peter and john running to the tomb by burnand“Why?” seems to be the question that God is least likely to answer. Consider, for example, the story of Peter and John on the beach with the risen Jesus in John 21. Jesus predicts Peter’s death, prompting Peter to look back at John and ask “what about him?” Jesus replies “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

In a sense Peter is asking “why?” Why must I suffer? Why do others receive blessings that I don’t receive? Why do I have this particular life and not the life that I want? Job also asked these sorts of questions and he, like Peter, received the answer that seems like it isn’t an answer: “what is that to you? you must follow me.”

Some might argue that God doesn’t answer any questions, but I have found that some questions do have answers. Does God love us? Yes. Will God be faithful to us? Yes. How should we live? Love God and love our neighbors. Some questions God has answered, but faced with the “why” of life – especially the “why” of suffering – we seem to mostly hear God simply saying “trust me.” She usually doesn’t tell us why and we don’t even know why she won’t tell us why.

In the face of such mystery we are prone, like Peter, to start comparing ourselves with others. That path quickly leads to jealousy. From there it is just a short hop to doubting God’s goodness. After all, if I am focused on what God is doing in someone else’s life then I am most likely missing what God is doing in my own life. And when I stop paying attention to God’s work in my life then I start doubting that God is good and even begin to wonder if God is doing anything at all.

There is a wonderful line in the collect for Proper 12 in The Book of Common Prayer. It says “may we so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.” Suffering is temporary – and so are wealth, power, and good looks. All the things that make us ask “why me?” or make us ask “why him and not me?” – all those things are temporary. When Jesus says “what is that to you? you must follow me,” he is telling us to look to what is eternal so that we do not lose it. What is eternal? The Father, Son, and Spirit, the love of God, and the love of our friends and family. May we learn to pass through the things that make us say “why?” in such a way that we do not lose the things that make us say “thank you.”

 ~ Jonathan Stepp

2 comments so far

  1. Florian Berndt on

    Funny, I woke up with almost the exact thoughts this morning. And how I needed to hear this today. Thanks for the confirmation!

  2. Jonathan Stepp on

    Awesome! Glad to know that God is telling others the same thing.

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