when God doesn't answer your why
You didn’t ask for a traveling tip, but I’m going to give you one anyway: never chug two full-size water bottles as you approach an airport security check-in because you forgot they were in your purse and you didn’t want to toss them. Totally not speaking from experience or anything, I’m just telling you plane and simple, don’t do it (pun intended).
If you don’t listen to me, you may find yourself approaching 30,000 feet with the fasten seatbelt sign on, having to go like none other. Okay, so I might be speaking from experience. Whatever. 😉
If you’ve been following along on Instagram Stories for a while, you may remember what I’m talking about with the chugging water bottles, but what you don’t know is how the story goes from there.
En route to Houston for a work trip, I had high ambitions for the four hour flight. I wanted to do some journaling, finish up a blog post, prep some social media stuff (welcome to the inner world of a blogger), and kill off the last few chapters of a book that had been sitting by my bedside for far too long. After watching the San Francisco Bay shrink down into a puddle from my window seat view, I was just about to jump into journaling when it hit me, hard. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, 33.8 ounces downed in less than five minutes only thirty minutes prior—really, it’s basic math. Still, I was annoyed. I was trying to settle into that sweep spot of talking to God the way I do best—through pen and paper, but with my bladder about to burst I was finding it pretty impossible to focus.
Maybe I’ll wait until they turn the fasten seatbelt sign off, use the bathroom, then tackle my to-do list, I thought. Instantly, I was frustrated. I don’t want to waste a whole twenty minutes sitting here doing nothing.
So I tried to focus, and failed. I tried again, frustration rising. With each minute that passed, it became harder and harder to focus on anything other than the fact that I HAD TO GO. The need was presenting itself more and more urgently, pressing itself up against the forefront of my thoughts, demanding not to be ignored.
At this point, I’d all but thrown the towel in on journaling as an act of rebellion. I wasn’t going to sit there and wait patiently. I was going to stare that fasten seatbelt sign down and will it to turn off if it took everything in me.
This is definitely taking longer than it usually does, I thought. Why won’t the pilot just turn off the dang sign?
In that moment, the pilot had the power to meet my need with something as simple as the flick of the switch. Yet he wasn’t doing it. So here I was, sitting in extreme discomfort, unable to focus on anything else. What a meanie.
I was definitely being dramatic but, you know what? I think that’s sometimes exactly how we start to view God.
We have a prayer we’ve been praying for so long, and at the other end of the line rings nothing but a deafening, radio silence. We’re asking God why He’s allowing something to happen because, doesn’t He see it’s hurting us? Yet our circumstances remain unchanged.
All we can see is our need—the answers we’re looking for, the resolution, an explanation, anything—and the more time passes, the more our need consumes our conscious so that soon, it’s all we can see.
We can’t focus on anything else, because the need is burning so badly and pressing up against everything else, we feel that the only way we can move forward is if God addresses it. Otherwise we’re just going to sit there and stare down the fasten seatbelt sign. I mean, we know He could address our need. He could snap His finger to solve our problems and answer our questions. So when He doesn’t, we could start to think He’s cruel and uncaring. We could start to think He’s a meanie.
But the thing is, on that flight to Houston, I was wrong about the pilot. I let my circumstances name him, and they called him Cruel and Uncaring. In reality, the pilot was oblivious to the fact that I HAD TO GO. He was simply doing his job—flying the plane according to the collective good and protection of the passengers on board.
Here’s where the analogy breaks down, because God is very much acquainted with each one of our needs (Matthew 6:8). He hears that prayer you’ve been praying. He sees the uncertainty you long to no longer sit in. He feels the weight of that desire as the days turn to weeks and the weeks turn to months.
Yet, at the end of the day, God our Pilot has a perspective we the passengers do not.
God our Pilot is committed to work according to His ultimate glory and our ultimate good—even at the expense of the immediate good we see or think we need.
This means we may not always understand. We may not always get an answer. BUT, we do always have a choice. We get to choose what we believe about Him, and we get to choose how we respond. We can choose to believe God is a “meanie,” or we can remind ourselves that His ways are not our ways, His thoughts not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). We can sit there and stare down the fasten seatbelt sign, or we can acknowledge our need before Him, then choose to get to work. The latter is likely the better option because guess what, we aren’t guaranteed that the fasten seatbelt sign will ever turn off. Who knows, we could hit a patch of turbulence, prompting the flight attendants to announce that it will remain on for the duration of the flight. The point is, hope isn’t found in a happy ending where all of our “why’s” get answered, but in Hope Himself.
No matter what happens on the plane ride itself, God our Pilot is headed to a final destination of eternal glory, so regardless, it’s a pretty good flight to be on board.