I’ll be ok.
I’m never going to be ok.
It was his time.
It happened too soon.
I don’t know what to do.
I don’t need you.
God knows what is best.
It’s not fair.
God has a plan.
What did I do wrong?
It’s been a hard few weeks. I’ve seen awful things. There have been car accidents and miscarriages: horrific traumas, and cardiac arrests. There have been anticipated and unexpected deaths. Grandparents, young moms, husbands, fathers, friends, brothers, sisters, babies… As I said, it’s been a hard few weeks. People ask and say all kinds of things in a crisis or loss. But the one question I always dread is, “Why?”
Why? is a question with no answer. Sure, people try, but I’ve never heard anything remotely satisfactory as a response. I listened once as a well-intentioned priest told the father of a two-year-old, “God’s ways are not our own.” He said this to him about 10 minutes after his daughter died. I often hear faithful Christians say, “God has a purpose and a plan for everything.” I’ve made the mistake of saying similar things sometimes. But these responses feel so wrong. I knew it as soon as the words hit my lips. What way of a loving God can only be fulfilled by God directing such an awful tragedy? What plan or purpose does God have that comes at the cost of a life? No. But my silent responses and my “I don’t knows” feel just as inadequate.
“Why?” is the worst question, but I always silently ask it alongside those who ask. Why? Why this? Why now? Why this way? Why is suffering even a thing? Why does life fall apart so quickly? Why is life so fragile? Why does it hurt so much? Why does grief never go away? Why did my kid get to come home from the NICU when others don’t? Why did we lose two kids before we ever got to meet them? Why does my whole family battle depression? Why is my son on the spectrum? Why does my daughter battle panic attacks? Why do I battle panic attacks?
It’s an endless, impossible question. I ask it and get stuck in a relentless loop.
Why? I have no answer, but I’m learning to ask a different question. Where? Where is God amid all this terrible stuff?
“Where?” can be equally maddening if it is tied to the belief that God is the great causer of all things. If God has a reason for everything... if God is in control like a puppet master pulling strings… if God is only satisfied by blood and vengeance… if God has a plan that dictates and requires the suffering of all people whom God claims to love, then I hope God is nowhere near me when I’m suffering. But perhaps it is true what the great philosopher once said. **BLEEP** HAPPENS! What if that’s true? What if the **BLEEP** that happens isn’t dictated or orchestrated by a god who gets a thrill out of manipulating tragedy? What if God isn’t blood-thirsty and sadistic? What if God doesn’t require sacrifice from God’s people for God’s way to be made in the world? What if the **BLEEP** that happens is actually outside of God’s plan rather than part of it? What if God loves us… I mean, REALLY LOVES us so much that God hurts, weeps, and, most of all, stays with us when we suffer? If any of that is even remotely true (and my whole life and work are staked on my belief that it is), then “Where?” is a much more helpful question than “Why?”
“Why?” rarely has an answer. “Where?” ALWAYS does. The journey, then, is learning to become awake and aware of the loving presence of God… even on our worst days. Maybe that’s something we aren’t meant to do alone. Maybe it takes friends, family, and loved ones to accompany us.