Recently I heard writer-humorist Dick Wolfsie give a light-hearted talk about Jewish humor. His ethnic background, he explained, helped him find wry humor in serious situations.
Wolfsie told about a Jewish grandmother who was walking on the beach with her grandson when a giant wave swept the boy into the sea. Terrified, the woman cried out in prayer, “Lord, I beg you, please return the boy to me just as he was!” Suddenly another big wave threw the boy back onto the beach right at her feet. She paused, looked up to Heaven and said, “You know—he had a hat!”
Human nature is funny, isn’t it? We want God’s assistance, but we’re quick to criticize if he doesn’t provide in the way we prefer. We’re armchair quarterbacks who critique how God executes the plays.
Why did God let Abraham go within an inch of taking Isaac’s life before providing a ram for the sacrifice?
It’s great that God rescued the Hebrews from Egypt, but why did he allow them to suffer in slavery for centuries and wander in the desert for 40 years before they settled in the promised land?
The Lord prevented the lions from tearing Daniel to pieces, but why did he allow such a faithful prophet to face such a terrifying ordeal?
Jesus changed water into wine, but why did he let the bride and groom run out of wine in the first place? Why wait until the wedding party felt embarrassed before solving the problem?
Jesus used a boy’s light lunch to feed thousands a satisfying meal, but why didn’t he start the day with appetizers instead of waiting till their stomachs growled?
It’s wonderful that Jesus calmed the sea, but why did he allow the storm to happen at all?
It’s amazing that the Lord restored a blind man’s sight, but couldn’t he have prevented the man from being born blind in the first place?
Lazarus’ sisters wondered why the Lord waited a few days before coming to their brother’s aid. If Jesus had arrived earlier and healed Lazarus’ illness, no resurrection would have been necessary.
Life is filled with complicated questions, but the answers don’t come easier if we try to unravel the puzzles by human reasoning alone. Rejecting God solves nothing. It’s better to invite him to be our wrestling partner as we grapple with tough issues.
Job illustrates the mysterious reality that in the long run, painful experiences can deepen our trust in God’s wisdom. Which is better—to curse our accidental injuries or thank the Lord for ambulances and EMTs? To complain about our ailments or thank the Lord for doctors, nurses, medicines, and hospitals? When storms come, are we grateful for the roofs over our heads—and for sweet memories of days when the sun was shining? In lonely moments do we appreciate God’s comforting presence? When death looms will we be grateful for the hope he provides?
A man known for his positive attitude suffered through a painful season that slammed him with one problem after another. When the usually cheerful fellow stood up to pray, his friends wondered what he would say now that misery had replaced his good fortune. With great earnestness the man simply prayed, “Thank you, God, that things are not always like this.”
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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