dreams we thought were all a part of God’s plan. Suddenly, however, we are facing experiences altogether different from what we expected, and we are left holding a heart full of questions.

When the questions come, some would-be comforters may offer us “advice”: “Remember, ‘God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform’”; or, “Ours is not to question.” Or, perhaps, “You can never really know the reasons why God allows hardships to come our way, so just accept it and move on.”

Sounds simple, but often with challenges and changes comes a paralyzing fear of what appear to be empty tomorrows and a depleted faith.


A why in the wilderness

The most famous journey of faith in the Bible was that of the Hebrew nation following Moses out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, a trip that began with high hopes. But this long journey soon proved to be anything but smooth or straight. Instead, it was fraught with challenges. For every one step the people took forward, it seemed they fell back two (or 200) steps. And yet, this pilgrimage offers a fitting model for our journey of faith today; one worth considering.

Ultimately it took Israel 40 years to travel a distance that, along a straight line, would have only been 240 miles. What should have taken several weeks instead took them 40 years! This figures out to a progressive rate of about six miles per year … or less than four feet per hour! Does your faith journey ever seem similar?

The long road of Israel’s journey has been forever recorded in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), and for good reason. It is not just a history of land acquisition, but a legacy of faith development. In fact, in Deuteronomy 8, God answers several questions and reveals at least seven whys for the Israelites’ long and arduous journey. Although these reasons may not all apply directly to your current struggle, they are worth prayerfully considering.

The “whys in the wilderness” reveal:

Your challenge is humbling: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you …” (Deuteronomy 8:2a, NIV).

The bad news that came from Joe’s doctor was not only a blow to his plans, but also to his ego. Despite all the medical efforts, Joe’s back never healed. This struggle eventually led to him coming to Christ. After he did, he said, “The injury to my back became the healing of my soul.” Staring reality in the face, Joe saw something he “never desired to behold — the bankruptcy of my life.” Up to that point, his life had been built around a dream that he says made him feel “like he was somebody.” 

Your challenge will reveal your true colors: “… to test you in order to know what was in your heart” (v. 2b).

The wilderness tests showed that the nation of Israel was still deficient in character. You and I face frequent tests that serve as the challenges and contexts that show what we are made of; they reveal our strengths and our shortcomings.

Your challenges will test your obedience to God: “… [to know] whether or not you would keep his commands” (v. 2c).

Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments only to find the people already worshipping an idol, a golden calf. The commandments revealed God’s will, but the wilderness did something else. It tested their faith. Life is testing your obedience and mine every day.

Your challenge will create more hunger for God: “… [to cause] you to hunger [so He can feed you]” (v. 3a).

Six months after the doctor gave Joe the “bad” news, a young lady asked him if he had ever received Christ as his Savior. That night Joe went home to his room and thought about her question. In the quietness of his bedroom he prayed, “God, I give You all of my life, not just a part of it but the whole thing. I will not resist You; come into my heart. I give it to You.” At that moment, Joe recalls, “I was changed and forgiven, and I felt God’s Spirit come into my heart.” The loss of something temporal led him to an eternal gain.

Your challenge will remind you of the food you most need: “… to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (v. 3b).

Because God loves us as He does, He allows challenges and struggles to tap (and tap hard, sometimes) our deeper needs (cf. Matthew 4:4). But, fortunately, the Father does not leave us alone in our desperation. He feeds us with His words of hope (Psalm 119:105).

Your challenge is part of your training: “… [to discipline you] as a man disciplines his son” (v. 5).

Oswald Chambers, in his popular devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, said repeatedly that “God is the engineer of our circumstances.” He allows the plotlines of our lives to involve blessings, but also hardships and challenges in His shaping of our character and our souls.

Your challenge is ultimately for your own good: “… so that in the end it might go well with you” (v. 16).

The final chapter of the baseball story is one of God’s love and answers. In Joe’s senior year he realized that his pitching career was over. He gave up his dream and a shot at fame for something eternal: the dream of God for his life.

Only a few months after getting the doctor’s bad news, Joe attended a prayer meeting where an older woman prophesied over him that he would be “called to tell others about Christ and [that one day] he would get a Ph.D. in apologetics.” At that point Joe had never even heard of apologetics. When he told his father about this, his dad said, “You might as well want to walk on the moon.” He said this because Joe had missed class 51 times the previous semester in high school and was not a good student.

What Joe didn’t realize while facing this physical challenge was that he would one day have a wonderful family of his own. Today he not only has that Ph.D., he is a professor at Southeastern University, an Assemblies of God school. When he is not investing in students, he travels across the country preaching and teaching apologetics.

Looking back after more than 30 years, Joe says, “I am so glad for the injury that saved my soul, brought me a new life, gave me a life worth living, and has employed me in the service of life everlasting.”

The whys of God are often mysteries that remain unsolved in this life, whether for nations starting over again or teenage baseball players with a dream. While God sometimes does reveal the reasons why, other times He does not. Despite our opportunities or obstacles, and regardless of the questions these obstacles raise, God always has His reasons. When those reasons are made clear, we rejoice. When they are not, we learn once again to trust the Engineer of our circumstances as we watch our dream fade and the dream of God come alive.


ROBERT C. CROSBY is professor of practical theology at Southeastern University. He is the author of More Than A Savior: When Jesus Calls You Friend (Random House), newly released as Nook and Kindle e-books.

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