December 23

After We Stop Asking “Why”?

Psalm 42:9 I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Psalm 22:1 [David said,] “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, and from the words of My groaning?”

Genesis 50:20 Joseph said to [his brothers], “…as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.

“Why” is possibly the most popular question we ask God. It’s also the most frustrating of questions, because there is rarely an answer.

It’s not hard to understand why it’s so difficult for us. We have been created to understand, to put things together, to make sense out of chaos. The striving to learn and understand has been built into us by God. Yet the fullness of that understanding only comes in the next life. I Corinthians 13:12 promises that when we meet Christ, “[we] shall know just as [we] also [are] known.” But in the meantime, the first part of that verse is our portion: “Now [we] know in part.”

One of the great growing opportunities of faith is the mental aspect of whatever test we’re undergoing. The external circumstances of the challenge, the illness, the pain of disappointment—these are difficult enough to handle. But then there is the “why?” And that can be tormenting.

Joseph had clearly worked out that question by the time he came face to face with his brothers, years after they had sold him into slavery. There is no way he could have understood what was going on at the time, that his brothers’ sinful actions, coupled with an unjust imprisonment (for doing the right thing!), would lead to the saving of his family and untold millions of his countrymen. We can’t know our futures and the whys either. Perhaps time has to play itself out for some of the plan to begin to be evident. Perhaps we are not mature enough spiritually to be able to see all that He is doing with and in our trial. (Perhaps no human could be.)

Somehow the urge to cry out why had played itself out in Joseph. And yet, God did show him the why. For us, we need to be honest about crying out to God. But then we need to let the need for the why play itself out in us, too. God desires to make sense of things to us, but in His time and His way, for His glory. Pounding on His chest only hurts us, not Him.

The better question to ask when the fires of asking why begin to die down is simple: “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” Unlike the why, that question is always appropriate, and is the way out of the tail-chasing pursuit of why. To keep asking why too long only results in anger and frustration. Asking what to do and then doing it keeps us moving along the path of faith. It’s also the way to understanding the why. By the time we get “there,” though, our drive to know why may well be dissolved in faith in a trustworthy God.

Prayer: Lord, help me get past the drive to know why the next time I find myself in a circumstance I don’t understand. Deliver me quickly to just wanting to know and do Your will for me. Use me in helping others to this point, too.

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