When my son was nine months old he was a robust little guy, 90th percentile in height and weight, and already wearing size 18 month old clothes. Fast forward to his third birthday and he was still wearing those same 18 month sizes, and was all the way off the bottom of the growth charts in both height and weight.
During the two years between his first and third birthdays he was very ill, and had undergone many medical tests to try to determine what was wrong with him. His father and I often had to hold him down as they drew blood, or performed other painful procedures and tests on him. It broke our hearts to see him hurt so much, and to look into his bewildered eyes as those people he trusted the most were participating in the painful process he did not understand. At his age there was no way we could explain to him what was going on, and that all of this pain was meant for his good.
This comes to mind often when I see people I care about going through things that there just doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation of “why.” I know that God is good and loving in all He does—I trust that—but there are still times when I wonder about the whys and long for there to either be relief from their struggles or some reason why they must continue to endure.
I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t answer why questions, but a quick search of the word usage in the scripture shows that this isn’t totally true. There are many times when the whys are answered, but there are just as many, if not more, where the focus is shifted from the why of the situation to another question, or, perhaps more importantly, to Who.
There are several reasons that the whys of life may not be answered. One, much like the situation with my son, is that we can’t understand the why. It is beyond our ability to comprehend the multi-dimensional aspects of what God is doing, not only in our lives but in the lives of those around us. Perhaps, as in the case of Job, there is a battle raging in the heavenlies for the honor of God. We notice that the Lord didn’t explain all of this in His dialogs with Job, but pointed him more to His vastness and sovereignty.
That perspective is often another reason for the silence on the why questions. As I stated above, God’s focus is more on the Who. In the midst of suffering He wants us to fall back on what we already know about Him, and build upon that. He wants us to trust in His goodness and love when there is no visible reason to do so. He wants us, like Job, to worship in the midst of trial and say: “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” Job’s focus was not on the whys of his loses or suffering, but on the Who of the Lord. I think that is part of where Job’s friends stumbled—they were busy trying to figure out why—what did Job do to merit this calamity? Surely God was not unjust, so the whys had to be tied up in Job. Even though much of what they said about God was true, He was not pleased with them because they missed the point, but He was pleased with Job. Even though Job didn’t navigate those waters perfectly, he did his best to keep his eyes on the Who, and came forth refined and pleasing to the Lord.
Job’s focus on Who was a demonstration of his faith. When we, like Job, know the character of God, we trust that His actions will be in keeping with that truth. He wants us to express the faith that Job did when he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.” The world around us may be shaking, but God will stand! Faith is the evidence of things not seen, and these times without the whys being answered are divine opportunities to express and grow in faith. We may chafe under these times of not knowing or not understanding, but they are actually meant to be gifts from God for our eternal benefit.
This doesn’t mean it is natural, nor is it easy to find our way through these times of not knowing or understanding why we or others we care about are going through difficult times. But if we will determine in our spirits to relinquish the whys and turn to the Who, we will grow in this area of faith in ways that will enhance our ability to pray, to cope, to worship, to fellowship, and to be able to come alongside others as they walk dark paths.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries