Monday, May 07, 2007

When We Ask Why

This has been one of the toughest weeks of my 20-plus years of ministry. On Sunday, April 29, Chase Murphy, a twenty-one year old member of our church, was killed in a tragic vehicle accident. He had recently publicly professed his faith in Jesus, which was great comfort to his family, many of whom are members of Christian Challenge. Yet even though I am confident he is safe in the arms of Jesus, I still grieve with this family that has suffered the horrific loss of an only child.

One of the questions I have heard the most over the past few days is “Why?” This is the most human of all questions, one that rushes to our lips when we see or experience unexplainably difficult situations. In fact, Jesus Himself asked this question in the midst the darkest hour of His life. Matthew 27:46 tells us that Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, WHY have You forsaken me?”

We know that Jesus was fully God and fully man. In this moment it appears that the fullness of His humanity cried out “Why? Why am I alone? Why are You turning Your back on me when I need You the most?”

If you’re a student of your Bible you know that Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22, one of the most often quoted Psalms in the New Testament. Psalm 22 describes the cruelty of the cross hundreds of years before it occurred. It begins with that most vexing of questions, “Why?”

But Psalm 22 ends on a different note. After speaking of unspeakable agonies, it begins to turn into a praise chorus to the Lord. The psalmist begins to encourage himself through his agony that when he cried to the Lord for help, the Lord heard. And it ends on a note of promise, that future generations will hear of what God has done for the suffering one.

So Jesus’ question of “why” was not an empty question. In fact, in the midst of the “why” question there is hope. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Jesus was able to endure the cross because there was a joy set before Him. He understood that God had a purpose, a plan and His agony would have meaning – and that gave him hope.

I can’t erase the pain of the grieving family. But I can tell them that God causes all things to work together for good (Rom 8:28). I can assure them that God has not lost control (Ps 46:1-2), that He has a plan (Jer 29:11) and that He works all things according to that plan (Eph 1:11). The point is, it’s ok to ask, “Why?” We may not get the answer right away and we may never understand. But the question doesn’t offend God.

I believe that God is weaving our lives like a tapestry. We look at life from the underside of the tapestry and we see loose threads, knots and tangles. So we ask, “Why? Why did you do it that way? From where I’m looking it doesn’t make sense.” But if we could only see it from God’s side of the tapestry! Then we would understand what He’s doing, how He’s weaving the colors and the threads into a marvelous masterpiece!

One day we will see things from the right side of the tapestry. Until then, we hold on … and trust that He does indeed have a plan. And like Jesus, just knowing that helps us endure when we ask why.