- Who's the cutest baby in the whole wide world? You are.
- And what is your name? Kristen.
- What is two plus two? Four.
- How do you spell Czechoslovakia? Ummm . . . Chec . . .No, wait, Czek. No, Czeh. Is that even a country anymore?
Even questions to which our own political, religious, or philosophical beliefs bend us on
Image by Oberazzi via Flickre direction or another still have an answer. For example, the question of whether the earth was created by an intelligent designer or by sheer chance may have different answers depending the textbook, professor, or preacher with whom you are speaking, but each would, no doubt, offer you an answer of some sort.
With our comfort rooted deeply in questions coupled with answers it is no surprise we become anxious when we find ourselves holding one without the other.
It is my experience that the most frequent flier in the answer-less question arena is "Why?" This three letter word can apply to events as profound as life threatening illnesses, job loss, deaths, catastrophes, acts of God, and wars, or things as simple as failing a test, ending a relationship, bad hair days or being stuck in traffic.
In his book The Case for Faith, agnostic journalist turned Christian Lee Strobel investigates what he calls "The Big Eight" objections to Christianity. Of these, the first one he tackles deals with unanswered questions about pain and suffering in the world. To help answer his questions Strobel interviews Billy Graham's former evangelist partner who became a self-proclaimed agnostic author, Charles Templeton. When asked if there was one thing in particular that caused him to loose his faith in God, Templeton answered that it was a photograph in Life magazine.
"It was a picture of a black woman in Northern Africa. They were experiencing a devastating drought. And she was holding her dead baby in her arms and looking up to heaven with the most forlorn expression. I looked at it and I thought, 'Is it possible to believe that there is a loving or caring Creator when all this woman needed was rain?'"*
That is a question without an answer if I've ever heard one.
Over the past year I have had a lot of conversations with God that started with the word "Why?" These conversations stemmed from a string of seemingly endless health problems that resulted in chronic pain. My life, which admittedly was somewhat charmed up to that point, was literally turned upside down. We paid thousands of dollars in medical bills, which was complicated by the fact I had to resign from my job. I became unable to care for my children and some days was unable to care for myself.
As I sunk deeper into what I'm sure was a mixture of depression and narcotics, I felt confident that if I could just find some reason, some answer as to why this was happening to me, it would give me the strength to get through it. Looking at it now, written out in black and white, it seems almost silly.
I guess God could have posted this on my Facebook;
Hey Kristen; Just wanted to
Image via CrunchBaselet you know that your ovaries will be adhered together for the next five months. The doctors aren't going to be able to figure it out and you are going to be in chronic pain. I know it's a bummer, but hang in there because you are going to learn some really important lessons in patience and especially in humility. You will also resign from your job - I know that's going to be tough because you are going to have to trust that I will provide for your family, which will be hard, especially with the thousands of dollars you are going to rack up in medical bills, but this is the only way that I will ever teach you to totally trust me. Big lesson there. Get your Blockbuster card ready - you will be spending lots of time on the couch. Love ya! Oh, and don't forget to take the Wizard of Oz quiz and find out which character you are. I'm betting you're the Lion :-)
Having a reason for the pain wouldn't have lessened the pain, it would have just made me argue with God whether or not I thought his reason was worthy of the pain I was experiencing at that moment. Would a lesson in humility constitute a trip to the ER or did improving my integrity equal a pint of my blood and so on a so forth. How does one begin to argue those reasons. Looking at it now I understand why God didn't answer my Why's.
Not that it mattered. I didn't get any FB posts from God and I didn't know what was coming a week in advance, a day in advance, or even an hour in advance. My husband uses this analogy; We wish God would give us a floodlight, but instead he gives us a flashlight. Some days, he gives us a candle and not even one of those big roman candles. One of those sad little flimsy birthday candles that barely gives off any light at all.
I promise you if God would have sent that FB post, I would have been booked in the next OR and signed up to have those ovaries removed. Yes, I would have missed out on the pain, but I would have also missed out on the path that was set in front of me and the lessons I have learned and I would not be the person I've become. And even through the pain I can tell you, the person I have become is a better person. I have learned lessons in patience and humility that I would have never signed up for of my own volition. I've become passionate about helping people who are suffering from chronic illnesses or chronic pain and their caregivers. Although I resigned from my job, it allowed me to follow my dream of writing. I think there are still more answers to the Why question down the road, some that I may not see for years or maybe even decades.
I've also noticed that I very rarely ask Why on the good days. Like, why do I deserve a roof over my head and three meals a day? Why do I have a family who loves me? Why was I born in a free country while others are oppressed?
I guess there are a lot of good Why's out there too.
What do you do with the Why's you can't answer?
*The Case for Faith, A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity; Lee Strobel: Zondervan Publishing House. 2000