The Struggle With Why

A child struggles to find enough to eat in an under-developed African village.

A mother stands over the graves of children lost to disease.

A devout religious person is arrested, beaten and jailed by a hostile government.

A teenager is insulted, assaulted and made to feel like trash as she heads into the clinic.

A man wrestles with whether or not to take his beloved wife off of life support.

The scenarios could go on and on. But the same question reverberates through each: why?

Why evil? Why suffering? Why pain?

Why me?

Last night, hundreds of people gathered at Grayson High School to try and make sense of the deaths of Hope McKenzie and Austin Rogers. Braving crappy weather, the weight of grief, and the crushing presense of confusion, those people banded together to find common strength.

Perhaps it was unspoken, but they gathered together to ask: why?

The philosophically flip (and one might argue, hugely insensitive) amongst us might counter, why not? And indeed, regardless of your particular worldview, there’s some weight to that retort. If the universe is blind and indifferent, then we shouldn’t be suprised to find it indifferent towards us. If there’s a wrathful, demanding god disgusted by our failures, then we shouldn’t be taken aback when that god deigns to punish us for said failures. If this world is merely and illusion of suffering to be overcome through denial of self, then we shouldn’t even ask the question, but instead choose to look beyond it.

The struggle with why only comes into play if there is believed to be a good, benevolent god who is supposed to love humanity and want what’s best for us.

This will probably stir things up, but why is really only an issue for Christians.

We’re the ones who are supposed to have the eternal, perfect, holy, good God. We’re the ones who run around telling people that God loves and wants what’s best for them. We’re the ones telling folks that if they’ll just believe and accept Jesus, God’s one and only Son (whom God sent to die for our sins because He loved us so much) that, in the words of Bob Marley, “everything’s gonna be alright.”

Are we wrong about God?

Or are we wrong with what we believe about Him?

And maybe most damaging of all: are we wrong to believe we can ever really understand why?

My question is: what if the why? is bigger than us? What if there is a good answer, only it doesn’t involve us, involve me, at all?

What if why? is something beyond personal and speaks to a larger, much fuller truth about life than I am capable of understanding?

I know for me, the struggle with why? has been the struggle with the universe not being built around me. Heck, my own life isn’t built around me. This is my personal conviction, and I welcome your comments and perspectives, but the world doesn’t start and end at my nose. It contains more than just what’s inside my personal bubble. And so when events come along that shatter that conceit – when my child dies before she’s born or my neighbor’s child dies in a car accident – why? becomes a question about much more than just the events at hand. It becomes an exploration into our very understanding of life, of the universe, of things that are far beyond ourselves.

Why? takes us into spaces that we usually avoid, because it shows us our own seeming insignificance.

Which is why the question is uniquely problematic for the Christian, who’s spent years believing in his or her significance in the sight of God: after all, He sent His Son to die for me, right?

Maybe not.

This post is going to frustrate a lot of people, some because of the questions I’ve raised and some because I’m not going to pose a neat and tidy answer to the questions I’ve raised. I expect (though I may not get) a flame war in the comments on this post, and that’s okay. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.

But for all of you struggling today, with death, with health, with money or relationships or theology or fear or adoption, for those who are grappling with the why?, take comfort in the knowledge that you do not do so alone.

And maybe that’s the point.