I think it is human nature to ask "why". My toddler hasn't entered that phase yet; he's still stuck on "what". "What's that? What's that?" All day long! But soon, his "whats" will become "whys" and I will have to know the reasons for things. "Why do birds fly?" "Why can't I have that cookie?" "Why is the baby crying?" "Why does it snow?" I look forward to this stage so much! I love learning and seeing new ideas and thoughts take shape in my little boy. But part of me worries about that phase. What do I do if I don't know the answer?
I did a lot of asking "why" after my daughter was born. "Why did this happen?" "Why are we having to deal with this?" I felt bad for having the "why me" attitude, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't help but wonder why we were in this boat when plenty of other people I knew had beautifully healthy, happy children. What did we do wrong? What is the reason for all of this?
I'm not the only one who has asked this very question. In John, we see this scene: "As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'" The disciples want to know who was in the wrong, who was to blame for the problem they saw. As is so often the case, Jesus answers their either/or question with a third option: "Jesus answered, 'It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.'" Jesus does not fault the man OR his parents, but proceeds to give sight to this blind man. As a result, people see the power of Jesus and those who would eventually demand him killed find fault in what he did. The man was not born blind because of sin, but because he would be used to show the works of God through Christ.
How does this apply to my daughter? Jesus is not here on earth to perform a miracle and heal her. Can she still display the power of God? Absolutely. If you were beside us in this journey, you know the hundreds of prayer requests I laid at your feet. Appeals for healing for her liver, spleen, blood, brain, digestive system. Requests for protection of her eyesight, from seizures, for her heart and lungs. Pleadings for safety and good caretakers and peace for our family. All of these were legitimate concerns. She faced real danger from threat of infection and permanent damage and worsened symptoms. We laid all this before our people and the people prayed. What happened? Her life displayed God's power. Her body began to heal and we praised the Lord. Her tests came back normal and we praised the Lord. She healed after surgery and had some of the best nurses and doctors we could ever ask for and we praised the Lord. God received so much glory from her trials, so much more than if we had not faced those dangers.
The blind man in Jesus' story receives his sight, but he is harshly questioned about the matter, accused of being a liar, and is cast out from his people, left to fend for himself. Jesus hears about this and goes to the man. Here is their conversation: "Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he [Jesus] said, 'Do you believe in the Son of Man?' He answered, 'And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?' Jesus said to him, 'You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.' He said, 'Lord, I believe,' and he worshiped him. Jesus said, 'For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.'" Because of his blindness, this man met Jesus. He not only met Jesus, but he believed in Him as the one God sent to proclaim the truth. Because of his blindness, because he did not presume to understand God but instead knelt down before Him, he was given sight, eyes to see the true God who brings healing to the world.
Part of this journey is seeing the ways that God brings glory to Himself through our trials. Another part of it is not presuming to know the mind of God. There are times that God doesn't heal, even when we (and thousands, millions of others) pray in earnest. My daughter is still deaf and she may still have damage to her brain. We continue to pray that God would heal her, but He may not. This is so, so hard for me, for my control-freak self, to step back and say with Jesus, "Not my will, but yours, be done.' (Luke 22:42)" To trust God when he says, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)"
We will not always be able to answer the "whys". Sometimes, they are bigger and higher and far more complicated than we are capable of understanding. We are still called to trust in this God. We are not promised answers or healing or peace while on earth. "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)" We are promised reconciliation with God through Jesus and a place where death will be no more, but that will not be here in this life. So what do we do with ourselves in the meantime? How do we move through these times when our questions linger, answerless? We follow the model of the faithful who have come before us, who fixed their eyes on the promises of God and knew that even when they couldn't see the destination, they were moving toward something, toward something true. Hebrews 11 describes the life of many of these people: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Moses and on. People who fell on their faces before God, who often fell on their faces in sin, but who returned to God time and again, asking for forgiveness, receiving grace. Why? Where were they headed? What kept them moving forward when the road got narrow or, in some cases, wasn't even a road at all but a path through the sea? "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [the faithful that came before us], let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)"
Jesus, the one who prayed for God to take the cup from Him but who accepted it regardless, He is the one that kept the faith. The promise of a Savior, of one who would be born of a woman, be degraded and mocked, but return to glory, He motivated those "heroes of the faith" who so often were fumbling fools to continue their fumbling but in the direction of God, in the direction of His promises, and with the faith that they would one day see glory. These men and women, this Jesus, they did not just go on their way; they ran the race that was "set before them". It certainly was not always a path they wanted to take, but it was the path they were given and they trusted in the God who laid it out before them.
In times of trial, those "whys" can seem so important. They weigh you down and make you question yourself, your friends, your family, your God. When you finally hit the point where you realize that you may never know why, it can be devastating. All this, all these terrible things that are happening, if only I knew WHY, then maybe I could accept them. In those moments, instead of asking "why", turn your mind instead to ask "who". Who is the one who gave me this great blessing in a child? (Psalm 127:3) Who is the one who knit this baby together in my womb? (Psalm 139:13) Who is the one who gave her life and breath? Who is the one who sustains her even now? (Job 12:10) Who is the one who has laid out the path before us and who will see us to completion? (Phil 1:6) It is our God, our great and mighty God who is powerful and true and good, our God who loves and gives and forgives, who weeps with us and comforts us, who longs for our hearts. So many questions and we may never know "why", but our comfort comes from knowing that we can trust, with our whole hearts and lives, the "who" in control of it all.