I am reading Lynn Austin’s On This Foundation. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary review copy of this book. This post here is not my actual review. I will probably write the actual review sometime next week. Rather, in this post here, I want to wrestle a bit with a passage in the book.
On This Foundation is set in Israel’s post-exilic period, specifically during the time of Nehemiah. One of the main characters is Chana, a young lady who recently lost her husband Yitzhak. Chana’s father has been bitten by a scorpion while he working on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and there is a possibility that he may die soon. He says to his daughter Chana, on page 341:
“And if I die, Chana…don’t ask God, ‘Why?’ Ask, ‘How?’…How can I make the world a better place? How can I show His love?”
That is a good point. As an academic, I like to ask the question of “why?” Asking questions and finding answers are entertaining to me, and I do not think that my life would be as interesting without that quest, or a belief in new territory that I had not previously considered. I also think that learning more about “why?” will enhance my appreciation of God. Or at least I hope that it would.
Suppose I started asking the question of “how?” more often? Ordinarily, I would prefer not to ask that question. I do not want to beat myself up for being asocial, or struggling socially, and that could easily happen once I start asking the question of “how?” I can show God’s love to people. I do not want to feel pressured to give money, and that pressure may emerge once I ask the question of “how?”.
What is interesting, though, is that I did not have my expected reaction or aversion when reading that passage in Lynn Austin’s book. I can ask “How?”. That can be pretty open-ended. I can be imaginative or creative in coming up with answers. I do not have to follow a set path. How can I, as me, make the world a better place and show God’s love to people? I can write. I can pray for people, privately and online. I can ask people about needs that they have shared.
A challenging verse for me, though, is James 2:16, which criticizes one who wishes the person in need well, but does nothing to meet that person’s physical needs. I don’t have to let this verse beat me up. It should, however, be somewhere in my mind. I cannot meet the physical needs of all needy people. But that should not be an excuse for me to give nothing.