Many years ago an American rabbi named Harold Kushner (not a believer in Yeshua) wrote a lay theology book entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” The book was a blockbuster, especially in secular circles. It endeavored to explain not just when, but why bad things happen to good people. But it didn’t, despite the author’s admirable attempt.
For those familiar with both Old and New Covenants, Rabbi Kushner’s inability to unveil the mystery of evil and injustice came as no surprise. The Bible never completely unravels for us the full nature of these perplexing realities. It does, however, give us the insight and strength we need when bad things inevitably come our way.
You and I live in perplexing times. Many bad things seem to be happening to many good people. Nevertheless, God’s Word empowers us to embrace perplexity in perplexing times, drawing us deeper into the majesty of God Himself. And it shows us how to pray,
Peace in Perplexity
Some of you, like me, may have experienced hard trials in recent months. Personally, I have undergone some intense soul searching before God as the result of major, national shakings in both Israel and the US, the global pandemic and more. I have also experienced seemingly unrelenting and baffling personal spiritual attacks. Through it all, my faith is not shaken. But frankly, I am perplexed.
I am perplexed because, for decades, I have prayed long and hard for both Israel and the US, but have not seen God respond to some of those prayers in ways I thought He’d shown me He would. Nor have I seen certain prayers, which are consistent with His will expressed in His Word, answered in my personal life. Can any of you relate?
Long ago, someone named Job could surely relate. The Bible describes how Job, a righteous servant of God, endured tormenting physical, psychological and spiritual trials. Deeply perplexed, Job could not understand why he’d been targeted for such extreme suffering and loss. He beseeched God for understanding of His thoughts and His ways. But that understanding never came, at least not directly. Instead, God profoundly revealed to Job the magnitude of His ineffable, sovereign power and love over all creation. God revealed Himself.
Perplexity Before Clarity
Glimpsing the glory of God, Job sheepishly replied, “I am unworthy—what can I say to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” (Job 40:4) In other words, Job shut himself up, speechless in wonder at God’s ways. In learning what He did not know about God, he had just learned more than he could have imagined. Paradoxically, he made peace with perplexity. In the process, Job’s faith was refined like gold. (1 Peter 1:7)
Job’s silence contrasts sharply with the responses of many today who may be quick to offer opinions, prophetic insights or well intended theories on the current doings of the Almighty. Personally and not unlike Job, in light of current events, I’ve remained mostly speechless in perplexed wonder and worship at God’s ways. (This article is my first public reference to current events in many weeks.)
Like me, you may not fully understand all that God is doing on a global, national or even personal and individual level—or quite how He is doing it. In that case, if you are wholeheartedly seeking Him, I want to encourage you! If you are reading this article, you likely know God’s Word and you are likely at peace with Him through Messiah. Therefore, you know that God is good, loving and all powerful. He is the faithful, covenant keeping God who directs you in the way you should go. His timing is redemptively perfect. In the end (as He defines “end”) He will blessedly restore you, as He did Job. For Israel and His remnant people globally, He will do the same. Be encouraged that what He is doing is ultimately and redemptively best, according to His thoughts and ways, even in these perplexing times.
When you and I are perplexed, we can learn from Job to surrender, at greater and greater levels of trust, to a God whose ways and thoughts are grander than ours. We surrender to a God we will not always understand, a God who at times appears unresponsive to our prayers, a God who once seemed intimately close but may now seem distant. It is in this trusting surrender that He draws us into the peace of perplexity. In it He reveals more and more of Himself.
Perplexing times may summon us to re-calibrate from the cacophony of news sources, social media, text message groups, etc., and sync instead to Yeshua’s heartbeat. Voices of men and women on a plethora of controversial topics may or may not be inspired, accurate or helpful. In any case, they can easily drown out the pure and still, small voice of God. (1 Kings 19:11-13) To genuinely hear our Father and King in perplexing times, we may need to disconnect temporarily from the collective clamor of other voices.
Likewise, to see what God is doing in perplexing times, we must lift our gaze from the world around us and lock eyes with Yeshua. The more you and I look up at Him, the more we will see from His point of view—what and when He wants us to see it.
It is from God’s higher perspective that we are able to make peace with perplexing times, trusting His thoughts and ways which are greater than ours. Then we can serve with refined faith as surrendered intercessory watchmen. We can know how to pray with authority in perplexing times, trusting that our prayers will be answered in the best possible way.
Praying for Israel in Perplexity
Israel as a whole is deeply perplexed. As I write, Iran is reportedly racing toward nuclear weapons with which to annihilate us. The extent to which the new US administration will align with Israel concerning Iran is unknown. At the same time, our country is heading into its fourth national election in two years. Most Israeli believers sadly agree that a good and sustainable government coalition emerging from our fourth election on March 23 is unlikely.
Meanwhile, Israel has been very intentional about aligning with whatever new international order emerges out of the shambles of the covid pandemic. Prime Minister Netanyahu unabashedly seeks to posture Israel at the forefront of this so-called global reset. (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/netanyahu-to-davos-israel-is-worlds-laboratory-for-immunity-656901; https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/duque-kagame-netanyahu-digital-tech-post-pandemic/; https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3121046/israels-green-passports-plan-could-lead-way-reviving-world; https://www.jpost.com/opinion/israel-and-the-unexpected-new-world-order-499310)
Israel is interested in helping spearhead the international reset for several reasons. To some extent, the country’s globalist leanings reflect our peoples’ misplaced desire to be like other nations. There is also a sense of dependence on other nations for our security. But a sincere desire for Israel to serve as a light to the nations also factors into the mix. Still other issues, too numerous to list, are involved.
Israel’s new policy directions appear to lay groundwork or infrastructure which could be rather easily overtaken by anti-Christ powers, possibly sooner rather than later. This does not, however, necessarily mean the policies should all be dismissed out of hand. Any which abrogate important individual freedoms, such as freedom of worship, should be considered highly suspect. On less significant matters, God can work much good from international cooperation, primarily for the sake of the Gospel. His thoughts and ways are greater than ours.
How do we pray for Israel in such a time as this? As I often tell the Israeli Prayer Network, the more uncertain circumstances become, the more we pray into that which is certain. We pray God’s Word, surrendering to Him the way in which His own promises will be fulfilled. We pray as the Lord taught His disciples to pray in Matthew 6:9-13. We passionately pray the Great Commission according to Romans 10:1, “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that she be saved.” In fact, as Israelis grow increasingly perplexed, we see more and more continue to express interest in Yeshua as their Messiah.
We pray for Israel with high praise and fervid worship. If we have received the gift of tongues, we pray in tongues. Ultimately, we make our prayers about Yeshua Himself, not our prayer lists. Finally, we rejoice that He will surely fulfill the desires of His own heart for Israel’s restoration.