Then Job answered the Lord: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted…. Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.’ (Job 42:1-3)
His name was Will. He was a retired clergy person who had become a dear friend and mentor.
One Sunday he came into my office and said, “I’ve just been diagnosed with brain cancer. They can’t operate. Tomorrow I start chemo and radiation.”
Will continued to attend church, until it became too taxing. I then began to visit him at home until he said, “Don’t come anymore. I prayed for my wife and that we would have children—we didn’t. When she became sick, I prayed she wouldn’t suffer—she did. I prayed I’d have a healthy retirement—I won’t. I’ve asked God why, why, why, and no answers come. Unless I know why, I can’t believe.”
Although I continued to visit Will every Sunday, he never answered the door. And then one Saturday night he called and said, “This is Will. Please come tomorrow. I’ve something to share.”
When I arrived, he started in: “When I asked God why all this had happened, no word came, and I lost my faith. But when I asked how I was going to face my death, God became real again and my faith returned. I figured out I’d been asking the wrong question. There’s no answer to why, but Jesus is the answer for how.”
Job asked why terrible things had happened to him. His friends gave him answers, but those friends and their answers fell short.
When we suffer, we ask why. It’s natural to do so. When bad things happen we’re sometimes not given answers as to why.
If our why questions are undermining, even destroying, our faith, I encourage us to follow Will’s lead by asking different questions. If we demand an answer from God for why things happen, the heavens may remain silent.
But when we ask God for how we can face our challenges, setbacks, and losses, we might discover that God has always been with us and that our faith has returned.
May we, like Will, accept that sometimes there may not be any answers to our “whys,” but that Jesus is always the answer to our “hows.”
- Has your own faith ever been challenged, weakened, even damaged by asking the “why” questions? If so, what were the circumstances? How is your faith now?
- What would help you to maintain your faith that God is always with you even when your why questions aren’t always answered?
- Does Will’s testimony of how his faith was lost and then found again as he moved from asking why he got cancer to asking how Jesus could help him to die speak to you? If so, how?