Why? Why? Why?

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Guest post by James N. Watkins

If you have children,nieces and nephews, or younger siblings, you know that a three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and a three-ton SUV, the truck is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals . . . Just take my hand!”

And on itgoes-right into adulthood!

“Why didn’t God heal my friend?”

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Why do I still have acne at 50?”

I’ve worked up way too much spiritual perspiration trying to answer why my second-grade Sunday school teacher committed suicide, why I was laid off from the perfect job in publishing—twice—or why bad things happen to such good people as you and me.

I have learned that while why is often a futile question, God is more than willing to answer other questions. But, like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are in the form of a question.

What can I know?

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

So, while I’ve struggled with hundreds—probably thousands—of questions about God’s workings, I have grown in my knowledge of who he is. While agonizing about an estranged relationship, I burst into tears—for God. I had described to a friend my pain: “It feels like my heart has been cut out with a chainsaw, run over by a logging truck, and then fed through a wood chipper.” If I was feeling this excruciating pain for one broken relationship, how was God feeling about billions of heartaches? It was one of the few times I actually felt I understood God.

I can also find the answer to . . .

How can I grow?

I’ve always leaned into Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV).

But what is that “purpose”? The very next verse answers: “To be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). So do other verses:

“And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1).

That’s our purpose! So ask, how can I grow more like Christ through this difficult time.

Who can I show?

Second Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all ourtroubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer” (NLT).

The Greek word translated comfort isparaklesis. It is a calling near, summons for help; a prayer, a plea; exhortation, admonition, encouragement; consolation, comfort, solace, refreshment; or a persuasive speech, motivational talk, instruction. And it’s feminine case. No one comforts like a mother.

We offer our best comfort to those experiencing what we have personally gone through.

So, sorry, we can’t always answer the why questions, but we can answer these three.

Condensed from The Psalms of Asaph: Struggling with Unanswered Prayer, Unfulfilled Promises, and Unpunished Evil by James N. Watkins. Browse and buy at jameswatkins.com/asaph/

Lenten Thoughts: Tantrums

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On a quick trip to Walmart recently, I realized I come out with much more than bags of food and necessities. I often come away with fodder for reflections. On my last trip, my attention was grabbed by a three year old child throwing a “fall on the floor, bloody scream” tantrum. The only person whose attention she didn’t seem to grab was her mother.

Where do tantrums come from? Typically, they seem to be about not getting my way or not getting the attention I think I need. Pondering the recent tantrum I observed, reminded me of a time when I was part of a church mixed bowling league.

One night a couple on our team was unable to get a sitter and had to bring their daughter with them. She was about two years old. As the evening wore on, her parents became more and more involved in their game and less aware of her. Her behavior escalated as she worked to get their attention. At first they scolded her, finally she got a swat on her bottom. Her wails of “pain” could be heard by everyone in the alley. Finally, the mom pulled the little girl into her lap and rocked her to comfort. The girl quieted and was asleep within just a few moments.

What can bring on a tantrum? When things don’t go my way. One of my grandson’s favorite questions is “Why?” Why can’t I have candy all day? Why can’t I play outside in my slippers? Why do I have to take a nap? Why do I have to pick up my toys? Why questions are often accompanied by little feet stomping, all pointing to things not going the way he wants.

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How much drama is created in our lives when God doesn’t work the way we think he should? How many times do we question his wisdom, purpose, or plan? After a very dark time of questioning, my husband shared with me he learned to quit asking why. He felt God was reluctant to answer that question, but he always seemed to answer, “What’s next?” The difference is the distance between trust and tantrum.

Drama demonstrates a lack of trust.

Drama is the voice of one who thinks he knows better. It is the behavior of one who feels she needs more attention. The Good News is God knows our need better than we do. His plans and purpose, while not always understandable, are always for our good.

God doesn’t hand out acting awards, but he does promise to hold us in the palm of his hand, remember all our tears, and count the hairs on our heads. He can be trusted.

When we surrender our drama, we find his peace.
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