There are moments in life when any forward movement seems impossible. Especially after a difficult season or a period of trauma and hurt. In those times, it’s natural to look for answers and to even question the necessity of the experience.
Church leaders often come face to face with the existential questions people are asking after seasons of difficulty and pain. There is a natural tendency for people to want answers, but often, the answers are elusive at best.
This poses a hurdle for many leaders as they attempt to give some direction to what has just been experienced. We know it’s not a time for platitudes or theology that discounts the emotional pain, but there is always a lingering question that is in the background. Bear with me as I take a little excursion and by the end, hope to give some clarity to the dilemma.
Leaders intuitively understand the importance of asking questions. I would go even further and say that the more effective leaders know the right questions to ask.
The opposite is true as well. To focus on the wrong questions can lead to wasted time, resources, and energy. There is a current trend in leadership circles to focus exclusively on the why question? It’s a great question and one that helps clarify the reasons and motivation behind any organization. It can establish your core values, your reason for existence, and elevate your mission above the mediocrity of others.
But there is a problem with the why question when it’s in the context of personal pain. It comes when you don’t move past it. If you stay fixated on the why question you will never get very far. You can always go back to why, re-imagine why, reframe why, but it’s not healthy to stay stuck on why. Primarily because the why is rarely, if ever, obvious, or a question that can be definitively answered with any degree of certainty.
I am going to make my appeal in a way you may not expect. I spoke recently on the topic of suffering, and in the midst of preparing for the message I was struck by the whole idea of the why question. When it comes to the subject of suffering, the why question is not a good question to obsess over.
Yet, its the question everyone wants answered. But the Bible hardly attempts to clarify the why, except to continually remind us that the entire universe has been subjected to sin and decay, as originated at the Fall in Genesis 3. Here is one of life’s most vexing questions yet the Bible states unapologetically that the brokenness of life is due largely to the fallenness of humanity.
The why question was settled long ago. But time and again, whenever we are reminded of the blunt realities of life in a fallen world, the question of why is raised again. Why did God allow this? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is evil allowed to exist? Why, why, why?
The Bible takes a different approach. Having clarified the why (sin), it focuses more on what I believe is a better question. The what now? I say its the better question because it is the more hopeful question. A fixation on the why can lead to hopelessness and despair. It can spiral us in seeing life as a futile race. It gives us little ability to see anything as redeemable or our present circumstances as instructional of greater lessons. Here is a sampling of some of the what now promises from the Bible.
- I will never leave or forsake you (Heb 13:5)
- Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28)
- I will heal the broken-hearted (Isa 61:1)
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt 5:4)
- Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4)
Those are only a few, but they illustrate the overwhelming focus of the Scriptures to move beyond the why and into the what now. This is not to discount the hurts, sufferings, or tragedies that mark our existence. The Bible fully gives way to doubt, questioning, and taking time to grieve and acknowledge the pain. But it never leaves us there.
It points us in the direction of God who is in the midst of it all. A God who doesn’t want us to live as victims of why, even though we may fully deserve it. A God who loved to such degree that he sent his son so that whenever we question, why, we can look to the cross and see that Jesus is the ultimate what now?
That’s the hope we have in the Easter story. Rather than live under the burden of why, Christ and his victory over death and sin points beyond why to the hope found in what now. That believing in Jesus, and placing our trust in his finished work on the cross, we can live hopefully, expectantly, and joyfully, even in the midst of trying and difficult circumstances.
The message of Christ is transformational at its core. A hopeful message that allows us to live above our circumstances and not under them. Regardless of the darkness that may persist all around us. I hope this finds you in celebration of God’s amazing gift and that you echo the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.