He Knows Why, When We Don’t

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand” (John 13:7, NRSV).

A friend of mine once told me a story of a broken engagement. She explained how her initial reaction was to ask, “Why did God allow this to happen to me? What did I do wrong?”

It’s been years since the break-up, and my friend has gradually been able to let go of the pain, see God’s purpose in the matter, and experience His peace. After all, if the break-up had not happened, my friend would never have discovered the love of her life. Nor would have I—as I’m speaking of my best friend and lifelong companion, my wife! She was able to reconcile her past hurt because she embraced what God had in store for her.

On the eve of His crucifixion, just before the Lord’s Supper, Jesus poured water into a basin and began washing the disciples’ feet. Bewildered, Peter asked, “are you going to wash my feet?” (John 13:6). Although, at that moment, Peter did not understand the reason behind his Lord’s actions, Jesus offered him simple words of reassurance. God does not act without reason, nor does He conceal His purpose from us forever, for “later you will understand.”

Perplexity and confusion may trouble us for a moment, but God will not abandon us. Lingering questions about who we are, why circumstances occur as they do, or what the future holds may leave us unsettled, discouraged, and distraught. Yet, God has a purpose He will reveal when He sees fit.

We look forward to God’s full disclosure of all He has prepared for us in Christ. Even as John the Beloved said:

What we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is (1 John 3:2, NRSV).

In the meantime, we weather insecurity and disillusionment with confidence that God has a plan and will unveil just what that is in the proper time. Moreover, we can rest assured that though the future may appear pale and opaque, God is molding all that we are—our past hurts, present failures, and future uncertainties—into something far better, beyond what we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20). Amid circumstances that don’t seem to add up and life events for which we have no explanation, God has a plan.

Published by Paul J. Palma

Paul J. Palma is a professor of Christian history and theology at Regent University. He is the author of the books "Embracing Our Roots: Rediscovering the Value of Faith, Family, and Tradition," "Italian American Pentecostalism and the Struggle for Religious Identity" (Routledge Studies in Religion series), and "Grassroots Pentecostalism in Brazil and the United States: Migrations, Missions, and Mobility" (Palgrave Macmillan). He is also a contributing writer for CBN.com. Paul enjoys spending quality time with his family on walks together, going to the beach, fishing, and doing work around the yard.

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