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asking the “why” question

Recently I have been spending time with people who have been asking “why?”  Why has this tragedy happened?  Why is there injustice in the world?  Why am I sick?  Why did that killing take place?  Why aren’t more people in church?  Why don’t “they” understand?

“Why” questions are important in many ways, because the questions allow us to seek deeper answers, ask the questions of purpose, motivation, structure.  But at times the “why” question can sound too much like “why me?”  And “why me?”  many time carries with it the belief of privilege – the fact of asking “why me” implies that it should not be me, that somehow I should be exempt from…whatever it is I am asking about.

This of course was the question of Job in many ways, “why O Lord, why this suffering, this tragedy.”  I have preached that the real answer given to Job was the Incarnation of God, the God who came and lived as one of us.  But I suspect that for many, perhaps even most, Christians, the belief still exists that the answer should be “if you are good this won’t happen to you.”  This belief baffles me.  I wonder how any Christian can look at the Cross and think that life will not contain suffering or pain.  I wonder how any Christian can pray the Liturgy of Good Friday and think that if you lead a “good” life that no sickness or sorrow will ever happen to you.

I have heard from too many people that they lost their faith when life turned tragic or hard in some fashion – a loved one died, there was a disaster, a job was lost.  And my answer, the answer of Jesus, is not one that makes a lot of people happy, because the answer is that life does contain suffering and sorrow – Jesus died on a cross!  But life also contains Resurrection.  And life, in the midst of our suffering and sorrow, also contains great joy and delight.  God is with us at all times, in the joys and in the sorrows, in the sickness and in the health.  Why do we only question God when bad things happen?  I don’t think I have ever heard someone say “why is this fabulous thing happening to me?”  God did not take away the pain, God shares in the pain.  For me, that is good enough.

Asking “why” is good, it can lead to necessary change.  Asking “why me” can be good – if it challenges me to look at places of privilege that have assisted me along the path and causes me to unpack my own culture and place in it.  Asking “why me” can also simply be a way of crying out in pain and sorrow, asking God to come help.  Those are all good.  It is when I ask “why me” and sink into the pity that thinks somehow I should be exempt from the realities of life that the question is unhelpful.

What questions do you ask?

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