God, I Want to Ask You

Seven Questions When Facing Death

The First Question

"Why Is This Happening to Me?"

Note to God:
Lord, why is this happening to me? It all seems so unfair. What have I done to deserve this? Don't you care? I am so confused that I don't know what to think.

Have you ever asked God, "Why?" I have.

I had gone to Duke University Medical Center for a test to determine the reason for my recent speech problems. The results raised a frightening possibility: Lou Gehrig's Disease - a crippling, fatal disease. The diagnosis would not be certain for two months, but something told me that this was what I had. I couldn't help but wonder why God would permit such a thing. I was a pastor, 49 years old, and here I was losing my voice. Apart from a miracle, eventually I would lose control of all my voluntary muscles. Why would God let this happen?

I found the question "Why?" to be as maddening as water torture - it dripped on my mind day and night. Unless I found an answer, I would get no rest. Thankfully, I did find one in Romans 8:32-39:

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (33) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. (34) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? [As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (37) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. [For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Apostle Paul listed some terrible things that can happen from tribulation to violent death. What he didn't do struck my attention: he did not try to give reasons why tragic things happen to God's people. That they do happen he didn't deny - just look at the list in verse 35.

  • Tribulation refers to trouble in general.
  • Distress in the original language denotes being in a tight spot, or as we might say, "feeling squeezed."
  • Persecution is being attacked for what you believe.
  • Famine and nakedness refer to poverty so deep that a person cannot afford life's necessities.
  • Peril and sword suggest living in a dangerous situation, like a crime-ridden neighborhood where your very life is in danger.

Paul not only knew such things happen to us, but also stated in verse 36 that being a follower of Christ can make life even more difficult and dangerous: "For Thy sake we are killed all the day long." Again, he did not attempt to give reasons. Nevertheless, Paul had an answer to the question of suffering: he showed that we can trust in the goodness of God. As I contemplated this, I realized that trusting in God and His goodness is better than seeking reasons for "Why this?" and "Why that?" If we know why God is trustworthy we can entrust all other "Whys?" to Him.

Verse 32 tells us that Jesus is why we can trust God. Remember what is said of Him in John 1:18: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." God Himself is as invisible as gravity. So that we could know Him, He sent His Son, Jesus. The Apostle Paul later wrote, "God was in Christ" (2 Cor. 5:19). Uniquely in Christ, we might add. Jesus revealed the heart of God as no one or nothing else can. For this reason, we should turn our attention to Jesus when we suffer.

Christ Jesus revealed three things about God. First, He is a compassionate God - compassionate enough to give His Son for us as verse 32 says. He cares too much to abandon us to suffer alone. Second, He is a merciful God who cancels sin, justifying us by the cross of Christ as verse 33 says. If God were only fair, He would give us our just deserts. But He is more than fair - He is forgiving. Illness may be the consequence of wrong behavior, but it is not vengeance. Third, He is an encouraging God who through Christ conquers death and all lesser evils as described in verses 37-39. These days of illness are difficult and painful, but not final. Love and life, not sickness and death, will triumph.

When I first became ill, I wanted to know the specific reasons. I never found them. I did find that knowing a loving God is far more comforting than knowing cold, factual reasons.

Circumstances change, but the reasons for trusting God do not. God in Christ cares, forgives, and provides hope for tomorrow. That is why you can entrust your "Whys?" to Him. Jesus provides the best answer to life's most difficult questions.

Possibly you have never placed your faith in Christ, confessing your need for a Savior who died for your sins, then rose that you might have eternal life. He makes a promise to you: "him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6:37). If you have previously trusted Jesus as your Savior, it is possible that your trial has shaken your faith so that your mind echoes with the question, "Why?" Either way, trust Him because He has shown Himself trustworthy. Jesus is the answer to all our "Whys."

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