Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”
We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.
In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”
“The best is not the question ‘Why?’ but better yet, just ‘Who?’
For when you see Me, Who I am, you will surrender too.”
The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.”
“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).
Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”
“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”
The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make ALL grace abound toward you; that ye, ALWAYS having ALL sufficiency in ALL things, may abound to EVERY good work” (emphasis added).
But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)
Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, “Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …”. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.
In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,
“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r.”
Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.
I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.
The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)
Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.
Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.
“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a)
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.
This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10). He “counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord” (v. 8). This is how he could “take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake:” (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (v. 10b).
He had “learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.
As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.
“So, embrace the trial, My dear child, My best is what you’ll see,
Beyond the suffering you feel, My Son they soon shall see.”