Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above earth and heaven.
– Psalm 148:13
A Ugandan acquaintance of ours once told us how he learned to master his Sunday school lessons.
“The right answer,” he said with a grin, “is always, ‘Jesus.’
As a child, no matter what question the teacher posed in class, he always answered, “Jesus.”
I remembered this story recently as an unthinkable situation confronted our family, one I never dreamed we would face.
It arrived unannounced, stripping us of our sense of dignity and safety. It shook my faith down to the core and made me rethink all I believed about God. For the first time in the many decades I have been a Christian, I felt as if God had left the room when I needed Him most.
These last months, as I have sifted through the ashes of what I thought I knew, some unshakeable truths have emerged:
God is real.
Though the pain is worse than anything I have ever imagined, I can see how God has been working in our situation. Our prayers are being answered, just not in the way I hoped. This has led me to a deepening revelation of something I often professed but rarely faced in full surrender:
God is sovereign.
I can claim His promises, chastise the Devil, pray until I’m blue in the face, worship earnestly, argue convincingly, work until I’m exhausted, and quote Scriptures all day. But the reality is God’s in charge. Those responses to trial may be appropriate and Bible-based, but if I’m doing them with the motive of getting my way, they’re not going to be effective.
The Father is fierce in His love for us and unswayed by our desperate attempts to escape His discipline in our lives.
God’s Word is immutable.
I based so many of my actions in my adult life upon the promises of the Bible. My first reaction when we were dropped into this furnace was shock at the seeming contradiction. This no trial I expected to face, ever. The last year taught me that I had attached many expectations, principles, and personal interpretations to select Scriptures. I had created an elaborate scaffolding around the Bible that colored my vision of God.
Nothing really matters except our relationships with God and each other.
The reality is we can’t change a single hair on our head. It all comes down to the Savior. Jesus Christ alone is worthy. He wants us. Just us. Not what we believe or accomplish. When we are stripped of all we have to offer Him and to those we love, He clothes us with grace and calls us His. Then He calls us to be as radical in our commitment to Him and as gracious in our commitment to each other.
Today I still don’t understand much of what has happened. I sit in the rubble as the questions swirl around me, and I know this one thing:
The answer is “Jesus.”