Moving beyond the Why? question

I do not seek, O Lord, to penetrate thy depths.  I by no means think my intellect equal to them: but I long to understand in some degree thy truth, which my heart believes and loves.  For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand.  Anselm – 11th Century English Monk

A common reaction when we are deeply afflicted and frustrated is to ask God the “Why?” question.  “Why me?”  “Why this?”  “Why now?”  I would admit that it is a question that I have been tempted to ask God in dealing with my battle with thyroid cancer.  But a study of the scriptures reveals it is a question that God typically chooses not to answer. 

It is almost amusing to read in Judges of how the angel of the Lord totally ignores Gideon’s frustration and string of questions about why God had abandoned the Israelites to the Midianites.  Instead the angel proceeds to commission him to be the deliverer.  Gideon’s “Why has all this happened to us?” question does not warrant an answer.  Rather God’s challenge to Gideon is a call to trust Him and to step up in faith to be the answer.  (Judges 6:12-14)

Asking “Why?” reveals  the condition of the heart of the questioner more than it does the heart of God.  When a lesser asks a greater why something is or is not happening it is often rooted in an underlying mistrust of the greater’s good intentions toward the lesser.  For instance when a child persists in asking a parent why they cannot do what their friends are allowed to do, the child is questioning the parent’s fairness.  They are questioning the loving character of their parent.  Gone unchecked, such questioning ends up leading to stubborn self-pity and withdrawal from the parent’s love.

It is the same way when we question God in this way.  It reveals our lack of trust in Him.  And it reveals our frustration that things are not going the way we think God should ensure they go for us.  If allowed to run its course the “Why?” question can take us to a place of doubting God’s love and good intentions toward us. Ultimately it becomes a stumbling block in our relationship with Him.

No place in the scriptures is this contrast between the frustration of “Why?” and simple trust in God’s faithfulness more clearly portrayed than in the first five verses of Psalm 22.  This psalm written by King David begins with the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  David takes us right into the heart of the darkness of doubt asking “Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer….” (vs. 1-2)

God’s silence here to the “Why?” of our affliction is not without purpose.  To God it is a question that begs for more than an explanation.  God’s silence to the why frustration is meant to lead us to a trusting resignation to His loving care.

And that is exactly what David does in the next few verses of this Psalm as he proceeds to recount God’s faithfulness to Israel when they put their trust in Him – “in you they trusted and were not disappointed.” (vs. 5)

This psalm is known as a Messianic psalm which speaks prophetically of the sufferings of Christ.  Verse one of Psalm 22 is one of the last seven things Jesus said from the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Jesus, in every point afflicted and tempted as we; to point of even feeling cut off from His Father can totally identify with us in our why questioning.  And yet, these were not His last words from the cross.  His very last words were simply this “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands.”  (Luke 23:46)  

In the midst of our afflictions Jesus invites us to move as He did from why questioning to simple and implicit trust in the good intentions of our Heavenly Father.  That is where I am choosing to abide.  How has this why frustration battle been for you?  Any winners out there?

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5 thoughts on “Moving beyond the Why? question”

  1. Tom –

    How DO you do that? It seems like every time I am going through something, you write a blog post about it, and there’s my answer…lol.
    I loved this post, because I’m in the “why” phase in a couple situations right now. Whilst reading your post, I thought way back to a message I heard about heart-issues, called “Did you pass?” The scripture he used for the message was out of Proverbs (chapter and verse I do not remember), which says “The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the hearts.”
    Now, after reading this, I wonder if that’s what God’s doing to me right now. If He’s trying to figure out where I’m at. I’ve been praying about these situations, the people involved in them, speaking faith into them (or trying to). However, I’ve been finding myself asking the “why” lately.
    Thanks for the post.

  2. Luke – I am thankful for the way the Holy Spirit can use a post like this to speak to your unique situation. It definitely is a God thing isn’t it? I think one of the most difficult parts of the “Why?” phase is feeling that the Lord has passed us by or is heartlessly ignoring us. That is tough. As you say iIt really tests our trust. We need to continually remind ourselves that although God’s intervention is delayed we are not forgotten by Him.
    In someways God is like a loving parent patiently refraining from going to their toddler while he is fussing about going to sleep. The parent is very attentive and mindful of the little one’s protests but chooses not to respond to ensure the child’s greater good – a much needed sleep. Coming to a place of rest is so essential in laying aside the why questions.

  3. Through my own ordeal God gave me these verses:

    Hebrews 12:1-2
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    It is my thoughts that we will never know the big picture any more than those who watched Jesus die. But the purpose is far greater than we can ever imagine in His life and our own.

  4. I love that scripture! Graham Cooke has said when we ask God invalid questions it makes us invalids. In other words, not trusting God and pressing on in following Him will be the result. Why questions can literally arrest our spiritual development. Thanks Kay for your thoughts!

  5. Tom I got see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit here in Akron Ohio. I was profoundly Impressed. I can’t find words to express how moved I was.

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