I had coffee with a friend a few weeks ago who is feeling a little failed by God. She’s been praying for God to do something (a super awesome glorifying thing) for awhile, and He hasn’t done it. She knows the right answers, but the question is quivering in her heart: why has Jesus refused this request?
I just wrapped up a class on singleness, and I could hear the whisper of a similar cry threaded through the comments we received: why has Jesus done this? Why has He given us desires He won’t satisfy? Why does it feel like He set us up to fail?
I feel the words in my heart when I see pictures of my sweet friend’s baby still in the NICU: why has Jesus treated this little girl so?
The minute the question comes up, I load up a weapon with theological ammunition and beat that thought into silence. But I’m learning that silencing questions isn’t the same as faith. I’m learning that there is a Gospel you will never know if you refuse to let the deep doubts find their way to the Light; there is a Jesus you will not touch if you walk away as if the fight is over before you ever begin to wrestle.
And there is a book that gives the freedom for that question to be asked. Because – you and I and the women in my class and the girl whose eyes brimmed with unshed tears across the table from me at our coffee – none of us are the first to ask Jesus this question.
It was asked thousands of years ago, to His face, by people who seemingly should have known better: his earthly parents.
“Son, why have you treated us so?”
Jesus was a twelve year old kid, and His family was leaving Jerusalem, and they got a full day of traveling in before they realized he was missing. So they returned to Jerusalem, searching for their son and they couldn’t find Him FOR THREE DAYS. Moms, dads – think this through for a second. Imagine what it would be like to search for your son for three days.
Then they find Him, sitting in the temple like it’s no big deal and His mother says those five words to Him: son, why have you treated us so?” I can feel her anxiety and fear dissolving into relief and leaving in its wake confusion and hurt. I can see Mary, looking at her son (who, by the way, is supposed to be a perfect angel), and wondering why He would put them through the torment of thinking that he was gone.
And I love that Jesus is like: Uh guys, why would you worry? I was with my real dad. You know this is what I’m about right? Him?
And I love that Luke is like: They didn’t get that. Mary and Joseph didn’t understand.
I love it all because we live inside this story.
I know the truth about Jesus (just like Mary and Joseph). I’m not confused about who He is. I know His agenda, it’s been clearly laid out for me in the Scriptures. But every now and then He does something that seems VERY confusing and seems to cause me needless pain and I find myself feeling in my heart: Jesus, why have you treated me so? Why do it this way, when it leaves me with such confusion, and such a feeling of aloneness? Why do something that results in me feeling so counter to how you say you want me to feel?
I love it because I feel like Jesus’ response is the same to me as it was to His parents: Fabs. I’m exactly where I said I would be, doing exactly what I said I would be doing.
Jesus doesn’t always do things the way we might like. And sometimes the things He does seem to cause us more anxiety and panic than we felt before. But He is always doing what He said He would do. He is always at the right hand of the Father, establishing His Father’s kingdom.
In the next verse, Luke says: Jesus submitted to His parents. Despite how it feels to them, despite what it looks like to them, Jesus is not wronging His parents. He is doing what He said He would do, and He’s NOT doing it at the expense of his faithfulness to Mary and Joseph.
Jesus doing what He said He would do doesn’t mean He’s not considering you. Jesus’ loyalty to the Father doesn’t mean He isn’t faithful to you.
Today, rest your heart in the truth: Jesus is right where He said He would be- at the right hand of the Father, and that doesn’t mean He’s abandoned you. He’s actually there to intercede for you, to plead your case, to translate your prayers and to seek your good.
You may not understand that today. That’s okay. Mary didn’t either, but that didn’t keep her from treasuring it up in her heart. Understanding does not always have to precede trusting, and it is certainly not the only doorway to treasuring.