A number of years ago, I went on my first missions trip. At the time I was excited, but really wrestling with questions of what I was supposed to be doing with my life, frustrated and a little bitter when I saw others around me—some friends and some not-so-much—finding great success. Rather than rejoice at the good fortune of friends who the Lord had blessed, I found myself grumbling over the fact that others who I was working harder than those finding good fortune.
“Didn’t I deserve better?” I thought.”Why was I being treated so unfairly…”
“Where was God in all this?”
I had this same experience again as I waited for my visa to be approved. Because it took so long, there were moments when my wife and I doubted if it was going to happen. We tried to pray, but often it devolved into telling God what he should have done. Kind of like what the book of Malachi described.
There, God confronted the Israelites over their hard-hearted ways. They were bitter that they were under the thumb of another nation, despite having been returned to the Promised Land. They did not prosper as they saw that God had promised in the Law and through his Prophets. The glory of the Lord was not manifest in the rebuilt temple. And so, through Malachi, God told them:
“You have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet you ask, ‘How have we wearied him?’ When you say, ‘Everyone who does what is evil is good in the Lord’s sight, and he is delighted with them, or else where is the God of justice?'”
Think about that for a second: Their words wearied the Lord. They doubted his goodness and faithfulness. They doubted his character over and again, yet had the gall to ask why he wasn’t answering their prayers. And since he’s not answering their prayers, God must delight in evil.
Did they really expect him to answer positively? To say, “Sorry guys, I totally messed up here.”
God had already stated upfront his great love for them. He chose them to be his special people, and yet they rejected him. He was their Father, and they failed to show him honor. He was their Creator, and they failed to show him any esteem. Yet they still expected his blessings to pour out upon them.
And is this any different than what the rest of us experience on a daily basis? We westerners love our autonomy, and our believe that we can say whatever we want, whenever we want, to whomever we want. We want to believe that God exists to make us happy, and are disappointed when we learn otherwise. And so we move from asking questions to questioning. We doubt his goodness, his character, his motives, and everything else you can imagine.
But the Bible calls us to something different. Because we know God’s character, we can trust without presumption. Because we know that God is good, we can ask questions without questioning. We ask, we receive, we give thanks, knowing that God is for us; he has plans for us. This is what doubters and grumblers need to remember. This is what I need to remember. I may not experience everything according to my plan, but I know that what I experience will be for my good and I will never be put to shame. Neither will you.
This post was adapted from one originally published in 2012.