I knew my copy was soon to arrive. When it came, I ripped open the packaging and there it was, Ron Dunn: His Life and Mission by Ron Owens. My understanding is that the nationwide release occurs this month at the Southern Baptist Convention in Houston.
No one knew how to ask the pointed questions about the journey with God through difficult moments like Ron Dunn. God used him to impact many struggling people with the clarity of the Word of God.
The recent television images of storm damage in Moore, Okla., and the photographs of our Hannibal campus and the surrounding communities remind us that people walk through dark valleys of loss, brokenness and despair. Sometimes life feels like the piles of rubble left behind in a tornado’s wake. Even good, godly people are not exempt from the pain of suffering, loss and disappointment. In the midst of the debris, the inevitable questions show up.
Let me share with you an excerpt from pages 198-202 of this B&H publication:
When the hoped-for, prayed-for miracle doesn’t come, when we are not delivered – this is the question that hounds us, making sleepless nights endless – “Why?”
At first, of course, I tried to be “spiritual.” I refused to question God. I gave thanks in everything, voiced my “praise the Lords,” like a good Catholic doing his “Hail Marys,” but as the days become weeks and the weeks become months, I knew Ronnie [his deceased son] was never coming home, I felt cheated and betrayed. As the anesthesia of the shock wore off, the reality of death settled in like a black fog until finally the suppressed anger and hurt erupted with, “Why, God?” which was more of an accusation than a question …
We simply aren’t prepared for the unannounced sharp curves in the road that life throws at us. Just when we get a grip on life, our hands go numb and our exclamation points turn into question marks.
We live in a generation that wants or demands an explanation for everything. But while we may like to operate by that policy, God does not. He operates strictly on a “need to know basis.”
“Why me?” assumes an injustice has been done, one that demands redress. The “why me?” focuses only on the fairness of the situation. We hardly ever ask, “Why not me?” because we think we certainly didn’t deserve it.
Perhaps the fundamental reason we ask “why?” is because we cannot live with the mystery. When we ask why, we want a simple, pat explanation, thus avoiding the inconvenience of mystery. But still the mystery stands. Then one day while I was struggling to unmask this question, a thought struck me. “What if I am asking the wrong question?”
The first, and most difficult hurdle of all, is to settle the fact that, when we meet God, it is not to get answers to our questions, but it is to learn the right questions to ask. And the right question here is, “Does God have the right to do what He does?”
This is the first question I had to face the night we heard of Ronnie Jr’s death. On his grave marker are the words from Psalm 115:3 “But our God is in the heavens: He has done whatsoever He hath pleased.” That is the verse that came immediately to mind that night.
Job said: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of Yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Job may not have known what the purpose was, but it was enough to know that there was one. And this is one of the supreme lessons of Job: Our suffering serves some larger purpose of God. This links our human lives with a divine purpose.
Theologians have a term for this: Deus Absconditus—the God who is hidden. This is when no light is thrown on the “why” of your suffering. This is when the usual means of grace—prayer, worship, singing, God’s word—have no effect on the drooping spirit; when the tried and true formulas from books and seminars sound hollow; when you discover there are some things you cannot praise or pray your way out of … When God withdraws the light, He is trying to teach us that there is something better than light—faith.
The most unbelievable verse in the Bible may be Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I discovered that Paul is not saying that everything that happens to a Christian is good. A lot of bad things happen to us. We cannot say that what happens to us is best, but we can say that what happens will be worked out for our good, and that things that do happen to us have no weight in thwarting the good God intends for us. And Paul does not mean that God works out all things for our comfort, convenience, health and wealth. Whatever good Paul has in mind has to do with our salvation and our relationship to the God who saved us.
The depth of Ron Dunn’s messages woven into the fabric of this biography is a powerful word for our day. With so many hurting people near us, living with us or within our own skins, the superficial ways of the world do not help us capture the value of our inevitable pain.
Maturing believers learn that the journey of faith is often on a road of challenge. It is also the place we learn the depth of His heart for broken people like us. Our greatest discoveries of faith, our best days of understanding His mercy and grace, are when life seems the bleakest. And our “Whys?” are transformed into “What’s.”
Is it any wonder God calls on his children to pray for one another?
For additional reading on this subject: How Can a Good God Let Bad Things Happen by Mark Tabb. NavPress, 2008.