Last week Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on the Texas coast, causing billions of dollars of damage and killing many. My brother, his wife, and their five children live in south Texas, less than a mile from the Colorado River. Mandatory evacuations caused them to leave their home and beloved pets behind. After two nights of shelter provided by a church they were able to return home. Thankfully their “adventure” ended quickly. Although the fields around their home were flooded, their home and possessions were not. Others were not so fortunate.
When bad things happen it is easy to ask “why did this happen to me?” People find many answers through science and theology. God gave us a mind. We should use it to seek answers and to seek Him. Nevertheless, we won’t always identify the reason “why” behind every question. But there is another kind of “why” I believe we should ask in times of darkness: “Why do I do what I do?” Don’t just settle for “who,” “what,” “where,” and “when” questions. Ask “why?”
“Who” questions are related to those around us. We feel blessed and happy as long as we have friends and family. God made us as relational beings to long for healthy relationships with others. Sometimes tragedy forces us to slow down and remember the gift of others. It is right and good to pay attention to “who” is in our life! However, I have known people who fell apart once a loved one passed away or ran away. If not careful, we can make “who” is around us even bigger than “Who” is above us.
Other people’s attention turns to the “what” of their life. “What” is about stuff: houses, cars, health, and bank balances. We learn a lot about ourselves during dark times when “what” we have is taken away. Many with far less than us remain content and happy. The Bible tells us Job lost his family, possessions and health, yet still proclaimed, “Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Jesus observed, “One’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Who cares what you have to live on if you don’t know what you live for.
Still others focus on the “where” or “when” of their lives. They are consumed with “where” to go on vacation, “where” to move, and “where” their career is headed. They wonder “when” they’ll get a boyfriend, get married, get a promotion, or get over a problem. Scripture snaps us back to reality, as James writes, “You do not know what tomorrow will bring… you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13-16). Let God handle the “when” and “where.”
In the end, who, what, where, and when doesn’t matter if you can’t answer “why?” Asking “why” is about reasons and motivations. “Why” moves below the surface and helps us discover our true desires. Ask, “Why am I worried about that?” “Why do I want this job?” “Why do I feel so attached to my stuff?” “Why am I consumed by what that person thinks?” Scripture reminds us of the ultimate “why” that can survive any circumstance: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). With that in mind, I think we should all be asking, “why” more often!
Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.