Why? – When Life Disappoints

The problem of pain and loss and disappointment has hindered many people in their faith journeys. One writer referred to the problem of pain as “a question mark turned like a fishhook in the human heart (Strobel, Case Faith).”

Why? Three little letters and one fishhook shaped question mark.

These life fishhooks come to us in many forms. They come to distance skaters who are told to change lanes by a coach thus having him disqualified from a gold medal. They come to moms who give birth to a lifeless child, while a woman in the next room over gave birth to a perfectly healthy child that she did not want. They come to parents who prayed for the protection of their son who is killed in a car crash while those who never pray avoid crashes their entire life. They come to students who have to listen to an announcement that two of their classmates have died in car accidents on the same day in separate accidents.

You and I just keep asking the question “Why?” It’s not a bad question to ask in some cases. We need to ask it in order to rectify a situation. Someone needs to ask it so that the coach doesn’t give bad advice to his skater again and knock him out of the gold medal. We need to ask “Why?” But there are some “Why?” questions that we will never be able to answer fully, and yet we keep asking it. If only she had worn a seat-belt; if only we had prayed more; if only we had made them wait just a second or two; if only… And the “Why?” question asked repeatedly of things mysterious, gradually evolves into a “Why me?” question.

I think we ask this kind of “Why me?” question, because we like to think that we live in an orderly universe that should be fair and that has logical explanations for things that happen. If the car won’t start, we have a dead battery. If the lights go out, someone didn’t pay the bill. If someone was killed in an accident, there had to be a reason. We have to have logical explanations for things, every board nailed down. And if we don’t, an unanswered “why?” question jeopardizes all of the security we feel in the world.

Someone has suggested that one of the reasons we want to know why is because it arises from the fear that the same thing can happen to us. Fear prompts the why question. And it doesn’t help if you’ve got a society that creates a culture of fear simply to boost their circulation or increase their viewing audience. You know how this works. “The little freckle on your arm could be a time bomb – story at 10.” We are hooked in a second. We have something new to worry about. And then we fear being the one case in a thousand that has a freckle turn into something and we ask “Why?”

What if we are asking the wrong question. What if there is no answer to this kind of “Why?” question. “Why me?” is a natural question to ask, but if we live it constantly, it makes it impossible to see anything but the “unfairness” of what has happened in my life. It imprisons us. What if we are being asked to live with mystery? What should we be asking then?

Jesus seems to imply that the question we all should ask is “What now?” I’ve got trouble. I have experienced loss. I worry about the uncertainty of the world I live in. “What should I do now?” But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…

We often want to seek pleasure or some other form of escape first. The easiest route of relief is through our bodies. We seek to gratify the senses and get relief when we stop at “Why me?” But the question “What now?” allows us to step out of the prison, not as hapless victims in an unpredictable world, but as citizens of a kingdom. When we ask “What now?” we shift our focus from ourselves to God’s Kingdom. How can God be honored in all this trouble? God may not answer our “Whys?” but He will be our “Who?” and part of our “What now?” We can trust Him with our “Whys?”

And what I have found is that the people God uses the most in the kingdom are those who have an unanswered “Why?” in his/her life.



Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Suffering, Theodicy

3 responses to “Why? – When Life Disappoints

  1. aforcier

    joey nelson, how are you? good to hear from you again.

    i like your “why me?” reflection. it is a question we mostly ask when things go wrong. your right, we never seem to have an answer. except that it takes us in a downward spin. it seems to imply that some negative force is acting upon our existence.

    Then, i went for a walk… wonder how we would react if we asked… why me?… when something went right. i just won … just receive… was blessed… why me? and this somehow takes us into an upward spiral. what is that positive force acting on our life?

    maybe it is an important question.


  2. There’s a “why me?” of self-pity. Why did this have to happen to me? And as you point out, there is a “why me?” of grace. Why am I the recipient of this kind of life, or of this opportunity, or of these gifts? We are aware in this moment that we have more than we ever deserve – the why me? of grace.

    I like it, sir. It’s a take we all need to consider. We need Someone to thank.

  3. aforcier

    joey, thanks for bring up the question.

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