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Choosing your Why

Updated: Jan 1, 2023

Ding. I looked at my phone and my heart ached as I read the words, “Will I ever know why?”

My brain searched for an answer to her burning question. Without much work many a cliché answer came to mind about God’s “big plan” and how it will “all work out for good”. And maybe these would have sufficed for someone else. Maybe they would have held up water in a different time and place, but not this one. Not this story. As quickly as my neurons fired answers to fill in the silence, all falling short, my spirit rushed to the Lord for supernatural help. “What do I tell her, God? I’m not sure I even know the answer to this one. In fact, if I’m honest, I have my own lists of why’s too.”

Why would God allow this couple to walk through so much pain? Why would he allow a healthy man to contract Covid-19 and not heal him like so many others? Why did we witness what seemed like a miracle after he was put in the hospital, only to have him regress back into an even worse condition than before? Why does his wife have to walk this road after already losing so much? In a season she should be able to sit next to her husband and nurse him back to health, why has the world turned so cold and cruel that she is forbidden from his side? Why him? Why them? Why do you allow good people to walk through such gut-wrenching pain? Why do you sometimes say no when we ask for healing and peace? God, I simply don’t understand why.

I wish we could sit over coffee and I could tell you the story of Jeff and Lois. How our families are so intertwined on every page of my life. We would laugh and smile at many a fond memory, maybe shed a tear or two at another. You might wince at the climax, only to leave our time together with a greater hope and peace at Gods redemptive work. Reassured of His sovereignty and ability to restore the impossible, you too would look expectantly for His grace to be poured out in your life. You also would understand why my heart is breaking for this family in their darkest hour. You would grasp why a simple answer to fill the silence would not even begin to fill the void of pain that our dear friend was drowning in.

I texted back, “I don’t know. Maybe not here. We will in eternity.” And then, in what must have been a Holy Spirit filled after thought, I added, “Don’t trip up on the why. Focus instead on how big your God is.”

I wasn’t sure if Lois would be upset with this response. It surely did not answer her question, or at face value seem to provide much comfort. But having walked seasons of my own that felt so daunting, I knew how easy it was to trip over the “why” and become so quickly entangled in the vines of doubt and frustration with God, I soon forget He is the only one who could gift me the grace and strength to crawl my way back to a place of safety.

As I continued contemplating this churning inside me, continually praying for answers, miracles and hope, I had the privilege of a God ordained car ride with Lois so that she could finally visit Jeff in the hospital. There had been little to no improvement in his condition over the course of the past few weeks. Despite our prayers and pleading, there seemed to be no change in Jeff. But Lois, the change was evident. Marked by the love of our Savior, the faith and peace that radiated off her was undeniable. Even as she fought back tears, not knowing what she would be faced with when she walked into the hospital, she continued to declare that God was for her, not against her. That He was her rock. That even in her greatest heartbreak, her life sustaining source was Jesus. I had come on this trip to be a blessing and encouragement to a beaten down by life woman, and instead, found my heart renewed and uplifted at her testimony and example.

As the week went on, I continued to play this experience over and over again in my mind, comparing it against the why that still seemed to plague my mind. The why that haunts many of us. And the way the unanswered questions of life so easily tempt us to doubt the goodness of our God. I have seen it time and time again. We read about it from the first book of the Bible all the way to the Instagram posts a mom wrote yesterday. People distrusting and blaming God for their pain and suffering, questing if He is who He says He is, and will do what He says He will do. And Satan, the master of deceit and manipulation, will do anything and use anything to plant question against our Savior’s character and love for us. And if we are not careful, this slippery slope lands us right next to Eve taking a bite from the apple and forever changing the course of our lives. All because the “why” got the better of us.

But as I watched Lois standing so strong despite the insurmountable mountain she was facing; all I saw was Jesus. Jesus holding her up. Jesus anchoring her so she would not be swept away by the current of sorrow. Jesus shielding her from the fire so that she would not be consumed by the anxiety of an unknown tomorrow. And Jesus empowering her to speak His love and peace to those around her who so desperately wanted to know of the hope that was in her. As I surveyed in awe the work that God was doing in Lois, I came to this very clear conclusion, we get to choose our why.

We can become angry and bitter at God, just as Job was tempted to by his friends and wife. A man who experienced more loss, sickness and aching in a few months than many of us will in a life time. And yet, even in his justifiable questioning of Gods plan and hand on his life, he still, like Lois, chose to praise the name of his God. Even if his circumstances didn’t change, he still believed God’s sovereignty was greater. Even if he never got the answer to the why, he was resolved to trust his Saviors love and goodness towards him.

Like Job, Lois and so many others, we too are left with the same options. We can curse God and turn away from Him all to the amusement and glee of our enemy. Or we can turn our whys into glorified praise to the King of Kings. A testament of His mercy and faithfulness new every day that allows us to shuffle one foot forward and then another until we reach the top of the mountain. Our why can be a deeper and more intimate relationship with our Father God. A new and deepening understanding of His all-sustaining power at work in us. A place where we come to the end of our striving and realize He is the only one who can ever turn any of the evil used against us in this world into something good. A place where our why brings people to Jesus and all glory to the Father in the process.

God cares so much more about an intimate relationship with us that can only be obtained through the fire, not walking around it, then He does about our being comfortable in this life. In fact, it’s not comfort He promises us, but hardship, pain, and suffering the way He suffered for the good news of salvation. And yet we brush this off, order our Starbucks and book our weekend getaway not really expecting to ever be touched by difficulty. That is, until we come face to face with the depravity of this world. Then the goodness of God doesn’t feel so good. The courage to fight the good fight of faith suddenly falters and our resolve shakes. We look up and demand answers and solutions that match our prayers on our time line. All the while, God looks down with compassion, unwilling to move before the exact time that will bring about the most glory to His Father. And yes, bring something good to us too. Even if it is not the good by our definition. Sometimes the good is finally understanding just how much God truly loves us. He wants our hearts. Our full and undivided allegiance. And for any of those you will talk to who have come out the other side of unthinkable things, still holding so tightly to their Jesus, they will tell you, the why was for their good and his glory.

I don’t know where this finds you. What ocean seems so impossible to cross. What mountain seems far too high to climb. What prayer goes unanswered. Where your why questions start and end. But I offer you this thought, what will your why be? When your story gets recounted in generations to come, will your why be for nothing? Or will it be glory for Him? You get to choose.

Written in Memory of Jeff Norcross - Beloved husband, father and friend.

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