Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Currently, I am in the process of finishing Eric Metaxas' biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Besides giving a great picture of this incredible man's life, Metaxas has distilled Bonhoeffer's wisdom and is continually pulling out nuggets of truth. This one struck me because it is so true but so contrary to what modern culture believes about God (if they believe in a god at all). A feel-good gospel or post-modern spirituality says that God will meet us where we are, that He is what we want Him to be, that we will reach Him if we only try hard enough. That is simply not the case, as Bonhoeffer asserts:  

"If it is I who determine where God is to be found, then I shall always find a God who corresponds to me in some way, who is obliging, who is connected with my own nature. But if God determines where he is to be found, then it will be in a place which is not immediately pleasing to my nature and which is not at all congenial to me. This place is the Cross of Christ. And whoever would find him must go to the foot of the Cross, as the Sermon on the Mount commands. This is not according to our nature at all, it is entirely contrary to it. But this is the message of the Bible."

Our relationship with God does not start with us. It doesn't even end with us. It is all and only Him, on His terms, not ours. I was reminded of this again while studying Job with the other women in my church. Job is often used as an encouragement for those who are suffering, a picture of the fact that even if we don't understand the reason for our troubles, God has a plan. Job suffers, his friends come to comfort him and offer their human wisdom, which he rejects (mostly for good reason), and then after coming through the trial, Job is blessed far more than he ever had been before.

But we are missing something. Why did God take away all the Job had in the first place? It was to prove to Satan that Job was faithful, that he would never cease to bless God's name (Job 1:8-12). This is never explained to Job. God chastises him at the end for his presumption, for suggesting that his suffering was not deserved. Never once, though, does God explain what was going on in heaven at the time. He never recounts His conversations with Satan. There was no reason given except, "Trust me. I know better than you do. I made the world and I made you."

One of the ladies at our Bible study, in a moment of honesty said that if she had been Job and God had given her the reason for everything that happened, she is not sure she would have been okay with it. "Really God? You took away all my children, my possessions, and even my health just to prove something to the devil?" Just? God never does anything "just because." He does everything all and only for His own glory. What did Job's harrowing trial prove? That Satan essentially put his foot in his mouth. God, His glory, and His servants' devotion were completely vindicated. Our blessings, our losses, even salvation itself come to pass because they show that God is who He says He is. He is magnified as just, good, merciful, holy, sovereign, and so many other things that I can't even begin to list (or you'd be reading this post all night).

It doesn't matter what our question is. We can ask "why" about a million different things that happen to us, but the Answer is always the same.

So, what does this have to do with my title? Most of you are familiar to some extent with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and its inexplicable answer to "life, the universe, and everything": the number 42. When the super computer that came up with the number is asked what it means, it simply replies, "Once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means." The point is, the answer never changes. The characters don't understand the answer or think it is ridiculous because they are asking the wrong questions.

The same applies to us. God is the answer to life, the universe, and everything. If it seems selfish of God to seek His own glory and to assert that He must be the center of everything, if we would rather He leave us alone than test our devotion through trials, then our focus is in the wrong place. We are asking God to meet us where we are comfortable, instead of where He insists on being found. We do not know the right question to ask. Rather than asking "why," wouldn't it be far better to ask "how"? "How, God, is this situation glorifying You? How can I work in these trials or blessings for Your kingdom?"

This is all easier said than done, I know. There are so many times I would rather be comfortable. Watching someone else go through a trial can be so "encouraging." It's never the same, though, when you're in the midst of one yourself. "God, why don't You just fix this?" too often is my prayer. Trusting God is not an easy thing, but understanding the difference between asking "why" and asking "how" is a step in the right direction.

And lest anyone accuse me of pulling a theological rabbit out of the hat that is Douglas' silly book, I will end with this verse, one of the best summaries of "life, the universe, and everything" that I know: "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:36).