The answer to our whys may be obvious now, or they may never be answered in our lifetime. But even if we knew why, it’s likely we wouldn’t be satisfied with the answers anyway.
We ask God why, believing the answer will provide us with some kind of deep soul satisfaction. But too often, we don’t get the answer we want. I don’t think that means we should give up asking questions; we just need to understand their role in our brokenness. Questions can be a great help in mourning our loss, communicating our frustration, and expressing our feelings.
Our questions are important to Him, and the Scriptures are full of hurting people asking questions. Look at the Psalms. David wrote many of them when he was broken; and, in them, he poured out some painful and intimate questions. Sometimes David got answers. Sometimes he got silence. But even when David’s questions weren’t answered, his faith in God was stronger than his need to know.
Just like David, my why questions allow me to go before my heavenly Father and pour out my heart to Him. They help me process what I am going through.
What are some of your why questions? Have you ever talked to God about them? I want you to take a minute and get a pen and piece of paper. Then I want you to write down all your why questions. Start with “Why did this happen?” or “Why me?” Then get more specific. Try to remember each of those why questions that kept you awake at night. For some of you, it may be a single why question that has plagued you for years. For others, it may be a long list of whys that have changed as often as your circumstances. Don’t try to answer them until you have exhausted your list of questions.
But stop and do it now. I’ll wait right here until you get back.
Did you make a list? How did it feel to write down your why questions? Was it a relief, or did it make you angry to put your whys on paper? Were your why questions answered? Or did most of your questions go unanswered? Yeah, me too.
It’s important to know that nowhere does the Bible promise that all our questions will be answered this side of heaven.
God doesn’t promise our stories will make sense in and of themselves. But He does promise they will find their greater purpose in light of His greater story of redemption.
If I am honest, I find that as I look at my list, there is a sense of peace that comes from owning my own why questions. But at the same time, I’ve discovered that the longer I focus on why, the less progress I make. When I continue to ask why, somewhere deep inside me the repeated questioning and lack of answers feeds a sense of entitlement. When that sense of entitlement grows, it usually leads to bitterness.
But there is an alternative. The disciples asked, “Why was this man born blind?” In this question, they were asking why for all of us. But in His answer, Jesus didn’t respond directly to the why. Instead, He changed the why question to how.
Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. — John 9:3
How might this man’s blindness be used to reveal the work of God? Just as surely as He turned water into wine, Jesus turned the disciples’ blame-seeking why question into a God-seeking how question.
Man asks why. Jesus asks how. Man asks, “Why did this happen?” Jesus asks, “How might My Father’s glory be displayed through this situation?”
The answer to why doesn’t help us heal. But knowing that God’s glory can be displayed, even in the brokenness of our lives, gives us hope despite our circumstances. I promise you will find more purpose and joy in your life if you set aside the why and begin to ask how.
How does my story fit into God’s greater story of redemption? Even when we can’t immediately see how our story fits into God’s story of redemption, Scripture promises that it always does.
In the Bible, I see a picture of all things working together for good — a good that, frankly, I sometimes don’t understand. Somehow God mourns the death of a three-year-old, yet he also uses that sweet baby’s death to bring glory to Himself. If you don’t understand how He can do both, well, join the club. I don’t know either. But that’s because I am looking at it from my perspective. Without seeing from God’s perspective, I can’t answer how that story or any other story, including mine, fits into His overall story. But the Bible does reveal to us that sometimes God uses things He hates — things like cancer, divorce, suicide, addiction, death, and more — to accomplish the things He loves. He does this regularly and faithfully. It’s only when we bring our pain to Him that we can find our dwelling in Him. However, when we play the blame game, we’re focusing on everyone but Him.
If you made a list of why questions before, I want you to turn that page over and make a new list. A list of how questions. Maybe you’ve never thought of how God could use what you’re going through for His glory. Maybe this is new to you. If so, let me help get you started by giving you a few questions:
How might God use your current trial to glorify Himself? How might God use your weakness, infirmity, or disability to display His power? How might God use your hard circumstances to show you something about Himself? How might God use your hard circumstances to show you something about yourself? How might God use your pain for a purpose? How might God make this mess into a message? How might God use your current chaos to make you into a man or woman who walks by faith, not by sight? How might God use your situation to show you that true peace is found only in Him? How might God use an untimely death to stir the hearts of others and show them the importance of eternal security in the life to come?
Take a moment and ask God for wisdom in writing your own how list. Refer back to your why questions for inspiration if necessary, but know that your questions and answers may be incomplete or even unsatisfying.
Now look over your why list and your how list. Which questions have more answers? Which answers do you have more control over? Does one side of the sheet bring more meaning and purpose to your broken story? Some of you can’t even think about how yet, and that’s okay. Stay in why as long as you need to. But when you get to a place or time when you feel that your why questions are unproductive, try coming back to this and listing your how questions. I’m not saying you’re more spiritual if you get to how, but I am saying that the why questions will eventually suck you dry, slowly draining the life out of you.
I know this from talking to and observing those who are stuck in the past. They can’t understand why a good, holy God has allowed something bad to happen to them. What I want to gently tell them is that God doesn’t owe us an explanation this side of heaven. There’s nothing in Scripture that tells us we’re entitled to an answer. It’s not that God is secretive and doesn’t want us to know; it’s that we’re incapable of seeing the big picture. You can sit around and ask, Why me? for the rest of your life, and no one can do much about it.
In fact, after hearing some of the stories I’ve heard, I want to say, “I get it. If your story happened to me, I might want to go sit in a closet and be bitter at God, too, because that one’s a doozy!” But I also know that staying stuck in the why, or worse, running away from God, only brings more pain and sorrow. You have to run to Him. You have to believe His promises in the midst of your hard situation because not only is that the only thing that will bring you hope, it’s the only thing that will save your life.
When people go through the kind of heartache you or someone you know is going through, the only other response is to slip away into isolation and wait until the evil one eats you alive. We have to come to a point where we say, “I don’t know why my life looks this way. But I don’t have to understand why. It’s enough for me to believe that God has a plan and that He has promised He will never leave or forsake me, and He will be by my side through every trial I face.”
I know this counters everything we think we want, but there is freedom in not having all of the answers — especially the answer to why.
Our faithful and compassionate God allows us to ask any question we want no matter how difficult. Don’t lose another day of your life asking unproductive why questions. When the time is right, move forward by asking how.
God is good. He knows what, with His help, we can handle and where we most need to see His work. It’s easy to sign up for a short-term mission project or donate money to a building campaign at church. And it’s true; we can see God working in those places. But would you be willing to sign up for the brokenness in your life, if you knew your brokenness would bring glory to God and enable you to learn to trust Him in everything? We’re tempted to measure our circumstances on the world’s scale, but God’s economy uses God-sized scales. His story is so much bigger than ours, and one day when we see it in totality, we’ll have all the answers we desire.
Myth: Contentment begins with understanding why.
Truth: Contentment begins with asking how God might use this for His glory.
Excerpted with permission from When God Doesn’t Fix It: Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without by Laura Story, copyright Thomas Nelson.
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Have you been plagued by why questions? A dear family member was born with physical or psychological disorders — Why, Lord? A plane goes down with children aboard — Why, Father? A loved one passes away suddenly — Why, God? Today, let’s take our why questions and start asking how. How can these hard things, atrocities, sufferings, illnesses, divorces, and heartbreaks be used to show God’s glory? How, Lord? Come share your story of why and how on our blog. We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily