My first daughter was a black-haired angel with the brightest lips I have ever seen. We named her Talitha. She died at birth after insurmountable problems in the womb. A seasoned minister tried to encourage me, saying "One day you will look back on this and understand why." His encouragement caused me pain. No reason will ever suffice, not even 11 years later. If there is a tactical reason for her death then God is a baby-killer. Period. And my every conviction about God demands that He isn't.
Anyone who has experienced tragedy wrestles with the question why. In fact, tragedy isn't a pre-requisite. Anyone who has been through a bump on the road of life seeks the same elusive answer. Ever been fired? Why? Ever disobeyed your parents? Why? Ever felt lonely? Why? Ever been misunderstood? Why? The root problem isn't in the answer but in the question. Any failing in life that doesn't match our expectation brings a feeling of entitlement and loss of control. We ask why and expect an answer that will restore what has been lost. Life is supposed to be easy and any difficulty needs to be accounted for. Things are supposed to make sense and any confusion needs to be clarified. And nothing bad is supposed to happen to me without my permission. Ever.
What is more, we demand the answer from our boss, our kids, our God, and our friends. Did you note the recurring theme? My friends, My children, My boss... Why? Why? Why? = My! My! My!
The core of the question is an egocentric entitlement where I am the centre and everyone owes me an answer.
What is most revealing is that when we experience that feeling, we demand reasons from others for their actions but we are powerless to adequately supply answers for our own. Allow me to illustrate: When my son was three years old he peed the bed twice in a few days. Oh, not an accident after drinking too much water before nighty-night. I could handle that. No, he pulled out the hardware while standing on his bed and let the work of nature and the law of gravity take their course. The first time I assumed it happened at night and we just didn't notice until the next night. The second time was proof of the crime because the freshly washed comforter was put on his bed after he woke up the next morning. And there the evidence was wet, warm, and glistening in its golden glory.
In my stern Dad voice the first thing I demanded was WHY DID YOU DO THAT? Essentially the answer was, "I had to go." What an epic failure of justification! What was my response? THAT IS NO EXCUSE! After the threat of discipline if the act was re-peeted I was left pondering the difference between simple excuse and genuine reason.
Indeed, every answer to the question why is an excuse and not a reason. Ask the drunkard why he can't put down the bottle. Ask the gossip why she always talks about other people. Ask the husband who lies, the student who cheats, the friend who ignores, the minister who exaggerates, and the teen who cuts. Excuses. All of them. Rationalization at best. But not why. Never why.
Whether we ask it of others or ourselves, the best hope for this un-answerable question is to reveal motives, identify behaviours, or explore thought patterns. These rightfully focus on understanding and growth, not demanding an account. It also shatters the illusion that we are the control center of our own existence.
We must lower our expectations of ease and simplicity in a difficult and complex life. God doesn't owe you an answer. In fact, neither do the enemies that hurt you, the friends that confuse you, nor the authority that is over you. If in the process you ask why from time to time, ask as one readying for a life lesson of the soul and not one trying to regain control.
" Dan Cousins is the lead pastor of Genesis Christian Centre, a growing young church in Nanaimo, and serves as chaplain for the Nanaimo Clippers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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