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Why, God?


(By Michelle Snippe)


Unfortunately, suffering transcends every race, culture, and class. No one gets a free pass, God’s people included. In our suffering, it is natural – and not at all wrong – to ask the question “Why?” Many Bible heroes posed the same inquiry to their God, sometimes out of frustration or fear, sometimes out of despair, or gut-wrenching pain. Men like Moses, Elijah, David, Isaiah, Habakkuk, and more all asked the question, “Why?” And, let’s not forget Job. He suffered excruciatingly, and even though God adorned him with the praise of being “blameless and upright” he still cried out “Why?”.


Even more intriguing is our Lord Jesus Christ. He, fully God, fully knowing why He had to suffer such agony, hung on a cross asking His own Father, “Why?” And if He, God’s holy Son, asked that question, then I believe it’s ok for us to ask it, too. Asking “Why?” is not unspiritual. The Bible underscores for us time and time again, that it is ok to ask this of God. But asking “Why?” invites an explanation…an answer.


Because of suffering’s prevalence among us, the Christian community has worked hard over the years to try to explain it, to evaluate suffering’s layered facets and assign a formula to it.“You must be suffering because…” 
“God has allowed this for…” But, I don’t think we should do that. Because when we do, we tend to then attach seemingly cold theology to the box we create for suffering by saying, “Well, God is always on His Throne.” Even though that is the truth, in saying such things we can unknowingly burden those who suffer with the expectation that he or she should tidy their grief, that Christian mourners ought to “suffer well” and “buck up” in their broken-heartedness. In the face of pain, this can do more harm than help because suffering in itself is excruciating, and sometimes is simply a complete mystery. In attempting to explain it, we can fall so flat. On top of that, I wonder if, when we make the attempt, we are assuming a role that doesn’t belong to us.


Chapter nine of the gospel of John has been a long time favorite of mine, but never has it been for the reason I found myself forced to explore the last number of days. At the beginning of the chapter, the disciples ask a hard question regarding the blind man they had just encountered: “‘Who sinned that this man was born blind?’ they asked of the Saviour” (John 9:2). In essence, they were asking a question for all of us; the hard question of “Why?” And, really, their question gives all of us permission to ask the same of the hard-to-understand life circumstances we sometimes face. When all that is apparently right in our world gets turned upside down, we quickly – and by default – make the same inquiry, don’t we?


The passing of my sweet friend, Sarah Lynne, has had me asking this very question over and over again.

Why, God? Why take a woman so vibrant and full of life and love?
 Why take someone who so wholeheartedly loved and served you and so many others?
Why take her, when she is still so desperately needed by her family? Why, God? Along with countless scriptures, many song lyrics and phrases have been running through my mind over the past few days, but a more contemporary track by artist, Austin French, seems to express well the parallel emotions many of us feel in the middle of the hard trials and tragedies of life. In the lyrics of his song, “Why, God?” French sings of some tough life scenarios that we don’t understand and in the chorus, he attests to the truth that what we don’t understand overlaps with a reactive, deeper understanding of our need for God. Here are his lyrics:


Why God?


Why God do people have to die?

A daughter or a son

Sudden and so young


Long before their time.


Why God, do people fall apart?


A promise and a ring


Becomes a broken thing

A road that got too hard.


I don’t understand.


But I understand:


CHORUS


Why God I need you.


It’s why God I run to your arms

Over and over again.

It’s why God I cling to


Your love and hold on for dear life.


And I find


You are right

By my side.


Why God do we feel so alone


Every single day

Fighting through the pain


Hoping there is hope?


I don’t understand.


But I understand:


CHORUS

Why God I need you.

It’s why God I run to your arms


Over and over again.

It’s why God I cling to

Your love and hold on for dear life.


And I find


You are right

By my side.


Give me a faith stronger than I have


I need to know when it hurts this bad


That you hold my heart when it breaks


And I’m not alone in this pain.


CHORUS

Why God I need you.


It’s why God I run to your arms


Over and over again.

It’s why God I cling to


Your love and hold on for dear life.


And I find


You are right


By my side.

Always right by my side


Even here in the why God.



The world would tell us that those “Why God?” moments are exactly why we should run AWAY from God…that it seems so counterintuitive to want to run TO the One who has permitted our pain. And, the seeming incongruence of His allowed suffering alongside His offered comfort, viewed through a natural lens, can appear wrong and unloving. However, we have a different perspective, don’t we? It’s a spiritual and Biblical perspective that filters our thinking when we don’t understand what is going on around us, a lens that permits us, as Christians, to gain at least this view through the fog of the unclear: that we can trust our God.

We call ourselves believers because we believe our God is who He claims to be—sovereign, righteous, loving, and kind. We trust and believe He is a good Father. We trust and believe He loves us and welcomes our questions. We trust and believe that He desires to comfort us with His presence. Even though we fight the acceptance of suffering, we also understand that we will never receive His comfort without receiving the pain He has allowed in our lives (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). There are just certain parts of God’s sufficiency that we will never get to experience on a path of ease.


Some of Austin French’s inspiration behind his song echoes these thoughts,

“There are tons of things in this life that we do not understand, but…maybe we’re supposed to just need God, just need a Father who knows all things and holds all things in his hands. And find Him to be enough.”

Does God always feel like enough? I don’t think He does. But I can’t base my thinking on my feelings. I must base it on what I know…and I know what Scripture says: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, I choose to believe He is enough. And I accept His sovereignty, run to His arms for comfort, and cling to the sure knowledge of His passionate love for me. The “Why?” is easy to identify with. It’s the answer that isn’t.


So, let’s observe the One we know holds all the answers and how He responds to our questions. 

Jesus, after assuring the disciples that no sin had been the cause of the blindness, squelching the common belief in Jewish culture that suffering was always the result of sin, here’s what He told them:

“[The man was born blind] that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). It echoes the phrase found in chapter eleven regarding Lazarus’ sickness and eventual (temporary) death: “Jesus said, ‘This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, in order that the Son of God may be glorified through it’" (John 11:4). For the disciples, Jesus’ reply opposed erred thinking, but then guided it in another direction.

For Job, God did the same. After Job’s lengthy appeal to Him that in all essence was asking “Why?” God replies: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). In other words, what ability does mortal man possess to understand the ways of God? Following this, for the next number of verses, God, in His discourse calls Job to observe all He is: eternal, omniscient, mighty, powerful, wise.

Notice, there was no direct answer to Job’s inquest into his suffering, just a redirection of his thought process to God, Himself.


But, finally, when Jesus was suffering on the cross for our sins, there was no reply. God remained silent in the face of His Son’s painful cry of “Why?”


After only scratching the surface of just a few instances where God’s people asked why, my humble observation is this: God is either completely silent, He answers directly to address sin (see also Joshua 7:6-11) and/or He diverts and directs. We recognize silence. We understand why He would address sin. But, what do I mean by divert and direct? When God did not answer directly to a Bible character’s “Why?” He diverted their thinking from an earthly perspective and gently challenged them to direct it to a heavenly one. I believe God calls us in the same way. When God does not reply with the answer to our why, He wants us to divert our thoughts from ourselves and direct them to Him because, dear friends, this is not our home. Earth is not where we are going to find every answer to our questions.


And the bottom line is this: it is God who has all the answers. Although perplexing at times, He doesn’t always choose to reveal them. Rather, He wants us to find our comfort in who He is and His presence with us, not in His explanations. In our humanity, we want to master the solution. But there are times when we must concede to the fact that much of our lives are a mystery as is the way God moves in them. Isaiah said it years ago: God’s ways are not our ways; God’s thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). In fact, God tells us that neither of them is even in our sphere of knowledge. I’m not even sure we’d be entirely soul-satisfied with them all, anyway.


Sweet friend, today, your grief might still be fresh and raw. Your heart may still be bleeding. And maybe you’re having a hard time even putting any thoughts together, never mind having to divert them from earth and direct them to heaven. That’s ok. God understands and meets you where you are. The stages and layers of grief are many and each of them must be worked through.


But to those who are traveling the road alongside someone who is facing devastation and grief, may we be gentle with our broken ones….allowing them to be human, doing nothing more at times than reaching for and clasping their hands, weeping with them. We have the privilege of being a safe place for someone to mourn. And sometimes nothing more is needed than nearness and empathy. May we be friends who endure with one another, rather than attempt to formulize and explain. May we be the friends who just hold one another through the dark nights, standing watch, waiting for the sun to rise. May we be the trusted ones to, at the right time and with caring hearts, point them to what they can cling to: God loves them, He sees them, He is near to them, and there is nothing that one day, He will not mend, restore, and redeem.

And, one day, He will turn it all to glory, and all for His glory. What a day that will be!




Photo Credit: Benjamin Joyce

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Home page cover image and others by Tescha Kember Photography at teschakember.ca.


Contributing photos by Violet Light Photography at violetlightphoto.com 

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