There’s something in human nature that longs for the meaning behind a happening, and we search for the answers to our questions. The problem with that is often there isn’t an answer. At all.
Over the course of the 21 years that I’ve been in ministry, I have walked with a lot of individuals through a time of personal crisis. That might be sickness, death, broken relationship, personal struggle, or some other life event. The thread that often runs through those situations is asking “why?”
“Why did this have to happen?
“Why did this happen now?”
“Why would God allow such a thing?”
“Why did this happen to me?”
Why, why why?
Just recently I sat with someone in a Spiritual Direction session, and that person’s ultimate request was to know why a certain thing in their life was still happening. I had to humbly tell them that there was no way to answer their question—at least I couldn’t personally answer it.
I think it’s natural for us to ask “why?” in the midst of the mess of life. There’s something in human nature that longs for the meaning behind a happening, and we search for the answers to our questions. The problem with that is often there isn’t an answer. At all. Nothing to be found, at least not in this lifetime.
I’ve watched as individuals threw their hands in the air and walked away from God when faced with a lack of answers to their questions of “why?”.
I think that “why?” is the wrong question. It’s the natural question but also the wrong one. What tends to happen, when we think we have discovered the answer to our question, is that we follow up with another “why” question, not too unlike a 2-year-old who has discovered that word for the first time. Ultimately nothing seems to satisfy the question of “why?”.
The right question, rather than “why?” is to ask “what?” For example, rather than asking God why something is happening in your life, try some of these:
- “God, what are you saying to me during this event?”
- “God, what are you doing in the midst of this mess?”
- “God, what blessing might be on the other side of this darkness?”
- “God, what is my role to play while You are at work in this situation?”
- “God, what is the lesson to be learned here?”
- “God, what is the good that You might desire to come out of this trial?”
Asking “why?” can sometimes put the focus elsewhere outside of ourselves, and again, there may not actually be an answer. Asking “why?” may also focus internally in an unhealthy way that really implies “why me?” as though you ought to be exempt from these sorts of happenings, or that it would be just fine if it was happening to someone else instead. Just think about the implications wrapped into that thought process!
Instead, asking “what?” shifts the focus to what God might be doing in you aside from the circumstances in which you find yourself. Life is going to happen, and typically for no good reason whatsoever. Asking “why?” can lead to madness.
Asking “what?” brings the focus instead to your relationship and connection with God, and that’s a much healthier place to dwell in the midst of the mess. Give it a try next time you find yourself asking “why?”. Shift to “what?” and see what happens.
If you’d like someone to companion you through a messy life situation, Spiritual Direction might be a good option for you. Let’s book a session and get to work asking good questions about your spiritual journey.
Husband, father, pastor, and Steelers fan. Lover of coffee, dogs, and bourbon.