One Question I Decided to Stop Asking and Why You Should Too

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It’s one of those questions that keeps my mind turning over and over in the dead of night when everyone else is blissfully asleep. It has kept me awake many a night, tossing and turning in this psychological wrestling match. When all I want is to rest peacefully, there is no peace because of this one simple question.

Why?

Why was I abused? Why was I given the parents I had? Why did my marriage fail? Why did she have to die? Why have I experienced so much loss in such a short time? Why did this happen now? Why can’t I catch a break? Why couldn’t he recover from that addiction? Why this diagnosis? Why do I feel so alone? Why wouldn’t he just change? Why did he stop loving me? Why do I look like this? Why do I have this illness?

Why does everything have to be so hard?

The problem with why is that it holds no power to change reality. It holds no power to change my experience in life. Of what use is it to me? Why does not heal. It keeps us spinning in circles trying to find someone to blame. It’s the question behind bitter root judgments and assumptions like the one found in John 9:1-2:

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

That was really just a why in disguise.

This question, which frequently has no ready answer, has wrought havoc for me even in times of abundance. I could not seem to escape its destructive paralysis, even when things were bright and good.

Why would God choose me? Why would He go through all He has been through in order to restore someone who spit in his face like I did? Why have I been given something so undeserved? Why would He ever love me so much? Why did He restore me to a position of honor? Salvation is enough; why would He allow me the joy of vocational ministry? Why would He trade my ugly, dark, dreadful sin-sick life for the life that I have now? These questions cannot help me become the person God is calling me to be. In fact, they accomplish exactly the opposite.

Why keeps me from walking into my identity in Christ, because I am still arguing with God about his choices to lavish his love on me rather than allowing that love to soak into my being.

Why keeps me from being who God created me to be, because I am constantly afraid that none of it was real. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, because I am afraid I really am not worthy. I continue to hold on to the lies I have been told and believed all my life—that I am worthless and will never amount to anything. I keep believing that my life will always be a shambles and that any time of joy will be short-lived and fruitless. But, these are all lies designed by the enemy of my soul to keep me from being effective—to keep me from becoming the woman God created me to be.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why the bad things happened. They still happened, and I still have to deal in terms of reality. And, at the end of the day, I am not going to be able to understand why God chose to lavish his love on me.

That’s because I’m trying to figure out why I deserve it when the truth is, I don’t. I can’t earn grace, because by its very definition, grace is unmerited favor.

This is why I ditched why. I still slip up sometimes, but the Holy Spirit is faithful to remind me when I’m asking that dreadful question again. I don’t want to be stuck there again.

I invite you, friends, to ditch the why. Ditching the why will give you the freedom needed to stand in the outpouring of God’s grace and love and to soak it all in, even in the presence of suffering and pain. It will allow you to accept your personal reality as it is, give you the clarity to solve problems and make changes that will move you toward where you want to be, and give you the freedom to operate from the higher truth of whose you are and who you are, regardless of your broken places.

Because the great thing about grace is that it doesn’t extend only to the sins we have committed. It also extends to the sins others have committed against us as well as the brokenness in us that has happened as a result of this fallen world. We can receive grace and healing from the things we have done, but we can also be healed of the things that were not our fault.

Then, in time, you will find your broken places are being healed by the love none of us deserved but is freely available.

Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord

Julia H. Johnston (1911)

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt,
yonder on Calvary’s mount out-poured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.

Dark is the stain that we cannot hide,
what can avail to wash it away!
Look! there is flowing a crimson tide;
whiter than snow you may be today.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe;
you that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin.

Patricia is a student at Asbury Theological Seminary and is our own Editorial Assistant here at Seedbed. She is the primary editor for the Soul Care Collective, and is also a prayer ministry graduate of the Healing Academy. She has a teenage son named William, and has a passion for writing, theology, missions, care of souls, and healing. She is currently serving as the Prayer Ministry Coordinator for Trinity Hill United Methodist Church, and is pursuing ordination in the Lexington District of the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I disagree….after the death of 2 grandchildren, a cancer diagnosis, and many experiences of tragedy as a pastor of over 45 years and a Police Chaplain for over 25 years….asking the “why” question has helped me to delve deeper into my understanding of God and His willingness to accept my questioning broken heart. With all the example in the Scriptures of God’s people asking the “why” question I would think there is some benefit. Even Jesus asked it on the cross in quoting Psalm 22. Refusing to ask the “why” question is more of a mindless denial of life’s tragedies that settles for a pollyannish level of faith rather than doing the hard work of working through complex human emotions that force my faith to go deeper and richer. I believe asking the “why” question has much president in Scripture and Church history.

  2. Thank you for your feedback, Gary. I’m sorry for the tragedies you have endured. Obviously, I know suffering and pain all too well, myself. Indeed, our good Father does accept our questioning and broken hearts. Jesus speaking those words on the cross lets us know that not only does God accept us when we are in that place, but He identifies with us there as well. And yes, we all must go through a time of questioning in our grief. It is not my intent to minimize that. Our “whys” are throughout Scripture. They are there to let us know it is ok to ask that question. My intent with this article is not to say that we should refuse to ask why, but rather that we must learn to move past it. So many stay stuck there, as I did for most of my life. It becomes paralyzing and has the potential to embitter us if we stay there. Just like anything else, it has its appropriate time and season. And, taken to an inappropriate level, it has the potential to do us much harm. Sometimes, in order for our faith to grow, we have to realize that our why may not be answered on this side of glory. And sometimes, the answer is not nearly as important as the love God has for us, because ultimately, God’s love for us is what helps us persevere, not necessarily the answer to our why.

  3. Yes…you are right. Many people get stuck there. I was a District Superintendent when we lost our 15 year old granddaughter. That was a MUCH more difficult challenge than my cancer diagnosis ever was! I told my wife…”I have to figure this out somehow or I can’t go back to the pastorate.” God helped me but it took a couple years to “figure it out”! Sad to say…not all Christians were supportive during that time.
    The Christian resources out there were few and far between. Most of them were not really authentic in their treatment of grief and tragedy. I did find a couple though…and they made all the difference!
    I think many Christians are afraid to truly deal with grief for fear of being branded as not having enough faith. Honest, Scriptural speaking from the pulpit needs to dispel some of these fake stereotypes.
    Thank you for your honesty! Blessings!

  4. Yes. Christian resources on grief and tragedy are very lacking. And, unfortunately, some of the teaching in the church today is absolutely destructive to faith when someone goes through a true tragedy. It was nearly my own ruin at one point in my life, because I was promised that God would never let a righteous person suffer. We certainly need proper teaching in this area. I’m thankful for God’s hand of grace on your life and for your tenacity in clinging to Him through your grief. I understand that deep testing of faith in trials that are not surmountable in our human power, and I have journeyed very closely with others who have as well. I guess that is why I absolutely hate when someone says, “God won’t give you something you can’t handle.” The truth is that God is not the author of our suffering and pain. He doesn’t “give” us these tragedies. And, we encounter things that are too terrible for our humanity to endure all the time. That phrase is a distortion of the real truth. The real truth is that we cannot encounter anything GOD can’t handle…and He is with us and for us. Even in the depth of the muck and mire of our own unbelief, our worst pain, and our darkest hours. He carried it all to the cross and defeated it, not just so we could be set free to live abundantly even in the presence of our enemy, but also so that we would know that He intimately identifies with our weaknesses. I prayed for you and for your ministry today, Gary. May God, our Comfort and refuge in times of trouble, continue to strengthen you as you remain faithful to Him and his people. Blessings, brother.

    • Thanks for your prayers. I am beginning a preaching series in Sept. on some of those very same “Things Christians say….” like…
      “God won’t give you something you can’t handle.” “God just needed another little angel” “Time heals all wounds” “Everything that happens is God’s will” “All people are Children of God”…”Christians Shouldn’t Judge” “Forgiving Means Forgetting”, “Everything happens for a Reason” “God wants me to be happy” “A godly home guarantees godly kids”….
      etc.
      It is a kind of “debunking series” with Biblical answers as to why these “sayings” aren’t helpful or Biblical.
      Anyway…..Blessings on you and your ministry!
      Seedbed is an INCREDIBLE resource and help to my ministry!

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