Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Micah's Legacy, Part V: To Walk in Faith with an Enigmatic God

Fifth, Micah’s death has meant that we must walk and talk with God even when we do not know what God is doing. In the 14 months since Micah has died, Heather and I have often struggled with God over Micah’s death. We have often wondered:

· Why us? Why do we have to bear this burden of grief?

· Why now? God, if you wanted to take Micah, and if I was required to bury my son, why couldn’t we have just a few more years with him?

· Why would you take Micah away, only to give us Owen so soon after? In giving us Owen, it is clear that you want us to be parents—so why did you take Micah from us?

· Why didn’t the doctors find the pea in his lung? Why didn’t they take out the pea? Why did the pea get lodged in his windpipe?

· Why couldn’t Heather or the EMTs revive him? Why didn’t I realize what was going on, and try to shake the pea lose? Why was I so powerless to watch my son die?

In the September 2010 edition of Christianity Today, Frank James III writes about his grief following the death of his younger brother, Kelly, who died in 2006 in a mountain climbing accident. About his grief, Mr. James writes, “There is disappointment, sadness, and confusion, but oddly, there is no retreat from God. Instead, I find myself drawn to God. To be sure, he is enigmatic than I thought, but I still can’t shake loose from him. There seems to be a kind of gravitational pull toward God. …My conception of faith has become Abrahamic—which is to say, I must trust God even though I do not understand him.” Christianity Today, September 2010, 61.

Mr. James is right in describing his faith as “Abrahamic.” God promised Abraham that he would become the father of the nation of Israel. But Abraham had to wait many years for God to fulfill his promise to provide him with a son. Then, in Genesis chapter 22, God tells Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, and sacrifice him as a burnt offering. Amazingly, Abraham was ready to do so, even after having endured so many years of waiting upon God for his son. Then, at just the last moment, when Abraham’s knife was raised to sacrifice Isaac, God provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice.

The story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac seems to defy logic. If God knew the extent of Abraham’s faith, why did he test Abraham like this? Scripture says that God stopped Abraham once he saw that Abraham was ready to sacrifice his own son. Genesis 22:11-12. But isn’t God supposed to be all-knowing? So what is the point of this exercise?

Like us, Abraham had the capacity for logic; he could have questioned God’s demand that Isaac be sacrificed. Abraham could have asked, “God, if you are all-powerful and all-knowing, why did you give me Isaac, only to have me sacrifice him now? What is the point of that?” But Abraham, without questioning God or his ways, was ready to be obedient to God, even to the point of the death of his own son at his own hand. Indeed, it was by faith that Abraham trusted in God to provide for him and for his son. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promised was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Hebrews 11:17-19.

The author of Hebrews also writes that, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” Hebrews 11:1-2. God was pleased with Abraham’s life because he lived an obedient life in faith, not logic. Abraham received his commendation from God precisely because he did not stop to debate God over the righteousness of his ways. Abraham is listed as a member of the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews chapter 11 because he was obedient to God, even when, from a human perspective, he had reason to doubt God.

As Christians, we must take Abraham's example and follow God where he leads, even when we don’t know what God intends to do in and through our circumstances. We must live a life through the heart (in faith), and not just the head (by logic only). In difficult circumstances, our faith must become dearer to us than it ever has before, because in it is the “assurance of things hoped for.” For Heather and me, we have learned that we must walk with God in faith, even though we realize that we will not understand God’s reasons, on this side of Heaven, for why God deemed it necessary to take Micah home to Heaven so soon.

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