Tomorrow, I’ll be conducting a funeral of a man not yet 50 years old. So, needless to say, there are a bunch of people asking a bunch of questions. Have you ever been in that situation? Have you ever asked God "Why?" And maybe it isn’t even about a death. Maybe you’ve tried to figure out why you lost a job, or why your child rebelled, or why your health failed, or why whatever else happened in your life that you would not have picked for yourself.
What did you come up with as an answer for your "Whys?" God gives the answer in his word. In Proverbs 3, God is giving us wisdom for our life, and this is what he says: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
It sounds like a simple thing, doesn’t it? "Trust in the Lord." Of course, right? Then why don’t we? All too often, you and I have to admit that we try to lean on our own understanding. Whether it is getting upset that things aren’t going the way we want instead of letting God be God or stressing out over things we don’t have control over — we lean on ourselves. And God tells us to lean on him. He sees the big picture. He works all things (even things we aren’t even aware of) for our good. He has our eternity in mind, and our training, and strengthening and purpose in life. So he lets things happen to us we wouldn’t have chosen but we absolutely need.
Ultimately, what we have in these verses is a definition of faith. This week, I was sitting in a couple’s living room trying to answer some questions about God’s word and the wife hit this definition on the head when she said that faith is trusting in God when it doesn’t make sense to us. Otherwise it wouldn’t be faith.
Because our minds tell us that death is a bad thing. God tells us it is the gate to life, real life, eternal life. Our hearts tell us that our guilt is too great, but God says it is drowned in the depths of the sea. Our egos say our shame is insurmountable but God says he sees only his son’s perfection on us. Satan tries to tell us that God doesn’t care, but God calls you his own dear child. Our understanding isn’t very helpful.
The Proverb rings true: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding." Because it is the Lord that took the unsolvable problem of our sin and his justice and solved it with the nonsensical slaughter of his son. His love defied all logic, reason, understanding and rationale and took Jesus to the cross to pay the real punishment for all our failures. It is as simple and as complex as this: Jesus died to save us from the punishment of hell and he rose to defeat death and sin and shame forever.
I recently read a prayer that CFW Walther wrote some 150 years ago that sums this up so beautifully. Why don’t you bow your head and pray it too? "Though the world, the law, our heart and our conscience condemn us, what do we care? Your word declares us free of all guilt. O keep us in such faith unto our end. In Christ, Amen."
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.