I served as Hospice Chaplain in California just prior to moving to Idaho. One day when I was on call for the hospital chaplain, I received a call asking me to report to the Emergency Department. When I arrived, I was told that a young woman had been brought in by her boyfriend. She was dead on arrival. They had called the girl’s mother who was on her way and asked me to be with her when they broke the news.
Upon hearing the news, the mother began to sob, and kept repeating one word, “Why?”. I learned a long time ago that “Why?” is not so much a question as it is a cry of pain, and that we make matters much worse when we try to answer as if it were a question. I simply held her for a while. Eventually her pastor arrived and seeing him she again began to sob out “Why, why, why?”
His response was to tell her that Christians are not to ask why, that it is a lack of faith. He sounded so harsh. As they turned to go, I slipped my card in her hand. A few days after the funeral she called, explaining that she could not stop asking “Why?”, but felt she could not talk to her pastor. I told her to pray every day and ask God either to give her the answer to her “Why?”, or take away her need to ask.
It was more than a year before I heard from her again. She called to tell me that she had been praying every day and that over the past weeks she realized that God had taken away her need to know “Why?”. She had found, she said, a measure of peace.
God doesn’t always give explanations, but he always gives a promise. When Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh, God did not. He did, however, give Paul a promise that His grace would be sufficient. He took away Paul’s need to ask. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you….'”
We do not live on explanations or answers to our questions, we live on God’s promises and His grace.