“Why?” I have heard the question often. Occasionally I’m asked how I answer this question, especially when losses are horrible, shocking, cruel, evil… everything like what people in Pittsburgh are suffering tonight.
First, the question “why?” can be two things. It can be a standard question: the one seeking an answer. In cases involving loss, however, it can also be a one-word lament in the form of a question, in which case no answer is given or wanted. Any answer would be unintelligible; it would not matter because it could not change what those grieving wish they could change. Just last night all those people were preparing for their service this morning. They were gunned down in hate, the early reports indicate. “Why?”
I stopped writing here not long after my father passed away, undergoing a series of procedures intended to extend his life. No violence or hatred, of course, but still unexpected. “Why?”
Again, this second form of “why?” that life brings us all to the point of voicing may have a question mark at the end of it, but it is more of a statement. It is not about inquiring; it is about exhaling. It accompanies us when we are furious, not when we are curious. There is little point to explaining anything when most of what is present is pain and grief. Our minds do not hunger for information when our hearts ache for relief. This is especially so when we hurl “why?” up to God. It turns into, “why, God?” verses like Psalm 22:1 give us confidence that God wants both our “why?” questions and our “why?” statements. Christ quoted this verse and asked God “why?” from the Cross moments before He died.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”
God knows we sometimes want answers for the sake of answers. He knows that more often we need Him to know our hearts and their condition, especially when they are broken. “Why?”
This second form of “why?” can have many degrees. A family’s private loss is on one end of the scale while a city’s bitter bewilderment is on the other. Tonight it is Pittsburgh’s turn to exclaim “why?” The rest of us join them…