SOURCE: Edward T. Welch/CCEF
“Why is God doing this to me?”
These words signal a spiritual train wreck in process.
Any version of a “why” question, when it is directed to or about the God of the Bible, is terribly risky. Even if it begins as a simple question, it gradually accumulates other questions about God’s character and promises, while it generates false assumptions about ourselves.
“Why (God) would you do this to me? (when I haven’t done anything like this to you.)”
“Why would a good father allow this to happen to his children? (If I were God I wouldn’t allow such things to happen.)”
Questions like these will only lead us away from God.
It’s okay to question God, but how you go about it really matters. Here are two ways to avoid the God-ward accusations and self-righteousness that can so easily become part of the why questions.
Use his Personal Name
First, ask “Why, O Lord?”
When we use his less personal name (God) we can slip in a few complaints and feel okay about it, but speak to the Lord and everything changes. He is your creator and rescuer. You belong to him. He is both your liege and the lover of your soul. Your response is praise, thanks and humble requests.
This kept the psalmists from going off the tracks.
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)
Not surprisingly, this psalmist ends with hope and confidence.
But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. . . . The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. (Psalm 10:14-18)
The Psalms encourage great freedom of expression. We are strongly encouraged by the Lord himself to speak openly from our hearts. The one thing he asks is that we know whom we are speaking with, which is a normal requirement of any conversation. We don’t talk with a child in the same way we talk to an adult. With the knowledge of his mighty acts in mind, the why question can end well.
Ask in Hope
Second, for a change of pace, and as a way to stay in tune with the psalmists’ style, consider another question.
“How long, O Lord?”
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)
This is the much more frequent question of psalmists, and for good reason. The true knowledge of God is clear and inescapable. He is the one who will deliver his people. There is no question that he hears and responds. The only question is when our eyes will be open enough to see his mighty hand in action. Hope is built into the question; an optimistic conclusion is guaranteed.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. (Psalm 13:5-6)
“Why, O Lord?” This takes our why questions and adds humility.
“How long, O Lord?” This question considers our suffering and infuses it with hope.
Edward T. Welch, M.Div., Ph.D., is a counselor and faculty member at CCEF and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a neuro-psychology specialty from the University of Utah as well as a Master of Divinity degree from Biblical Theological Seminary.