When God’s Ways Make No Sense

When God’s Ways Make No Sense
(Baker, 2018)

WHO: Larry Crabb, best-selling author, founder and director of NewWay Ministries and scholar in residence at Colorado Christian University.

HE SAYS: “Trust that the God who died for you when you deserved eternal judgment is up to something good. He is always telling a good story. He can never do less.”

THE BIG IDEA: When God appears to be “silent” in the midst of our troubles, the only choice we can make that leads to joy is to tremble and trust God.

In Part 1, “When God’s Ways Make No Sense, What Then? Three Stories, Three Answers,” the author breaks down three typical responses Christians have to an incomprehensible God: resist and run, distort and deny, and tremble and trust.
Part 2, “When God’s Ways Make No Sense, Tremble! Why? What? How?” wrestles with the concept of God’s ways and thoughts being far above our ways and thoughts.
”When God’s Ways Make No Sense: Trust in God’s Unthwarted Sovereignty” is Part 3, a discussion on how the good we desire might not be the good God wants us to have.
The book wraps up with Part 4, “When God’s Ways Make No Sense: Three Parables,” a modern retelling of Saul, Jonah and Habakkuk’s stories.

“Suffering is inevitable in order to combat premature contentment with a comfortably blessed life.”

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What encouragement would you offer pastors who may be wrestling with their own questions of why God has allowed something to happen at the same time they are supposed to be encouraging their congregations to trust God?

I wish more pastors were wrestling with times when God’s ways make no sense to them. I wish difficulty on no one, but life in this fallen world doesn’t always line up with our expectations of how a loving powerful God deals with those he claims to love. Pastors would serve their congregations well by, certainly with discernment, acknowledging their own struggles with faith. For Christians to visibly see their spiritual leader struggle deeply and never quit on God but rather learn, as Paul puts it on Romans 8:22, 23, to “groan inwardly” as they “wait eagerly” for Christ’s coming when he will make all things new will often awaken a similar trembling accompanied by trusting.

A spiritual leader from the third century was speaking with another Christian who longed to draw people to the God who sometimes makes no sense. He said this: “Never answer a question that the quality of your life provoked someone to ask.” A pastor’s example of rugged trust in God’s goodness when his ways make no sense will often have greater power than a sermon presenting academic, personally untested truth.

Christians sometimes feel guilty for admitting that their faith wavers. What advice would you give them?

The Bible is full of God followers whose faith wavered: Moses, Abraham, Habakkuk, Peter, Mark to name a few. We Christians today would do well to realize God meets us where we are, not where we pretend to be or where we wish we were. Wavering faith brought to God reveals a hope that no trial can destroy. To parade one’s wavering faith is evidence of cynicism; to confess one’s faith evidences integrity and may encourage other Christians to discover a kernel of faith sustained by God’s Spirit that actually grows in an open honest relationship with God and others.

Look deep beneath guilt over admitting wavering faith and you’ll discover a subtle form of pride that thinks we should be better than we are. The courage to be honest with God reflects confidence in the power of the cross that frees God to love us at our worst.

Does your book promote questioning God’s goodness or encouraging Christians to question themselves?

I certainly have no desire to promote questioning God’s goodness. I do hope my book might encourage folks to give up a naive Pollyanna trust that assumes the abundant life Jesus came to give his followers is an abundance of all the comfort we want. We are promised an abundance of the power to never deny God and to express our deepest longing as believers to delight God by learning to love like God’s son. Because a self-centered understanding of the abundance Jesus longs to give us comes naturally to us, perhaps we need to wrestle with questioning God’s goodness to see that in his unmatched loving goodness, he longs to make us fully alive as redeemed humans who can put Jesus on display by how we relate to others.

By first wrestling with what it means to call God good we end up questioning ourselves, our understanding of what the good life is that we’re most thirsty for: a blessed life that feels selfishly pleasant or a Christlike life that finds our deepest joy in loving God and others even when life is difficult, and our souls feel empty. Naive trust keeps us praying most fervently (demandingly?) for blessed circumstances. Wise faith prays for the blessings of life but prays most earnestly for the blessing of becoming more and more spiritually formed to resemble Jesus by how we think, live and relate.