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? 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? If He was, surely He'd be answering my questions and my prayers, right?
I went searching through Scripture and found that I wasn't the only one who asked God "Why?":
In every case, God either answered them directly, reminding them that He was in control, or the person asking the question later recognized it on their own and was able to see how God was working in their suffering and struggles and that God had a bigger plan in place.
His plan isn't always what our heart wants. We want to understand right now why this has happened. 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.
Now, it's not wrong to ask God questions. Job and David and even Jesus asked God why they were suffering or felt like they had been abandoned by God. And yet God loved those men very much. He called Job "righteous" (Job 1:8) and David "a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) and Jesus His "beloved son with whom He was well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). 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.
It's ok to ask God our questions. It's ok to tell God how we're feeling, He already knows anyway, and He wants to be included.
"A key invitation of our spiritual journey is to be emotionally honest about our uncertainties. Questions...are signs of a living, growing, active faith, not evidence of a dying one." Alicia Britt Chole in 40 Days of Decrease
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 start a blog and 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.
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.