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Learning To Live in a World With Unanswered "Whys"

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Living in a world with unanswered “whys” forces us to lean on Jesus with every ounce of our being.

“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:2, ESV)

A close friend and I recently took a walk together at a nearby nature center, trying our best to cheer each other up. She even tried interjecting a little humor into the conversation.

“It reminds me of that old saying,” she quipped. “‘If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all!’” Even though neither of us believe in “luck,” I giggled for a welcome moment as together we recounted the hard experiences we’d both endured in the recent past.

Due to downsizing, she’d lost a job she loved. She’d also lost a decade-old friendship over what should have been a simple misunderstanding. A few family members were also now altering their relationships with her over some political differences, heaping on further heartbreak. And most recently, her beloved family dog had passed away.

I could relate to her feelings of loss. I’d seen eight extended family members buried, including my father and my mother, within barely two years. We also moved to a new town at the beginning of that time so the kids could be closer to all the grandparents on my side of the family — the very relatives who began passing just three weeks after we moved. Nearly all of this happened during the first year-and-a-half of the pandemic.

During this time, I found myself behaving like a toddler following around her parents, uttering that one-syllable word repeatedly with each new situation she encounters: “Why?”

Why did God move us to a brand-new town just 10 minutes from my parents if they were both going to pass away so shortly after we moved? Why did a cousin of mine have to bury her mother while almost simultaneously burying her husband, nearly collapsing under the weight of such grief? And of course, probably all of us wonder why this dangerous and disruptive pandemic has hit.

I take comfort in knowing the writers of the psalms often lamented, wrestling with questions of “why” and expressing deep grief. In Psalm 22:2, written by King David, we read his relentless begging for answers from God, even when none were anywhere in sight:

“O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”

The psalmists didn’t possess a slick, easy formula for learning to live in a world without the answers to “why.” What they did have was a freedom to pour out their sorrows before the Lord, knowing He hears even when we, as humans, don’t feel like He’s listening.

Like the psalmists, we must all sometimes dwell in the space between the now and the not-yet — that future time when we will no longer wonder but will reside in a place without sorrow or tears. I’ve learned there are some benefits to dwelling in this in-between place.

I’ve discovered that not knowing “why” pushes me harder into God’s Word. It makes me long to cling to the Lord like nothing else does. It grants me deep empathy for others who are also navigating a life without answers. In short, living in a world with unanswered “whys” forces me to lean on Jesus with every ounce of my being.

Might we be bold enough to trade in our “why” for a “who”? God can help us resist putting so much emphasis on all our unanswered questions. Instead, He will enable us to develop a closer walk with Him — the One who tenderly sustains us even though our “whys” yet linger.

Dear God, there are some unanswered questions in my mind today. From now on, help me to focus less on them and more on learning to trust You despite what life throws my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

OUR FAVORITE THINGS

If you are struggling to trust Jesus in the middle of a hard season, you can preorder a copy of the new devotional book by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk, Trusting God in All the Things: 90 Devotions for Finding Peace in Your Every DayClick here to order your copy and get a bundle of free resources today!

ENGAGE

To help celebrate the upcoming release of her new devotional book, Trusting God in All the Things: 90 Devotions for Finding Peace in Your Every Day, Karen is giving away five copies on her Instagram page.

FOR DEEPER STUDY

Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah …” (ESV) 

How regularly do you pour out your heart to God?

The original Hebrew word for the English phrase “pour out” means to dump, gush, cast or shed. How might these words help you understand what it means to pour out your heart to God?

We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comments.

© 2022 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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