When something unexpected happens in our life, or in our world, it’s easy for us to ask God why it happened. We want to live the blessed “abundant life” (John 10:10b) that Jesus said He was bringing, and we forget that He also told us that “in this world, you will have trouble,” (John 16:33). We forget that all our favorite Bible characters had their share of struggles and grief and hard circumstances. Sometimes they experienced struggles for decades before they saw God’s plan come to pass in their life.
When both of my sons began to receive diagnosis after diagnosis, I continually asked God “Why my child? Why both of my children? Why me? Why don’t you heal them? Why is this special needs parenting thing so hard? Why do you feel so far away?”
After months and months of pleading these questions and God not giving me an answer, I experienced a crisis of faith that scared me. Was God a good God? Was God even real?
I went searching through scripture and found that I wasn’t the only one who asked God why:
- Moses asked, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant?” Numbers 11:11
- David asked, “Oh Lord why do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” Psalm 10:1
- Habbakuk asked, “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” Habbakuk 1:3
- Job asked, “Why have you made me your target?” Job 7:20
- The disciples asked, “Why was this man born blind?” John 9:2
In every case, God did answer them, reminding them that He was in control, or the person asking the question later recognized it on their own and was able to end their time of questioning God with praising Him.
His plan isn’t always what our heart wants. We want to understand right now why this has happened. We want to know why we were the ones chosen for it. We want to know the reason for it. We want to know what good will come of it. But Scripture continually reminds us that God is God and we are not. He has a plan that we cannot see.
What to ask instead of why
One day while journaling my struggles and sorrows and complaints and whys, I felt strongly that God was telling me I was asking the wrong question.
What other question is there? I wondered.
I didn’t get an answer right away, but when it came, it shifted my perspective. The question to ask was not why? but what? with a heart to learn God’s heart. For example, “What do you want me to learn from this journey? What good do you want to come from this? What testimony will I have from this?”
God had never answered any of my why questions, but He started answering those what questions.
Because He was molding me into a stronger woman of faith. Because He wanted me to trust Him like never before. Because He wanted me to write a book to encourage other Christian special needs mothers with the things I was learning on my own journey.
Scripture indicates God’s way of thinking is totally different than our own. By asking what instead of why, it puts God back on His throne. Asking what? suggests humility, trusting God. Asking why? suggests a hostility toward God’s character, that He isn’t really good or cannot really be trusted, or a belief that we know better than the Creator Himself. Ouch.
Questions and emotions aren’t bad
Now, it’s not wrong to ask God questions. Job and David asked God several questions when they were suffering or felt like they had been abandoned by God. And yet God loved those men very much. He called Job righteous and David a man after His own heart. He didn’t always answer their questions, but He did let them know He was God, He was in control and He understood things they could not.
It’s also not wrong to experience grief or anger or any other emotion when we’re going through a hard time. Human emotions are natural. Healthy. Even Jesus experienced grief and got angry. We just aren’t made to get stuck in a place with those unhealthy emotions.
And one way to help us process our emotions and move forward in faith is to ask God our questions in humility, acknowledging God is sovereign. And then we trust (and obey) His answer.
It’s not always easy. It requires a mindset shift, an intentional decision to trust that God is teaching us something and that it is for our ultimate good and the good of others around us, that we can impact others with what we’ve been learning.
It makes the hard times a little easier to bear, knowing that there is something to learn (and one day, to teach and encourage others) from what we learned during our hard circumstances and our struggles.
Related Post for Further Reading: When You Find Yourself Asking God “Do you even care?”