There are a few things right now that are grating against my soul. I want my cousin to be well, I want Ellia’s diagnosis to be clear and curable, and I want insight into the unanswerable future. Presently, the question of why is littered throughout my heart. It pops out unwanted and unexpected like a broken Jack-in-the-box. Every time I try to push the “why” down, it jumps out somewhere else. I cover one leak and another one springs open.
“Why” can be a question of defense—our way of distancing ourselves from our difficulty. “Why” can be a hiding place from uncomfortable emotions. Or, it can be the path to sorting through our circumstances. We ask why because we want to understand—what is happening, how it is happening, and what the end result will be. We want to understand because we believe that ultimately, understanding takes us to a place of depth and purpose and meaning.
When we find out why things happen, we’re more in control and less anxious. This curiosity, this “why” is what moves us from mindless acceptance and apathy to mindful consideration and sensitivity. At times, I’m frustrated by the question. I want to ignore the urge to ask why, thinking of its futility. After all, if I can’t really know, then isn’t “why” just a distraction from the grace God is extending?
But what if God, in his creation of humanity, has authored the “why” question in us? What if he wants us to ask why? “Why” has the potential to be a conduit, not an obstacle to grace. I’m convinced that the why-question is a ladder that leads us straight into the lap of God. When we ask why, we’re forced to come face to face with the Creator. Whether or not we intend it, the why-question puts us in a position to commune with God. Asking why does lead us to a place of depth and purpose and meaning, but not because we grow in understanding—it’s because the question can produce communion.
God tends to blow past our “why” to speak to our hearts. We think that purpose and meaning come in new insights to our situations—God wants us to see that purpose and meaning come as a result of being with him. We want to understand the situation, but God wants us to see him. We want peace that comes from knowledge, but God gives peace as we rest in the reality that he is.
“Why” isn’t an affront to the Holy God. Even when I ask “why” to fight off my anxiety or deal with my despair, God can draw me to himself. He takes my naïve agenda and uses it to bring me closer to his heart. God doesn’t roll his eyes at my questions; he uses them to get me to look him in the face so that he can reveal his care, attention and presence. I instigate these conversations with God thinking that I’ll be comforted by a logical answer. But the peace I’m after can’t come from logic. I climb the “why” ladder clutching anger, fear and confusion as tightly as I can. Then, at the top of the ladder, I see Jesus. The lap of God doesn’t always alleviate the fear, confusion and anger, but it does give us a place to put our questions. The peace I want can’t come from pragmatic answers. It can only come from climbing into a lap where the only thing I know is that God is. We, like Job, might come wanting answers, but we’ll leave having encountered the living God.