“But, I don’t want to!”
I heard these words repeated over and over as I instructed the little five-year-old boy to give me his bouncy ball.
“I don’t wanna!! I want to play with it!”
“I know,” I said tenderly, “I am just going to hold onto it and keep it safe until it’s time for you to go home.”
He pouted and whined impatiently.
“But…I wanna play with it.”
“I know,” I affirmed.
After several minutes of this, the boy reluctantly and quite unhappily surrendered his bouncy ball to me.
This scene occurred several years ago when I was working in an after-school program for at-risk youth during my first year of graduate school. This five-year-old boy was one of 45 children and adolescents enrolled in the program.
The day the boy brought the bouncy ball, he was so proud and excited. He earned the ball earlier that day at school and arrived to after-school ready to bounce it around and play. He eagerly showed off and told all who would hear about his new favorite little toy.
As his teacher, I was happy for him. It made my heart soar to see him so excited. At the same time, I was concerned.
The program space was quite cramped and filled with tons of toys and pieces of furniture. Kids were everywhere and running around constantly. Some of them weren’t all that nice. As soon as this boy started to play with his bouncy ball, I knew it would either become lost or be taken it from him immediately. Then it would be gone forever, and he would be heartbroken.
“Hey…I need you to give me the bouncy ball, just for now. I am going to hold onto it until it’s time for you to go home. That way it’ll stay safe, and you can play with it later.”
Of course this boy didn’t understand. He couldn’t see what I could see. He couldn’t picture the very likely possibility of something unfortunate happening to his special toy or his feelings getting hurt. All he saw was him enjoying his bouncy ball.
Therefore, when I asked him to give it to me, he refused. He refused, and refused, and refused. After much convincing, he finally gave me the ball, but I could tell he still didn’t want to or understand why.
I think of this situation often during times I ask God the question, “Why??”
Why did this happen?
Why did that relationship end?
Why did you bring me here?
Why is this job not working out?
Why am I still waiting for this? I feel like I’ve been waiting forever.
Why did you take this away from me?
Why did you make me this way?
So many “whys.” So many times I just didn’t or couldn’t understand the reasoning behind the why. Just like that little boy, I pouted, whined, and begged to have the thing I desired. Sometimes, God allowed that thing to stay in my life or gave me what I wanted. Other times, He allowed its removal or just didn’t give me my way. And those times were often painful. Excruciating even.
But, also like the scenario with the bouncy ball, God understood something that I just couldn’t. He knew what was better for me, even though I just wanted it all go my way.
I’ve often asked God for the why. I implored that knowing the reason would help me trust Him better and have greater faith. For some circumstances, God gave me a why. For others, He didn’t – or at least not the particular understanding I thought I needed. What I didn’t realize for those times is that God already gave me a reason why – I just failed to either recognize it or trust in the sufficiency of His answer.
Some time back, I was in a relationship I believed would lead to marriage. I was so certain, and I was so excited. It was a very good thing. But then, out of the blue, it ended. For YEARS, I didn’t understand and grieved over this. I held onto it tightly and reassured myself that it will still work out eventually. I prayed, and prayed, and prayed, “Lord, make Your will clear to me with this man.”
Long story short – he married someone else. I was crushed. I didn’t get why it went this way. I persuaded myself that it was going to work out the way I wanted…and then, it didn’t. Again, I went to God and pleaded, “Why did you do that? What are you playing at? I thought we were on the same page with this one.”
A few months after this man’s marriage, I realized something for the first time. If I had married him, I would have committed myself to a life that I actually didn’t want – a life that wasn’t compatible for me and how God made me. I had certain visions and dreams for my life given to me by God, and those did not line up with this man’s. His life was going in a different direction than mine, and he needed someone whose direction fit with his. We would have gotten in each other’s way of following our unique God-given callings.
By His grace, God showed why He did not give me that relationship. Upon this revelation, I marveled at His grace and knowledge. I felt so thankful that He knew better than I did. In His perfect timing, He gave me this insight. He waited for me to get to the point where I completely surrendered my desire for this relationship because of how much it hurt. I am certain I needed to be at this place in order to fully receive and reap the most benefit from this revelation. In His infinite power and wisdom, God determines what understanding to give us and what to withhold – all according to His divine purposes. Therefore, sometimes, we will get to know the why. And other times, we won’t.
I lost my father when I was a teenager. It was very tragic for me and my family.
To this day, I don’t really understand why God allowed this to happen. Perhaps I never will. I desperately wanted to know the specific reason for many years. I persistently pleaded with God to tell me. I thought it would heal the gaping wound in my heart and bring me closure. I thought it would provide at least a little bit of meaning into something that made absolutely no sense and hurt so terribly.
God hasn’t given me the specific why.
But He gave me something better.
Because I didn’t have the why, my grief-stricken, aching soul devoured the Bible for something that could relieve my suffering and give me some sort of answer.
I didn’t find the specific reason for my father’s death in the pages of Scripture. What I discovered instead was the heart of my Savior. I learned more intimately who He is and how He greatly loves me. My relationship with Him deepened, and through that, I experienced a profound comfort that filled that God-shaped hole in my heart created by the loss of my father. If God had given me the specific reason He allowed such a terrible thing to happen, I would have missed out on getting to know Him and the depths of His love for me.
God wanted me to know Him and have a personal relationship with me. He wanted me to learn His promises and character and trust in those things. I learned that, in the times I don’t understand and wonder why, He wants me to trust Him, who He says He is, and how He sees me and my life – even with the worst of tragedies. I learned that, when I chose be satisfied with the answer of “Know me. Know my love for you. Trust me. Trust My promises. Trust that I know what I am doing” and do actually trust, I experience a greater peace and joy because I am in reliance upon my God. I experience the fullness of His love. And what a sweet, beautiful, restoring place to be!
I don’t have the definitive why for my father’s passing. What I do have is a loving, holy, sovereign God who works good things in my life – for my good, for the good of others, and for His glory.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
~ Isaiah 55:8-9
God knew what He was doing when He steered that relationship in another direction. God even knew what He was doing when He allowed my dad to die. God continues to know what He is doing, even when I do not understand or have the exact reasons why.
I can trust that my unknown is known to a known God, who sees the bigger picture and has my best interests at heart and mind.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
~ Isaiah 29:11
He has a will that is greater and better than what I can fathom. And even when I am hurt by the outcomes of what He allows, His grace, mercy, and tender love reaches and meets me there.
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
~ Hebrews 4:15
The end of the day came, and I returned the bouncy ball to the little boy, who gladly received it, showed it off to his parents, and left after-school a happy camper.
I knew what I was doing when I took that bouncy ball away from him earlier in the day. That way, I was able to give the boy something far better. The same is true with God with us.
My dear friend, take heart in knowing that God loves you and knows what He is doing when He gives and takes away in your life. His way is always best. His way is always good. You can trust Him with all things and with each and every why.
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
~ Job 1:21
All my love,