During our stay in the hospital, we repeatedly had to suction Elanor’s nose out to keep it clear. Sometimes we used an electronic aspirator and sometimes we used a handheld bulb. Each time, Elanor protested the invasion of her sinuses with pitiable vehemence.
It was obvious that she didn’t fully understand what was going on and didn’t appreciate the discomfort that came along with her treatments. And in these respects, she reminded me of myself: how I—and, I suspect, many people—relate to God. More specifically, she helped me see two factors that affect our negative responses to God’s dealings with us.
1. Knowledge gap
For the time being, Elanor’s cognitive abilities are…well, infantile. She speaks in incoherent—albeit adorable—gibberish. She often protests (not so adorably) whenever I put new clothes on her; something about her head and arms going through cloth holes strikes her as unnecessarily harsh. And though she’s been poked by several needles, not the least of which was a spinal tap, she still responds most harshly to benign forms of treatment, like having her ears checked. Yes, Elanor’s understanding of the world around her has a lot of growing up to do.
Elanor is separated from me by 33 years. That’s it. In three decades or less, she may very well surpass me in knowledge. For now, though, that 33-year gap, while fairly small in the grand scheme of things, provides a huge chasm in cognitive abilities. We often aren’t on the same page, let alone the same book. Our mental wavelengths are vastly different, leading her to resist some of my efforts to care for her well-being.
Likewise, we find a knowledge gap between God and us, but on a vastly greater scale. We’re separated by a lot more than just a handful of years. He existed before “the beginning” (Gen. 1:1), so His experience reaches beyond the boundaries of time itself. He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. His ways are far above our own (Isa. 55:9), and yet we find it so easy to critique His methodologies. Questioning God’s authority or His Word or His character may be vogue in our culture, but these responses reveal our infantile perceptions, not His.
2. A wrong view of pain
It is clear that when I dress Elanor or suction out her nose, she often misinterprets the actions as antagonistic. Her brain quickly catalogues instances of pain and discomfort into the “worst possible scenario” category. Anything unpleasant is evil.
It may be that one of her greatest perceived needs is to avoid pain and discomfort, even if she’s having trouble breathing and needs help. In those moments, she’s blind to her real need, leading to a false assumption about the necessity of nose suction. She doesn’t understand why I want to hurt her.
Of course, my desire isn’t to hurt her. I just know her need to breathe requires a procedure that, unfortunately, involves discomfort. I value my daughter’s oxygen intake more than her desire to live a pain-free existence.
Similarly, our perceived needs are often different from, if not contradictory to, our real needs. God knows that the greatest danger we will ever face is our own sin, and His plan of redemption involves rescuing us from the penalty and the power of that sin. This plan often requires pain—not because God is a sadist, but because God is out for our ultimate good. While we worry and fret when God takes out the metaphorical aspirator, God is focused on making sure we can keep breathing.
I’m far from perfect, but I do want what is best for Elanor. God has graced me with the desire and ability to seek her good. Generally speaking, I can be trusted in those situations where she might be tempted to question me.
So it is with God. He desires what is best for us. And He is properly motivated by love to pursue those desires. And He has the power to make those desires come to pass. And He has the wisdom necessary to use His power rightly, achieving the most beneficial outcome.
Yes, our Heavenly Father can be trusted—in all instances. Even when His loving purposes are hidden by the harsh clouds of pain and trials, we can trust that “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”