A little over a year ago, I was asked to speak at a friend’s memorial service. My friend had endured excruciating pain for several years. She’d tried every possible path of treatment presented, and still the agony continued.
My friend made the decision to end her own life.
I’m not one who cries easily, but I wept bitter tears when I heard of the tragic end to my friend’s life. I’d prayed and hoped with and for her. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why?” Why didn’t she receive the healing she felt sure God had promised her? Why hadn’t one of the Western medicine or Naturopathic medical treatments she’d pursued work?”
Speaking before heartbroken friends and family wasn’t easy for me to do. I recalled this accomplished woman’s gentle spirit and our short, but sweet, friendship. Then, to my fellow grievers, I said, “Even though the roots of my faith run deeply, there are times when I say, ‘I’m sorry, God, but I just don’t get it.’” This, I confessed, was one of those times.
Recently, my friend’s death has come to mind as I’ve walked with people I care about who are journeying through dark times. Some wonder, “Why, God?”
- One was shocked with a diagnosis of breast cancer after years of normal mammograms.
- One is trying to sort out not only her disappointment but also, her long-unemployed husband’s. They just learned his “dream job” was given to a younger, more inexperienced man.
- One is reeling from the recent news her ‘healthy’ husband has lung cancer.
- One wasn’t chosen for a coveted professional promotion.
- One tries not to worry about the outcome of eye surgery, struggling with recurring thoughts of what life will be like if vision isn’t corrected.
- One struggles with the diminished lifestyle forced upon her following a nasty divorce.
I don’t believe a recent lunch-time conversation with another friend was a coincidence. A woman of remarkable faith, my friend recalled times when she asked the “Why, God?” question. The first was after the death of her infant daughter. The second, a few years later when she sat in the office of a marriage and family counselor, knowing her marriage hung precariously on the precipice of failure.
During one therapy session, my friend told me, the therapist said, “I think you may be asking the wrong question. Instead of asking, “Why, God?” perhaps you should be asking, “What, God?”
What insight do you want me to learn during this season of disappointment, loss and anger?
In what way can you use my pain to help others navigate their pain?
My friend decided she would move out of the “Why?” lane and into the “What?” lane. She’s been willing to share her story of loss, betrayal and restoration. Her vulnerability, kindness and empathy benefit many. Every once in a while, my friend told me, she catches a glimpse of an answer to her, “Why, God?” question. More often, though, she simply trusts God knows “Why?” She accepts the words of Scripture:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8 & 9 NIV)
Shock, tears and “Why, God?” questions are all normal reactions to an unexpected diagnosis, a traumatic incident, a devastating betrayal or deep disappointment. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s quite normal to have feelings of self-doubt as well as God-doubt.
My friend, Anni, an amazing counselor, says so eloquently, “Sometimes, darlin’ we just need to wallow in our exquisite pain!” After a season of wallowing, however, it’s important to dig in our heels of faith and simply “Do WHAT we need to do.”
The process won’t be easy. Pain, inconvenience and discomfort will most likely occur. Honest—probably uncomfortable—assessment and realignment must in time transpire. Working with a professional therapist or life coach or finding a supportive recovery or support group is often a worthwhile investment of time and money.
During my lifetime, I’ve had my own share of “Why, God?” moments. As a result, I’ve come to believe with every fiber of my being
God knows why.
God is good—always.
God not only understands, but God treasures every tear we shed.
God takes the dark strands of circumstances in our life stories and weaves them
together for lovely, good purposes.
Disappointment, loss and grief are universal experiences. I know some reading these words are relating. For you, today I pray:
Please, Lord, open the eyes of my friends’ understanding. Open ears to hear the still small voice of your Spirit speaking into their spirit. Give the gift of ideas in how best to take care of their own souls. Lead them onto the right paths. Give enough light to reveal their next best step. Recycle pain and disappointment in a way that will in time help others struggling to find their way.
I make these requests in the name of Jesus, who showed us in so many splendid ways the compassionate heart of God. Amen
Blessings on our journey of moving from ‘Why?’ to ‘What?’…