Why, God? Why?
The year was 1987. My husband Bill and I were sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner with our family when the call came. Sixteen of our eighteen friends in Zimbabwe—missionaries we worked with, ate with, worshipped with for three months in the African bush—were dead. Not just dead, but brutally massacred by rebels.
Bill’s first words were, “Praise the Lord”. His thoughts behind it—The man who fears the Lord is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD (Psalm 112:7).
We knew before making the trip about the long-and-drawn-out Rhodesian Bush War that finally gained Zimbabwe her independence from England in 1980. We’d done our homework. We also knew that despite war’s end, transition had been rough. Bitter conflicts between whites and blacks were still underway seven years later, with white farmers being the hardest hit. The high probability of encountering danger was what almost kept our daughter and I from accompanying Bill in what was to be his second trip to Zimbabwe in one year. I say, “almost” because had God not made it crystal clear that we were to go, they wouldn’t have seen hide nor hair of yours truly. I wasn’t one to flirt with martyrdom. No sir! God so convinced me that He would bless our going out and coming in, that when one of the ladies on the farm announced one morning that she’d had a dream that we were all killed, I burst out, “I don’t know about you, but I’m going home”. The gift of the prophetic is most-assuredly real. She was among those who died.
Throughout our three-month stay, there'd been stories of skirmishes in the bush, of car bombings, and of farmers burned in their vehicles. Although we were spared a face-to-face encounter with such perils, as was our sister farm three-miles away, we were always aware of its nearness. Random incidences of our own crops being burned and cattle mysteriously slaughtered kept us on the lookout. There was also the testimony of another couple from our church who’d returned from there just prior to our trip. They and the others on the farms had been held at gunpoint and threatened.
But we were five-weeks home now. Safe from it all. Sitting down to enjoy a delightful Thanksgiving spread with family, and share our tales of the wild and exhilarating African bush and the wonderful, godly missionaries that so impacted our lives.
That is, until that dreadful phone call. Unlike Bill, I fell headlong into fear. It seemed I was still in dire need of much perfecting in love (1 John 4:18). The meal turned inconsequential. Death dominated our conversations. I left the table with not a shred of peace. There was quite the buzz at church over it as well. News channels showed that Sunday, looking for interviews with those who had been there.
I slinked out the back door, the nagging question, “Why, God? Why?” still eating a hole in me. Where was God when all this happened? God never sleeps, He never slumbers. Didn’t He know rebels would storm both farms late at night and chop our friends up with axes? Why would He not protect those whose faith made mine look like chopped liver? If this was what they got in return for pouring their lives into loving God and helping the poor, what hope was there for us Average Joe’s?
I was consumed. And it wasn’t by the Holy Spirit. No amount of processing made sense of the facts. No comfort from others stilled the raging storm inside me or dried my tears for long. I was drowning. Only the Lord could assure me that everything was going to be okay, and that that one incident was in no way considered the norm. He alone could silence my “whys”.
And He was kind enough to answer me a week or so later. Not with the logical, detailed explanation I longed for. Nor did He assure me that what happened to those sixteen in Africa would never happen to me.
His answer was short and to the point. “You don’t need to know.”
Some might think, that’s cold! Such atrocities deserve an explanation! But God knew what this kid of His needed. The tone of His voice was so loving, like that of a father comforting his frightened child. The instant I heard it, I felt like a water shutoff valve was turned off at the main. The flood of fear stopped, and my soul was able to catch its first full breath since it all began.
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [ that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus [is yours] (Philippians 4:6-7).
I never brought the subject up again. Never had to. The whys of what happened were put to rest. May they rest in peace. I came out of the experience not only knowing that God hears my anxious prayers and petitions, but I have His permission to simply trust Him, to not always think I must know, or understand, or have an explanation for everything that goes on around me. I do not concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content (Psalm 131:1–2).
Mysteries of the King Eternal, Immortal, Invisible, Only Wise God can’t always be wrapped into neat little packages for our finite minds to fully comprehend (1 Timothy 1:17). Besides, knowing the whys of everything that goes on down here doesn’t ensure that our souls experience peace. Though God grants us a measure of understanding and insights into what He’s up to, we will at best only know in part (1 Corinthians 13:12). The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children . . . (Deuteronomy 29:29).
One day we will know as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Till then, we must concentrate our efforts on pursuing the love of Christ which far surpasses mere knowledge (Ephesians 3:19), and God’s peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7). His peace comes though faith. Faith is trusting His heart for us, His plan to give us hope and an expected end, and His ability to pull it off.
As it turned out, not only did the woman on the farm dream about everyone dying, but months before when someone commented that it means a lot to live for Jesus, one of the young girls on the farm replied, “But it means everything to die for Him”. She was the first to die. Seems death came as no surprise to them. Before they died, a pastor in the city of Bulawayo (forty-five miles from the farms), saw Jesus in a dream. He was squatted down while sixteen lambs jumped into His open arms. The day after they were killed, it started misting. The day they were buried, the sky turned black as midnight and it rained for two weeks. The seven-year drought that had scorched land and living, came to a screeching halt. The dams (weirs) Bill helped build for the farms and nearby villages overflowed with water.
God is good. We can trust Him.