Moving Beyond Why

This post is written to link with Five Minute Friday: write for five minutes on a one-word prompt.  The prompt today is “why”.  Also linking with Sunday Thoughts.

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“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind?  Was it because of his own sins or his parent’s sins?”  (John 9:1-2 NLT)

As soon as we are able to talk, it becomes one of our most frequent questions: Why?

We want to understand how things work and see the justification behind them.

Especially when we see or experience suffering, it’s often the question that comes to mind:

  • Why did that person get ill?
  • Why does it seem that my prayers are going unanswered?
  • Why did someone kill a bunch of innocent people?
  • Why did God allow it?

We can understand the big picture answer- that we live in a world broken by sin, that is full of all kinds of evil and suffering that were not God’s original intention, but still there’s often a longing to know why in individual situations.

Why that person?  Why me?  Why them and not me?

If we could only understand it, maybe we could get some kind of control over it, but the truth is we can’t.  There are no easy answers.

However, Jesus is clear with his disciples that the answer is not as simple as looking for someone to blame: “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.  “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.  We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.”  (John 9:3-4 NLT)

This answer can bring up other questions though.  Is it saying that God caused the man’s blindness in order to show his power?  It looks like it at first glance.

However, I have recently been reading “When God Doesn’t Fix It” by Laura Story.  She explores this passage and explains that there is some debate amongst scholars over whether the phrase “so the power of God could be seen in him” is attached to the sentence that precedes it or the sentence that follows it.  An alternative rendering of the passage could be: “It was not because of his sins or his parent’s sins,” Jesus answered.  “So that the power of God can be seen in him, we must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.”

In other words, the power of God being seen is not necessarily the reason for the man’s blindness, but rather the outcome Jesus is working towards in that situation.  (I’m struggling to explain this properly and my five minutes is up already, but if you want to look into it more I suggest looking at Chapter 10 of Laura Story’s book or checking out this website.)

We will always have the “why” questions.  They’re only natural, and God welcomes us with our questions but so often there are no answers.

In her book, Laura Story suggests that once we’ve exhausted our “whys” there is another question that might be more helpful and productive to ask:

How might God’s glory be displayed through this situation?

“We have to come to a point where we say, “I don’t know why my life looks this way.  But I don’t have to understand why.  It’s enough for me to believe that God has a plan and that he has promised he will never leave or forsake me, and he will be by my side through every trial I face.””  (Laura Story)

The Mom Gene

Over the next few weeks on my blog, I’ll be sharing some more reflections on questions people asked Jesus.  Click here to find this week’s post on the question, “God, don’t you care?” or click here for an index page on all my Questions posts, including a series from last year on questions Jesus asked people.

31 thoughts on “Moving Beyond Why

  1. So Jesus did not immediately come to help Lazurus because he was going to raise him from the dead. “So that the power of God could be seen in him” he came to not only bless the lives of Mary and Martha but all those who would witness the miracle. Does that follow the interpretation you suggested? Much to ponder…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think Jesus gives a reason for his delay in the story of Lazarus, but he does say from the start that the sickness will not end in death and that God will receive glory. It certainly shows the greatness of his power- not just over sickness but over death- and paves the way for his statement “I am the resurrection and the life.” I definitely don’t have all the answers but, as you say, it’s interesting to ponder.

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  2. I love the Laura Story quote! Her song Blessings is one that always reminds me of my own journey and testimonies of all God has done in my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know that Laura Story wrote a book. Sounds interesting. As humans, we want immediate responses, don’t we? I like what Laura says about shifting our focus. I’m in the 50 spot this week.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a great book. I think you’d like it. Yes, I think shifting our focus is important, and accepting that there are some things we’ll never understand.

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  4. Comforting words. Thank you for sharing your close reading of Story’s book. I think we need to express more what we glean from reading and apply it to our lives. Thank you for doing just that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Erendira! I agree, I get so much more from a book when I take some time to think about what I’m learning from it. I want to be more intentional about it. I hadn’t really planned to do it with this book but this is the second blog post I’ve mentioned it in this week so it’s obviously one that’s spoken to me.

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  5. Wonderful post as usual Lesley. I am looking forward to reading your questions series.

    I don’t know why things happen as they do. I am grateful for the hope and grace we have. I have Laura Story’s book on kindle. Thanks for the reminder to dig in.

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  6. People will always question “why?” bad things happen, why God allows them to happen, why do they happen to me and not to another person, and so on.

    We will never know the answer, because we are not meant to know the answer. God did not ask us to understand Him, but to trust and love Him.

    May be the reason “why?” they happen is to give the rest of us an opportunity to step forward and help. How else are we to obey His commandment to love one another if there are no opportunities to help others worse off than us? And “why?” do they happen to me and not to someone else? Perhaps it is to strengthen my Faith and to teach me to trust Him more.

    God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Victor! As you say, we rarely know the “why” in individual situations, but we can certainly look for opportunities to seek good in them by loving others and seeking God more closely. Thanks for visiting!

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  7. Lesley, thanks for your post and for sharing the link to the index of your series. “How might God’s glory be displayed through this situation?” What a perspective altering question. It moves my attention from the problem to where it belongs, on God. Thank you. Much wisdom here.

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  8. Lesley I love God’s timing in leading you to this book as we are writing about why.

    Thanks for sharing the quotes. Sounds like a wonderful book.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. That is such an interesting thought – whether that part of the sentence in the Scripture goes with what is before or after! I definitely need to think on that a bit more! Why is such a tough question, and I struggled with it a lot when I was younger. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that even if God could explain it to me, I probably wouldn’t get it. There is no way to know the implications of any particular detail in our lives that He says yes or no to. The ripple effect goes out so far, with such far-reaching eternal consequences – our minds would probably break in the efforts to understand His ways and all the reasons why things are how they are . Thanks for sharing this today! 🙂 #sundaythoughts

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  10. “How might God’s glory be displayed through this situation?” Yes, that should be our first thought. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes me some time to get there!

    I’ve also tried to say when thinking, “Why me?,” “Why not me?” I’m not guaranteed a trouble-free life!

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    1. It’s definitely not the first thought that comes naturally to me either, Jerralea! And it is important to remember that Jesus promises we will have trouble in this world. I think often we’d like to believe the opposite but he’s pretty clear about it.

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