In 1989, missionary and Christian author, Elisabeth Elliot published a book titled On Asking God Why. I was drawn to it immediately, because my inclination is to ask Him this very question. I do not know about you, but I rarely receive the answer to my why questions. However, I now find myself in a season where I want to ask that question again. All the catastrophic events that are happening around the world lead me to that place of asking "Why?" There is the fire in Maui, the floods in Southern California and Norway, the migrant crisis around the world, those people who take advantage of children and young adults by placing them in slavery, the killing of millions of babies through abortion, the terrorist organizations that torture and kill those who do not agree with them, the Christian communities that are being destroyed around the world, and more.
We can find innumerable plights in our world that draw us to chip away at our Christian foundation and belief that God is good. Shakings are a part of life. But as Christians, we must use them to embed our anchors even more deeply into the truth of God's love for us. Christ alone is our Rock and the One who sacrificed everything for us.
In Scripture, Job was the first one to ask the why question. And who could blame him? He was a wealthy man of integrity who offered burnt offerings to God every morning. God pointed this out to Satan and asks him to notice how Job was blameless and feared Him. Here is Satan's reply: "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?" "...But now, stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:10,11) A plethora of losses began to plague Job, and eventually Satan afflicted his body with painful sores. His friends came to sit with him, and it is said of them that "...they could hardly recognize him..." (Job 2:12) In his suffering, Job began to ask why questions of God: "Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb?" (Job 3:11) "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul?" (Job 3:20) "Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in?" (Job 3:23) The Psalmist also asked the question why. Here is one: "Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture?" (Psalm 74:1)
Elisabeth Elliot helps give us some insight into asking the why question: "There would be no sense in asking why if you did not believe in anything. The word itself presupposes purpose. Purpose presupposes a purposeful intelligence. Somebody has to have been responsible. It is because we believe in God that we address questions to Him. We believe that He is just and that He is love, but that belief is put to severe strain as we wrestle with our pain and perplexities, with our position in His ordered universe." (Page 12)
Psalm 22, a psalm of David, prophetically asks a question that would be repeated by Jesus while He was on The Cross. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Verse 1) Both Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 quote Jesus as calling out to His Father: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Of course, Jesus knew about the agony of His death before He came to earth. So why did He ask the question? God used the death of His Son to redeem us so that we could spend eternity in heaven with Him. Jesus was bridging the gap between His sinless Father and sinful people. Perhaps He was quoting Psalm 22 because those witnessing the crucifixion would have been familiar with it.
Elisabeth writes, "Christ's radical diminishments—His birth as a helpless baby and His death as a common criminal—accomplished our salvation..." (Page 19) When we have no explanation for what is happening around us, we look to God. Elisabeth says, "It's got something to do with that great principle of loss being the route to gain, or diminishments being the only way we can finally be enlarged, that is conformed to the image of Christ." (Page 20) What is the bottom line for a Christian? We must be able to live with the mystery of God and trust in Him who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. He is transforming us into the image of His Son, and it is our responsibility to cooperate with Him even if we do not have the answers to our why questions. As we trust in the Lord, it is precious to Him.
Joan E. Mathias