How to deal with the frustration of your unsolvable problems–part one

What if I NEVER see a reason for my confusion, waiting, regret, and hopelessness? Is that okay? It better be.

Go ahead, solve the senselessness of stuff like 9-11

The Friday after 9-11, all the Clear Channel-owned radio station morning shows in Austin, TX gathered in one large room. It was a show of unity, to broadcast one morning show on all the company stations in town. One morning show on six radio stations with six different formats for six different audiences. Each station’s morning team would be heard on all the other stations, too. I worked for the country music station.

We did it as a community service response to 9-11. No music was played for several hours. Each morning show had a chance to share their thoughts and take questions from callers. Most of the personalities loved it.

I hated it; not my comfort zone, the other air talents intimidated me, and the audience was big and scary (weird for a radio personality, eh?).

The answer for others

I prayed about what to say if I had the chance. I hated the idea of blabbering on with some inane opinion that didn’t mean anything. The only thing I could think of was the idea I heard somewhere of the image of a quilt. From the top, the quilt looks orderly and beautiful. From underneath all you see is a tangle of chaos. From the bottom you’d think this mess could never make sense. I thought about the quilt and 9-11.

The moderator for the show was a casual friend in our building. He knew I was a believer. When the show started, he looked right at me and his very first question on this broadcast to the largest radio audience I will ever have was, “Gary, you’re a man of faith, how does all this make sense to you? Where is God in all this?”

At that moment, I realized what an out-of-body experience felt like. I could not believe he was asking me this question, the only one I had prepared for.

I told the quilt story. I said God sees the top side of the quilt and from above it’s a different view that I can’t have right now, but that I trust his view. (I wish I had added, “and one day you can have that view too.”)

It was the only thing I said the entire morning.

The answer for you

I hate the quilt. I hate simplistic explanations of complex things. It’s helpful on a radio broadcast, or to get everyone’s head nodding yes in a class. But you don’t sit down with a friend struggling with a tragedy or loss and say, “I know you’re struggling to understand, but really it’s like a quilt . . .”

It’s easy to talk about the quilt idea when it’s not something that touches me. But when I get my own personal 9-11 or Newtown or Boston Marathon finish line, then an idea of a quilt is not enough. I need reasons and understanding to get through the pain and confusion.

But I often don’t get any reasons. And so the quilt is not something I use for someone else. The quilt is for me (and you) personally.

Thus the challenge that must be faced alone: Is it enough for me to know there are answers I don’t get to see? Can I let God be really big and me be really small?

How big is God compared to me? Whatever the difference; that might be the difference I can expect between what I can understand and what I can’t.

So, what would you pick?

* * * *

The Everything Fits affirmation:

Everything about my life, everything that happens

– the family I was born into

– the circumstances I have experienced and find myself in

– my personality and DNA and wiring and gifting –

is engineered or permitted or governed by a sovereign, just, loving God who always has three good things in mind

1) to develop my personal relationship and intimacy with him

2) to accomplish his purposes in the world, and

3) to further his own awesome, immeasurable aims that are bigger than my ability to understand.

Therefore, whether it’s past, present, or future, I can have confidence and peace that somehow, someway, Everything Fits Even When It Doesn’t, and I will trust and cooperate with God in the fitting.  

About the Author


Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).


  1. Debbie Fields

    Like every Monday when I read your post, I have been blessed and encouraged. I am reminded of a song, “One Scarred Hand”, I think is the title. It says something like, when I can’t see I must believe. Our God loves us so much and even when life is pitch blace, and at times it is, we can completely trust that He is there and in Histime will make all things clear. One day, when we rest beside Him we will see that quilt finished.

  2. M

    I’m not a person who needs to know everything (phew)! When tragedies happen, I explain “free will” to non-believers & that there is no way to make sense of such senseless acts!!! In those times, what I do know is; our God promises HIS prefect peace, unfailing love AND (if THAT were not enough), HE promises to use it for good! I always say; “HE has thought of everything!” Thanks G… Blessings & <3 M

    • When I see someone at peace with bad, unexplainable, stuff, it says something very powerful. Sounds like you might be one of those people, M

      • M

        WOW! Thank you for speaking such life over me:) I’ve never really looked at it that way before. It’s how He made me…glory goes to God! This is such an example, that words have power!
        I won’t forget this beautiful compliment…<3 m

  3. Christy Fitzwater

    Best question EVER!! I remember exactly where I was the day I realized those were my two choices. Well said. Well said.

  4. Janet Ribet

    I am so thankful for this series. My brother is going through a very difficult time (and he is not a Christian), and I am forwarding your messages as they seem to hit the mark each week. I’m praying and hoping that he will come to see that Jesus is his only salvation, comfort, strength, wisdom for here and now as well as for eternity.

    • I hope your brother finds great encouragement in Jesus, and that you’re encouraged in turn :)

  5. I choose the big, limitless God. I am so happy that my God is so BIG. When I came back to, Him after 20 years away, I thought He would have to be big because of all my junk. When my second wife and I started attending a small local Church 1,400 miles from home, and three years after my divorce, I was overwhelmed by the love and grace that were poured out over us by a people that didn’t seem to care about our sordid past. When I was finally able to share my shame and self-condemnation with the pastor (now my best friend), I was again met with the love, peace and forgiveness promised by Christ. God showed His forgiveness and his grace to us through this church family. They completely forgave the past, before they even knew what it was and when they found out they said, “Is that all you got?” That’s a big God that knew exactly where we needed to be in order to be restored to Him. – Thanks for letting me ramble.


    • Ramble anytime Hutch. Thanks for sharing – very encouraging buddy.

  6. Ronda

    After agonizing for days over a “senseless” tragedy that happened to a very godly family, I believe the Lord gave me this analogy, very similar to your quilt. Think of our lives as a beautiful tapestry. Think of the various colors in the tapestry — brights, pastels, darks — they are all necessary to create the images woven in the tapestry. Without the dark, murky blacks, browns, and grays, the brights and lights wouldn’t be highlighted; they would just be mingled together. The dark threads are necessary to showcase the images and make the tapesstry beautiful.

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