“If it is thus, why is this happening to me?” [Genesis 25.22b]
Isn’t it nice to see the great heroes of the Christian faith showing us their humanness every once in a while? I think almost every person traipsing the globe has asked himself the question: “why is this happening to me?” The super-Christians are often quick to condemn such a thought as lacking in faith or even as a sign of rebellion, and this suppression of our questions can sadly result in people walking away from faith altogether. A good friend of mine once said, “There’s a difference between questioning God and asking God questions.” I have found that incredibly helpful over the course of the last ten years or so. Remember, we worship a God who invites his people to come and reason with him… (Isaiah 1.18)
The Genesis 25 text relates to the story of Rebekah, an amazing woman who left her family with a complete stranger to become the wife of a man she’d never even laid eyes her on! As she was leaving her family, they blessed her, wishing she would become the mother of tens of thousands (which, of course, she eventually would be!). The biblical text tells us that this strange new husband of hers loved her, so it seems that the marriage part of the story was working out well enough. A bit later on in the story we discover that our heroine Rebekah is barren – can’t have kids – yet her loving husband Isaac prays for her and she conceives. Oh, and she’s not just pregnant, she’s expecting twins! Life is going well for the couple and the prayers and promises of their parents are being fulfilled. Apparently God is faithful to his promises…
And then the kicking began. Rebekah’s pregnancy took a turn for the worse. These are the days before science, so it’s safe to assume Rebekah never went in for a sonogram. Regardless, she has the sense that these twins are going to kill each other in her womb. When she says “If it is thus…” most scholars suggest she is referring to the complications of her pregnancy, and that’s probably true, but as I read it today, I sensed something different. It was as if she said, “If you (God) saw fit to take me from my family, give me an amazing husband who loves me, miraculously heal my barrenness, and give me twins…WHY is this happening to me???” Sometimes it feels like God’s blessings in our lives are a set up for pain and frustration, that on the heels of victory comes some sort of inevitable mess.
God’s answer to Rebekah isn’t so much comforting as it is instructive: this struggle is bigger than you and this moment. I am constantly suffering as a victim of my own vision. Or lack of it. I only see this situation now. Me. My feelings or that person’s foolishness (never mine!). But God has a way of pulling us back from ourselves and our individual moments and says, “This isn’t about babies – it’s about nations.” What we think is the “end-all” is really nothing more than the first phrase of a prologue.
Whenever we’re tempted to ask, “why is this happening to me?” we need to remind ourselves that it’s probably not about “me” in the first place, and while that may not make us feel any better, it just might liberate us from living like slaves to our current circumstances.