Why Me Lord? Part 1
When we go through afflictions we often ask the question “why me?” “I haven’t done anything that bad to go through this,” “I didn’t ask to be born into my family,” “I was just a kid,” “I didn’t ask for abuse” “I didn’t deserve those things to happen to me” so why me?
That certainly is a reasonable question to ask when you have suffered greatly through abusive situations. Often we become angry with God – as if it was His fault, He was to blame. We have a tendency to equate His character with that of Satan – who indeed comes to kill, steal and destroy. In our anguish we blur the character of God, that He has evil tendencies towards us, He planned our afflictions or that He sits back and watches us suffer while He does nothing about it or His intensions towards us are not good. Does this sound like the God we know? Maybe we need to know His character in order to help us through difficult times. The following excerpts are taken from the Fruits of Zion Torah Club- Volume Two- Ki Thisa:
In Exodus 34:5-7 we find the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, as the rabbis call these verses.
Attributes 1 and 2: Lord, Lord God. Some commentators suggest that “HaShem’s Ineffable Name signifies love. His nature is unalterable, both before and after a sin. The only change occurs in the sinner’s heart.” (Maharal) The name teaches God’s timelessness, since the name is comprised of the past, present, and future tenses of the Hebrew verb “to be.” Because of this the first use of the Lord stresses the fact that, “God is merciful before a person sins, even though He knows that the sin will be committed.” In the second usage (the second attribute) the emphases is on the fact that, “God is merciful after the sin has been committed, by allowing the sinner time to repent, and by accepting his repentance, though it may be imperfect. Does this sound like a God that sits back and watches us suffer while He does nothing about our afflictions?
Attribute 3: El. The ArtScroll Machzor states: “El connotes God as dominating and all-powerful. Despite this awesome strength, He sits on the throne of mercy, always anxious to show compassion.” It is significant that the machzor speaks about God on His throne of mercy. Hebrews chapter four also speaks of Messiah on His throne of mercy. It describes Him as our great high priest, through whom we have access to God so that we can “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace in the time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16). This does not sound like a dispassionate God whose eyes are closed to our sufferings during times of affliction.
Attribute 4: Compassionate. This attribute is called rachum, or compassionate. This is a very beautiful word in Hebrew. It is actually related to the Hebrew word for womb. Munk (an ancient sage) says that compassion …suggests the quality of pity for those who suffer physically or emotionally. Thus, in this word we can see God depicted as a mother who tenderly pities her children whom she bore from her womb. He shows infinite compassion for our hurts and troubles. This feeling of pity comes from deep within the womb of God to His people. One of the most clear illustrations of the Messiah’s compassion is found in Matthew 9:35-38. Here the text says that Yeshua, (Hebrew for Jesus), …was going about in all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues… and seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
Does this sound like a God Who desires bad things for His children?
Attribute 5: Gracious. In the Hebrew, there is a connecting vav between compassionate and the fifth attribute, gracious. This would tell us that these words are related to each other. Because of God’s compassion, He treated the children of Israel with grace. According to Munk (an ancient sage) …graciousness refers to the offering of mercy freely without the expectation of anything in return, not even the sinner’s personal merit. The concept of grace carries with everything that is freely given by a compassionate and merciful God. If God is merciful and compassionate, doesn’t it make sense that He cares about our afflictions and suffering?
Attribute 6: Slow to Anger. Instead of saying slow to anger, the Hebrew literally says, long of anger. This is obviously an idiom which expresses God’s forbearance or patience.
Attribute 7: Abundant in Kindness. The Hebrew word translated kindness is hesed. This word has also been translated loving-kindness and mercy. One person compared the two words in this way: grace is God giving us what we do not deserve, mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve! Does this sound like a God who feels we deserve the afflictions and sufferings we receive?
Attribute 8: Abundant in Truth. Once again, the Hebrew letter vav connects two related words, hesed and truth. It tells us that not only is God abundant in mercy, but He is equally abundant in truth. The thrust of the word in this passage focuses on God’s truthfulness or His reliability. Could it possibly be that we don’t trust God with our afflictions because we think He doesn’t care? This eighth attribute tells us that He is most reliable. Psalm 145:6 states: Yahweh is the God in whose word and work one can place complete confidence. As the Creator, God keeps ‘emeth’ (or trustworthiness) and man can rely on Him forever.
Attribute 9: Perserver of Mercy. God is the guardian or keeper of mercy. The word (notzer) can carry the idea of a preserver, a guard, or a watchman. As a noun the word notzer means branch (as in Isa 11:1), perhaps the Lord was hinting here that we can see the ultimate expression of mercy and faithfulness in the branch (His Son) who would come to guard and protect our souls. If God cared so much for our souls that He sent His Only Begotten Son to guard and protect our souls, wouldn’t He care for our afflictions and how they impact us emotionally and physically?
Attributes 10, 11, 12: The One Who Forgives. These three attributes which are lumped together are referring to the one attribute of forgiveness. The text says that God is the One who forgives. The Hebrew word translated forgive is related to the word for carry, life, or take. It carries with it the idea that when God forgives sin, He takes it away from us, or lifts it off of us! There are three different kinds of sin mentioned in Exodus 34 verse seven which God forgives. The first word refers to iniquity, or intentional, conscious sin. The second word is referred to as willful sin. It is a rebellious act. The third term has the idea of error or missing the mark or inadvertent sin. Thus, all possible categories of sin are referred to in this verse. Hence, there is nothing that the Holy One will not forgive. If God uses afflictions and sufferings to “put us in our place” or as retribution of some type – why would He be so faithful to forgive us of our sins? Why wouldn’t He just use our sins against us as retribution or to give us what we deserve?
Attribute 13: The God Who Cleanses. Instead of having to do with forgiveness, perhaps we can say that it has to do with the effects of sin. Someone may be completely forgiven and legally acquitted from a crime, yet still have to suffer with some of the results of it for a long time. For example, if someone commits adultery, upon repentance, there is abundant forgiveness. Yet, a baby out of wedlock may also be forthcoming! In other words, there is mercy and forgiveness, but the stain of the sin may linger.
What do these attributes tell us? It tells us of One whose life is characterized by mercy toward others, grace in dealing with people, reliability on promises and faithfulness towards those who love Him. As we look at the characteristics we must recognize just Who He is – He is the essence of love, grace and mercy, great in compassion and long in anger. When we suffer He suffers. His attributes tell us He is the God of love and desires us to be in our natural state: Joy. He made us to live in joy but because of sin we can only know true joy in and through Him. Therefore, if He does not desire us to suffer afflictions then we still have the question of “why me Lord?”
Why Me Lord? – Part 2
In our last newsletter I began this article by listing God’s incredible attributes. What do these attributes tell us? They tell us of One whose life is characterized by mercy toward others, grace in dealing with people, reliability on promises and faithfulness towards those who love Him. As we look at the characteristics we must recognize just Who He is. He is the essence of love, grace and mercy, great in compassion and slow to anger. So when it comes to afflictions and suffering we still have the question “Why me, Lord?”
Generally there are four reasons we experience afflictions.
First we experience suffering and afflictions that are common to all mankind. It is not just me but all mankind experiences sufferings and afflictions just because we were born into a sinful world.
“Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7
“Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” Job 14:1
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” Ps 34:19
“The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.” Ps 34:22
Secondly we experience sufferings and afflictions that are for the good of men. Ah, I know what you are going to say, “Afflictions are good for me? Good for what?”
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
“ And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:7-10
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation (trials); for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12
God does not let us go through life’s afflictions without a purpose and that purpose is ALWAYS for our good and our maturity.
Thirdly we experience sufferings and afflictions that bring the glory of God.
“If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.” 1 Peter 4:14-16
The fourth reason we experience sufferings and afflictions is they are to be borne with patience by the Lord’s people.
“Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O LORD, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. For the LORD will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance.” Ps 94:12-14
“For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her.” Prov 3:12-18
When we allow God to do His good work in us we will find ourselves renewed, changed, transformed into the true image of God. In other words, it is worth the wait and patience to get through the afflictions and sufferings because we will be blessed, we will defeat the enemies of our souls and God will be glorified.
“It is important to remember that experiencing afflictions and sufferings will result in everlasting good to God’s people.” 2 Cor 4:16-18
As Paul states, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.“ 2 Cor 4:16-18
That was an incredible statement for Paul to make because he experienced many trials, tribulations, afflictions and sufferings.
“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness — besides the other things, what comes upon me daily.” 2 Cor 11:24-28
Yet he calls these afflictions light and temporary because it is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Paul knew how to act like himself during times of severe sufferings and afflictions. He never asked the question “Why me, Lord” because he knew the answer to that question and charged forward into his afflictions. He wanted, desired and strived for those things that would bring him closer to his God. He wanted to run the race to glorify God.
“You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:18-24
“Why me, Lord?” Maybe we should change it to “Wow, why me Lord? Why would you choose me? I am unworthy to suffer afflictions for Your name’s sake. Thank you, Lord, for choosing me to glorify your name and to be an example to others of how to suffer well in the midst of adversity, afflictions, tragedies and trials. Help me to finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”