We are definitely living in confusing times, but we aren’t the first people ever to do so. The fact is that life turned confusing following Adam and Eve’s sin and has stayed that course for some 6,000 years now. No matter how devout a Christian you are, no matter how much spiritual discernment you have, you’ll never get the answers to all the questions you’ll have this side of heaven. You just won’t.
The notable preacher Vance Havner was one of God’s most powerful voices and pens for over seventy years, but in 1973 he lost Sara, his beloved wife of thirty-three years, to a disease that rendered her an invalid before it finally took her. The ordeal was devastating to Havner. He wanted to know why God allowed Sara to suffer like she did. He wanted to know why God allowed her to die. He wanted to know how a helper like her could ever be replaced.
Havner lived another thirteen years after Sara’s death, but he never got the complete answers to all his questions. That didn’t stop him, though, for preaching about and writing about that gut-wrenching, faith-testing time in his life. His book, Though I Walk Through the Valley, is the classic work in which he dives deep into the whole ordeal. Here are a few of his quotes from that book:
“One thing I’ve learned in my journey through the Valley — I am not the only one who has traveled this trail. Every day I meet some fellow pilgrim. Almost every other person I talk with has been scarred by tragedy, bereavement, suffering.”
“…my fellow traveler, wending your way through dangers, toils, and snares you will meet a host of kindred souls. You have joined the brotherhood at the price of heartache and tears.”
“People often try to sympathize, but you have to go through this to know what it is like. You cannot share by imagination or observation. You have been there or you haven’t.”
“There is not much I dread from here on out. When one has drained the bitterest cup he is better prepared for any other potion that life may serve.”
To Havner’s credit, he never allowed his unanswered questions to destroy his faith in God. His frequent response to the line, “I’m so sorry that you lost your wife” became, “You haven’t lost something when you know where (heaven) it is.” Even in Though I Walk Through the Valley, he continued to point people to Jesus by saying of Christ’s own suffering and death:
“Nobody ever walked through so dark a Valley and He walked it by Himself. We can never suffer as He did, die as he died. He has been through the Valley and we need fear no evil for He walks it with us.”
In his sermon “Playing Marbles With Diamonds,” which was printed in book form in the book Playing Marbles With Diamonds and Other Messages for America, Havner again expressed his faith in God even in the aftermath of losing Sara. The quote is so good that anything I might add to it for additional commentary would only lessen it. Therefore, I’ll just offer it as the close to this post. Christian, I hope Havner’s words speak to your heart as much as they do to mine:
“When before the throne we stand in Him complete, all the riddles that puzzle us here will fall into place and we shall know in fulfillment what we now believe in faith — that all things work together for good in His eternal purpose. No longer will we cry “My God, why?” Instead, “alas” will become “Alleluia,” all question marks will be straightened into exclamation points, sorrow will change to singing, and pain will be lost in praise.”