On Questions Without Answers

by | Nov 8, 2013 | Uncategorized


I can’t explain why one day I will want to walk away from being a daughter and a few months later I’ll laugh over the past, look into a face that mimics my bone structure and  thank God I didn’t give up.

I can’t explain why a heart melds into the disposition of a four- footed furry pet when it knows the inevitable. The life span of a beloved pet is like a cracked window in springtime you’ll soon close shut.  I can’t explain why you’ll want to repeat that cycle once you forget the face of grief.

I can’t explain why some people have platforms of hundreds of thousands and others influence handfuls. Why a message delivered in faithfulness shares equality in its usefulness despite the size of the audience.

Why a heart is receptive and pliable and another is hard as a rock.

I can’t explain why children raised in the same house by the same parents carry themselves differently, one with open palms and another with clenched fists.

I can’t explain how two people can hear the same sermon; experience the same worship on the same weekend and one walk away depleted with sadness, while the other returns home energized and hopeful.

I can’t explain why a car chooses to break down in your driveway instead of during 5 o’clock traffic.

I can’t explain why my daughter was hit by an 18-wheeler and walked away without a scratch.

Or why it happened in the month of thankfulness.

All I know is this: Relinquishment is a prerequisite to fulfillment. ~Eugene Peterson

Every time I let go of self-definition, God lengthens the road, widens the landscape, expands the tent pegs of influence and challenges my faith. And my perspective shifts from who I think I am to a longing that mirrors His reflection.

In the willingness of surrender, everything I hold on to becomes an altar of sacrifice. My children’s future, my home and stuff, the seat I take at my desk, the view outside my window, a paycheck.

The ways of God and the familiarity of his voice become identifiable, not by listening to someone explain it, but by living it out.

I move forward by looking back and courageously exclaim, “Yes, it was worth every minute.”

As fall returns with her chameleon sensibilities and the chill of change seeps through tiny cracks of summer’s foolishness, I spread a blanket around my shoulders, peek over the dog-eared pages of my paperback and stare at my daughter sleeping soundly, covered up on the couch.

A life of faith is a mysterious journey of questions without answers. And I’m okay with that.

A sacrificial life is the means and the only means, by which a life of faith matters. ~Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way



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  1. Rachel Britz

    “Relinquishment is a prerequisite to fulfillment.” -So great!

    • Shelly Miller

      Eugene Peterson is awesome. I’m devouring The Jesus Way.

  2. Beck Gambill

    Wow, thankful with you that your daughter is ok. I needed to hear this tonight!

    • Shelly Miller

      Beck, lovely to see you here. Her accident happened almost exactly a year ago. So glad this was a timely message for you.

  3. Karrilee Aggett

    I love you… consistently. And that is all!

    • Shelly Miller

      Aw, you are so very sweet Karrilee, your generosity is contagious.

  4. Diane Bailey

    Wonderful question in a life filled with more questions than answers. I just know that God is faithful in all things.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know you’ve experienced that Diane, I’m so grateful.

  5. Sharon Brobst

    Loved this! And I so “get” this statement,
    “I move forward by looking back and courageously exclaim, “Yes, it was worth every minute.” …the joys, the pain, the heartbreak yes its worth it.

    • Shelly Miller

      In the midst of hardship it doesn’t feel worth it but clarity afterward is a blessing isn’t it?

  6. pastordt

    You, dear girl, are on SUCH a roll! Gorgeous, each and every word. Thank you. I sitting home with a heavy head cold and whole lotta self-pity. Needed these words tonight.

    • Shelly Miller

      You are too kind Diana. I write and wonder if anyone will get what is rolling around in my head and I’m always thankful when someone is blessed. I’m so sorry you are sick with a head cold, those can be miserable. Be kind to yourself, its okay to wallow in self pity, just don’t linger too long. Love you.

  7. smoothstones

    I can’t wait to ask God about the distribution of children: why some who would make such beautiful mothers are infertile while others stuff healthy babies into the backs of toilets or drop them down garbage shoots.

    • Lynn Morrissey

      Dear “Smoothstones,”
      The short answer, I believe, to these two questions is A) God’s sovereignty and B) Sin. The longer answer to both is more complex. I say this with due respect, but I’m not sure that when we get to heaven we will ask God questions that relate to His mysterious, sovereign right to determine who will have the privilege of bearing children. He is the Author of life, and it’s He who determines to what parents children will be born. I’m not sure we have the right to question His decision–to ask the Potter for what use He has made each particular vessel of clay. I do not say this lightly, because all of us have suffered the pain of broken dreams, and we all often long for gifts God chooses not to bestow. And this too–the death of dreams–we must accept from His hand and thank Him for loving us and knowing what is best for us. He is our Father, and He gives us good gifts (maybe not always those we’d want, but they are good and He uses them to comform us to the image of Christ). And He is good even when He withholds gifts; this denial, too, He uses to conform us to the image of His Son. He also uses our losses to help us comfort those who grieve, to help comfort those who need Him. As to the other longer answer, may I say that I have had an abortion. I didn’t stuff a child in a garbage pail or down a toilet. I went to an abortionist and let her rip to shreds the child nestled in my womb. I can tell you in all honesty at the time, as a brand-new Christian, I didn’t understand the heinousness of what I was doing. I was numb and confused and afraid, and I was also told many lies. Had I known, had I truly understood, I truly believe that I would never have done it. I was deceived, and yet simultaneously completley culpable. Ultimately, deception is not an excuse, but perhaps it helps to explain in part why we sin. I take full responsibility before God for the horror that I cooperated with. Once I truly understood the hideousness of my sin (having for the first time read Ps. 139 and having the Holy Spirit lift the veil and apply those words to me and my child directly, I was horrified–devastated.) I wept in grief and agony before God, confessing the despicable sin I had committed and the vile sinner that I am. Intellectually, I knew that God forgave me, but for eighteen years I carried a weight of guilt I could not bear, and a weight He did not expect me to bear. This sin–this horrible sin–God covered with the blood of Christ at the Cross, and He covered it before I had even become a Christian. He knew what I would do, yet He saved me anyway; and even now I weep at the thought of it–tears are brimming over as I write this. I recall once walking with a women in our church parking lot after a women’s meeting. Somehow, we got on the subject of abortion, and she said, “Lynn, how can those horrible, coldhearted, calculating women do what they do? How can they kill their babies?” I had no answer for her, because I felt so condemned. It would take years for me to understand that Jesus bore all my guilt, all my pain, on the Cross, and that He buried my sin in the ocean’s depth. He holds it against me no more. If I could take back what I did, if I could bring her back, I would in an instant. I’d give my life for hers (I believe that I aborted a daughter). But I can’t. I. just. can’t. But I can tell my story, and I can reach out in love and understanding to women who contemplate abortion, and to those who hover over toilets or around the garbage shoots, and tell them that if they confess their sin and repent, that the Lord Jesus Christ, who bore their guilt, will forgive them completely, and He promises to take all things–this thing, this awful, heinous, devastating thing, even this–and work it together for their good. What Satan meant for evil, what they, what I did–the evil thing–can be turned around by the Lord God for good. And the beautiful gift that I and other women like me have thrown away–our beautiful, innocent children–God takes in His arms, never, ever to abandon them again.
      Blessings, my friend,

      • smoothstones

        I agree with so much of this but do not agree that it’s inappropriate to question God. It does seem possible to me that–when we get to heaven–it will no longer matter to us to have answers. Or perhaps we’ll automatically know them. I’m not a particularly judgmental person, having made many terrible mistakes, myself. I too believe that God can forgive and redeem. But the distribution of children is still #1 on my list of questions for God.

        • Lynn Morrissey

          Thank you for your gracious repsonse. I dont’ mean to imply that we cannot question God in the sense of trying to wrestle to understand something (there are Biblical examples of this). But I don’t think that we can question His authority or sovereign choice. And yes, I think you are right. Many things we question now will pale by comparison to knowing Him in heaven and being eternally at peace.

          • smoothstones

            Doesn’t every little thing come down to God’s authority or sovereign choice? What is your scriptural basis for believing we can’t question God’s authority or sovereign choice?

          • Lynn Morrissey

            THank you. He is God, and I am not.

          • Lynn Morrissey

            I’m sorry. It was late, and I read your quesitons quickly. You had asked for Scriptural references, which I hadn’t realized. I appreciate that. I would refer you to Is. 45:9; Jer. 18:1-6, and Romans 9 is an excellent chapter about God’s sovereignty, and v. 20 speaks of our questioning Him.
            I’m sorry that I’m not calling you by name, but I don’t know it, or if you have a blog.

  8. Lynn Morrissey

    My mother and I were just talking about this tonight, Shelly. She has a big, compassionate heart, and was wondering why she was blessed with a husband who provided for her all their married life, and into her old age (Daddy died six years ago), and has all her needs met, and other widows struggle terribly. She says it’s not fair. She wants everyone to be provided for. THere are such huge questions that don’t always have answers. And sometimes we are the answers to others’ needs, but not always. Life is so filled with paradox, and it’s then that we cast ourselves upon the Lord, trusting in His love and sovereignty. What else can we do? And somehow in the pain or the paradox we will all face (and do), He is enough. I am so glad that His answer to Murielle was life. I’m so happy for you and your family.

    • Shelly Miller

      Yes, life is indeed full of paradox I will never understand. So glad I don’t have to either.

  9. Mary Bonner

    Oh, Shelly! I was intrigued by the title, but the content? Oh. my. stars!! So much truth and wisdom here. Thank you for these lovely thoughts.

    • Shelly Miller

      Love your gravatar Mary, its so you.

  10. Kris Camealy

    just soaking this in, Shelly. Reminds me so much of Ecclesiastes, with a more hopeful tone. I continually rest in the truth that though I don’t know the answers, God does. I have to cling to that, when life doesn’t make much sense.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m glad it sounds hopeful. I was feeling hopeful when I could’ve easily felt the opposite. Only God.

  11. Carolyn Counterman


  12. Beth

    I’m okay with that too! There are times I wish I let Him in earlier in my life but then I remember to just be grateful I finally realized how desperatly I need Him. Beautiful words Shelly. {Hugs} to you.

    • Shelly Miller

      I know that God uses every minute, He redeems all of our time for his purposes. Glad you are desperate too. Thank you for your kindness, always.

  13. Jamie H

    Yummilicious post that I needed to read today.

    • Shelly Miller

      Jamie, did you just make a word there friend? I’ll take it!

      • Jamie H

        For the record, it is a word I often use. I didn’t think I made it up. But maybe? 🙂

  14. DeanneMoore

    True. You wrote this but you got some help (the Holy Spirit – wow). So thankful for these beautiful release, the stepping back and seeing that God was in it all…He goes before us. We surrender. I am on a new “lifeboat” rowing deep, accepting this time, and knowing that I am going to hear what my ears have never heard, my eyes have never seen and my mind has never imagined. I am ready, expectant… thank you for your encouragement and prayers.

    • Shelly Miller

      I’m standing on shore cheering you on, can you hear it? Jumping up and down because I can’t contain myself over how God is working in you. Thankful, I am.

  15. Nancy Ruegg

    In surrender there is peace and contentment that defies explanation–in spite of hardships, waiting, and unanswered questions. Shelly, your insights continue to amaze me–truly Spirit-inspired! Thank you for always ministering to my spirit.

    • Shelly Miller

      Thankful for God’s faithfulness and the way He is gracious to speak to us. Humbled by your words Nancy, thank you.

  16. Janet from FL

    Sometimes all we can say is “Thank you God!”

  17. Kim Hyland

    These words are rich food for my spirit, Shelley. They bring to mind the thought God posed to me and I fell peacefully to sleep with last night . . “What if everything is just as it is supposed to be?” Thank you, friend.

  18. Leah@embracingrace

    Great post- calming to the soul. BTW, my husband has been reading Eugene Peterson’s book “The Contemplative Pastor” lately. I enjoyed reading the quotes you added to your post. Blessings, friend!

  19. Kathy Schwanke

    “In the willingness of surrender, everything I hold on to becomes an altar of sacrifice.” AMEN and AMEN! {And there is joy and sorrow mixed together in it all}

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