Guest post by James N. Watkins
If you have children, nieces and nephews, or younger siblings, you know that a three-year-old’s favorite word is why.
“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”
“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”
“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”
“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and a three-ton SUV, the truck is going to win every time.”
“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals . . . Just take my hand!”
And on it goes-right into adulthood!
“Why didn’t God heal my friend?”
“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
“Why do I still have acne at 50?”
I’ve worked up way too much spiritual perspiration trying to answer why my second-grade Sunday school teacher committed suicide, why I was laid off from the perfect job in publishing—twice—or why bad things happen to such good people as you and me.
I have learned that while why is often a futile question, God is more than willing to answer other questions. But, like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are in the form of a question.
What can I know?
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).
So, while I’ve struggled with hundreds—probably thousands—of questions about God’s workings, I have grown in my knowledge of who he is. While agonizing about an estranged relationship, I burst into tears—for God. I had described to a friend my pain: “It feels like my heart has been cut out with a chainsaw, run over by a logging truck, and then fed through a wood chipper.” If I was feeling this excruciating pain for one broken relationship, how was God feeling about billions of heartaches? It was one of the few times I actually felt I understood God.
I can also find the answer to . . .
How can I grow?
I’ve always leaned into Romans 8:28:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).
But what is that “purpose”? The very next verse answers: “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). So do other verses:
“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).
That’s our purpose! So ask, how can I grow more like Christ through this difficult time.
Who can I show?
Second Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (NLT).
The Greek word translated comfort is paraklesis. It is a calling near, summons for help; a prayer, a plea; exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace, refreshment; or a persuasive speech, motivational talk, instruction. And it’s feminine case. No one comforts like a mother.
We offer our best comfort to those experiencing what we have personally gone through.
So, sorry, we can’t always answer the why questions, but we can answer these three.
Condensed from The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil by James N. Watkins. Browse and buy at jameswatkins.com/asaph