As an Army chaplain much of my time is devoted to counseling Soldiers and their families.
Early on in this military journey, I realized something: I always needed to get the rest of the story after speaking to Soldiers or their spouses. I don’t mean to say that Soldiers or their spouses are untruthful. But most of the time they are only giving me their perspective on the circumstances.
I recall getting quite riled as a Soldier told me about the abuse he was taking from his chain of command. My initial reaction was to march into the Company Commander’s office and bring this injustice to his attention. Fortunately, the Commander was even-tempered enough to patiently explain the rest of the story. And the rest of the story usually included all the havoc the Soldier had created for the command and how his command had given the Soldier many opportunities to redeem himself.
Since those early encounters, I have since listened to many Commanders bemoan the fact that they must spend 90% of their time dealing with the 2% or 3% of their Soldiers – Soldiers who seem determined to make life difficult for themselves and others. They would much rather devote that time to the 97% or 98% who faithfully do their jobs well.
When I counsel couples the same dynamic is at work. Either the Soldier or spouse will be the first to come and expound on all the failures, bad habits, laziness, and neglect of their spouse. Then, when I talk to them as a couple, my preconceived picture is quickly dashed to pieces as I get the rest of the story.
God will eventually reveal to us the rest of the story and will dry every tear from our eyes
I’m sure the same dynamic is at work in the court room, as the prosecution presents witness after witness to convince us of the defendant’s guilt, only to have their testimony torn to shreds by the defense. The rest of the story always clarifies our understanding and helps us see that the guilty may not be so guilty after all.
You know, I’ve seen the same dynamic at work in my walk with God. Life can be very hard and filled with injustices – injustices that can send the message that God is cruel and that He fails to measure up to the love of any parent. “How could a loving and all-powerful God see His children suffer and refuse to intervene to help them?” “What kind of parent would ever put temptation and pitfalls in the path of their children, yet God allows adversity and temptations to come into our lives. Why?”
Many of us have come up with our own answers. We learn that a child cannot have his every wish gratified and that every child requires some measure of discipline, boundaries, and training (Hebrews 12:4-11). We learn that many of the tragedies God allows in our lives become fantastic growth mediums for us and open the door for service to others (as in the case of Joseph’s rejection by his brothers in Genesis 37:18-36; 50:20). We learn from the Bible that God established human government and has placed the administration of justice into our hands, so that He will not need to intervene with global cataclysms like the great flood (Genesis 8:21; 9:6-11).
But there remain many unanswered questions. Tragedy and pain, which seem to have no redeeming value whatsoever, have befallen us or those we love. We simply cannot reconcile human suffering with a loving and benevolent God. For many, this tension between the harsh realities of life and the notion of a kind and loving God is so great that they can only find peace by dismissing this notion completely.
But before you give up your belief in God, consider that all of us still have yet to hear the rest of the story. Only the prosecution has had opportunity to present his case with its testimonies and evidence. We have yet to hear from the defense. We’ve only heard the Soldier berate the injustices of his Commander. First let the Commander and 1SG speak before drawing your conclusions. You’ve only heard the spouse voice the cruelty and neglect of the Soldier against his or her family. Get the Soldier’s side of the story, too. Even so, from our worm’s eye view of the universe there are bound to be many things that we have not yet seen that the eagle can view. We just have to trust the eagle’s testimony that there’s so much more to see above ground and above the clouds.
The same is true of God’s view. He sees the future as vividly as the present. He sees all the possible courses our lives could have taken and what their outcome would have been. “I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done,” (Isaiah 46:9-10, NKJV). Can’t we trust Him with our lives and our futures? Can’t we trust Him that He will work all things together for our ultimate good and His ultimate glory (Romans 8:28)? The Bible speaks of the many saints of old who “died in faith,” believing in God to the end, even though their prayers and questions went unanswered (Hebrews 11:13-27, 35-40). Could it be that God may be asking us to exercise the same faith and faithfulness as they did? God will eventually reveal to us the rest of the story and will dry every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21:4).
Dear Father in Heaven, many times I struggle to reconcile the harshness and cruelties of this life with an all-powerful and all-loving God. Yet I know that without You nothing in life makes any sense at all. Please help me to have faith while I’m in the darkness and to trust that You will work all things, the painful and tragic, together for my ultimate good and Your great purpose. Amen.
You do not need to face this challenge alone. Jesus has conquered this challenge so that you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.
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