Move back across the country? Check. Reboot my old website to continue my role as a publisher? Check. Restart Ever Ink Press as a business in Texas, find a job to pay the bills, figure out what the heck happened to the email software, get those manuscripts to your editor for proofing, continue drafting the companion novel to Between, keep up with your friends and readers, and . . . God, why is this happening?
I have been asking God questions.
Regaining the business I put on hold when I started my apprenticeship in Ohio has been no joke. Ever Ink Press is more than a book publisher for me: it’s part of my calling to connect my stories to readers. It’s something God has entrusted to me. It brings me joy both to share my books to my readers and when I help other writers create their books.
It’s the only thing in life that I have never questioned: I was created to be a writer.
Why Do Bad Things Happen?
But I have been questioning God on a lot of other things. I have been asking God for guidance while “rebooting” my publishing world. I have been asking God for help when one delay after another keeps my website from being ready. And I have been asking God why? If I’m doing my best to obey God, why is life so hard?
Two days after I returned to my Texas home, I sat on my bed completely overwhelmed by the transition, feeling like every time I turned around, life was slapping me for going to Ohio. From vehicle transition fees, to website glitches, to a rising panic combing through job listings, I felt like I had lost more than I had gained by going. And it wasn’t fair. God told me to go. So why do I feel like I’m being punished for it?
My Conversation with God
I had lots of questions for God. But did I have the right to even question God? I mean . . . He’s God. So that night, I lay on my bed after journaling, contemplating if it was even safe to be feeling what I felt.
“God, I can’t figure out how to talk to you about all of this. You let David ask questions and tell you how he felt but when Job did, you told Him it was too big to understand and he needed to just trust you. I don’t want to whine but this really hurts, and I don’t understand what you’re doing!”
And then God’s voice came calmly into my head. “Why do you need to understand?”
“Because it’s hard to have a friendship with people you don’t understand.”
” Your friends often do things you don’t understand.”
“Yet you remain friends, even though you don’t fully understand them.”
“So why can you not extend the same courtesy to me?”
I answered a little slower, “Well . . . I haven’t committed my life to serving my friends, I don’t depend on them for everything I need . . .” Then realizing what I was trying to say, I managed a coherent sentence. “It’s hard to trust you when I don’t fully understand what’s going on. It doesn’t feel safe to be friends with you.”
I swear I heard a grin in His voice as He replied, “Yeah… It wasn’t really safe for me to be friends with you, either.”
My eyes widened. I sent a startled glance to the yellow paint of my ceiling, suddenly envisioning a nail going through a wrist.
After a stunned second, I burst into peals of laughter that lasted for several seconds before I sputtered, “Touché!”
And that ended our conversation for that night. What had started in a tearful monologue ended in a companionable, “Well, when you put it that way . . . .”
I went to sleep. God never did answer my question of “why” . . . at least, not that night.
Why is Life so Hard?
I think all of us, Christians or not, are asking why? Why can’t life be easier? Why do bad people get away with things? Why do good people have bad things happen? Why do kids get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery? Why is it so hard to find a job? Why, when I’m doing my best, does life just keep kicking me?
is God punishing me?
Many times in Christian circles people will imply that there is some sort of contracted formula that runs along the lines of “If you’re obedient, God will bless you and life will look just like you think it should. And if you’re life isn’t going well, it must be because you’re doing something wrong.” And to some degree, this is true. In all areas of life, what you put in affects what you get out. In Christianity, you “reap what you sow.” But not always.
Sometimes as Christians we wait for God to “come through” for some circumstance in our lives and then when it doesn’t happen, we’re left with the question of why. Many of my friends who have decided they don’t believe in God anymore or have never believed in God, point to this question as their reasoning.
why does my life hurt so bad?
Sometimes even when we obey God, we get hurt. Even Jesus, by obeying God, got hurt. And it’s easy to conclude that, since God didn’t stop it , God wanted us to get hurt. Maybe He’s even the one who hurt us because he’s punishing us. Maybe He even likes it because He’s a sadistic God who doesn’t really care about us. Or maybe the state of the world is a reflection of what God is doing for us, not what He is doing to us.
Who Gets the Blame?
I don’t think it’s wrong to ask God what is He doing. But I think I often blame Him for stuff that he’s not doing. When I really think about it, the vast majority of bad things that happen are usually caused by a choice a person made. That person might be in my life today or they may have lived thousands of years ago. I could get hurt because of my own choice, something a friend does to me, or a ripple effect from someone I don’t even know. But all our choices create the world we live in, and often that world hurts. Sometimes when life “goes wrong,” it’s directly our fault. Sometimes our life “goes wrong” and it’s not our fault at all.
So, what is God doing?
What if we stopped viewing our circumstances as a reflection of how much God currently does or doesn’t love us? What if it’s an awful way to measure how well we are doing in our calling? He told us that when we were in the world, we would have trouble. And that’s the good part: no matter who got the trouble started, God gets to end it. What does God do with the bad things that happen to us? He keeps His promise that “all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
God takes the bad things, turns them inside out, and brings out something good. We may never fully understand why things in our past happened. But we can trust that He can use them in our future. And he really, really wants to be friends.
The truth is that three weeks after my conversation, a lot of the problems have been cleared up. A few of the questions have even been answered. With every step I take into Ever Ink Press, I can take with mounting confidence that I am stepping into my calling. Things going well? I’m in my calling? Things going badly? It’s okay. I’m still in my calling. I’ve spent enough time asking “why.” Now it’s time to ask God “what?”