“Why?” is a troublesome question. Remember the never-ending inquisition of a three-year-old child? Even your best answer is taken down with yet another layer of “Oh. But, why?”
“Why me?” can be even more troublesome. Even if God would try to explain His perfect reason for your pain, His ways are higher than our ways, and we’re unlikely to understand. I’m sorry – I realize I’m not really providing much hope yet.
Or perhaps I already know why I’m facing a trial – maybe it’s a natural result of my own sin. Such a backward-facing answer provides no relief, no instruction, no future.
If I can’t understand why I’m in the middle of this difficult time, how do I make sense of it?
Flipping The Question Around
Some will respond with a very simple flip of the question, asking, “Why not me?” They feel that they are just as likely as anyone else to have to deal with hardship. Seeing all of life as mere chance, they resign themselves to “the hand fate has dealt them.” This attitude helps to avoid the toxic emotion of anger, but it still provides no guidance.
Others flip the question when they see the pain of someone else. A recent speaker in our Sunday School class told of his father who would respond to each of his children’s illnesses with, “I wish I were sick instead of you.” Paul wished that he could be accursed for his kinsmen. Christ, going far beyond wishing, actually took our place with the ultimate “Why not me?” That’s a little more comforting.
With the exception of Christ’s sacrifice of Himself for our sin, someone else’s “Why not me?” is usually no more than a nice gesture. It may help ease the pain for a short time, but there’s no lasting relief in it.
So How Do I Respond?
I have to admit, I feel rather unqualified even to write about this. My life has been pretty good. I’ve always been a pretty positive guy, and I haven’t had to suffer nearly the kinds of heartache that some of my friends and family have gone through. I haven’t had a lot of reasons to go around reminding myself of Romans 8:28. How can I possibly claim to understand the pain you may be going through?
Ok, honestly I can’t. But I know someone who is currently facing one of the most frightening and painful trials I can imagine, and I’d like to let him speak some encouragement. I wrote before about Trent Freutel’s response to cancer. This week, his diagnosis turned more serious. Doctors now give him only a few months – or less – to stay on this earth. He asks, “Please pray for me to keep my head held up high for Christ and that He would receive all the glory and praise due Him!”
Let Trent’s example right now help you see the strength of Christ through your weakness. Go ahead. Check out his blog from the beginning. I’ll wait.
Cancer is one of the most troublesome things to face that I can imagine. So is a serious, permanent injury or illness of a child or spouse, or the loss of a job with little reason for hope in replacing it. You may have your own trial that I couldn’t possibly grasp. When you can’t seem to understand why you’re going through this struggle, try asking these questions:
- Can I warn others to avoid the same consequences? If my pain is the natural result of my own sin, I can become an example to help others resist the temptation. There may still be pain, but having a positive impact on others can offer a purpose to the pain, making it more bearable.
- How can I encourage others facing this problem? This approach comes straight from 2 Corinthians 1:4, “…that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
- What does this new situation make possible? Romans 8:28 is so much more than just a verse of comfort. There’s also a promise of positive outcomes for the future. What does your loss provide room for? What opportunities for growth or influence had you overlooked when life was easier? Choose one of those opportunities and take action to bring about that promised positive outcome.
What kinds of struggles make “Why me?” a tempting question for you?