God, why? > God, what?

green trees on island during daytime

If I’m being honest, there is still a part of me that wishes life would unfold the way I want it to. 

And I’m no stranger to the unexpected. I’ve spent the past six years in constant transition:

  • I moved to the Netherlands for a year, serving as a campus missionary.
  • Two weeks later, I married my college sweetheart where we fell in love, in Kalamazoo, MI.
  • A week after arriving back from our honeymoon in Puerto Rico, we drove straight down from Chicago to our new home in Austin, TX.
  • He began seminary; we both started new non-ministry jobs.
  • After a few months, we joined a new church.
  • Six months later, we both had to start new jobs (again).
  • Two years later, we moved back to Michigan after his seminary unexpectedly closed.
  • It took us a month to find new housing, and we lived with my in-laws.
  • Those first few months back, I had a major health scare and was in and out of the ER.
  • At the same time, we both started a new seminary together and began new jobs (myself – a new career altogether).
  • Two semesters later, my husband dropped out of seminary and started a new career. 
  • A semester after that, we became members of a new church.

It’s been quite an adventure!

2019 was a doozy in and of itself. In July, my seminary ended its partnership with my counseling internship, effectively forcing me to have two internships at the same time (plus work, classes, life). In August, after eight months of house-hunting, we had to sign a lease for yet another apartment instead of the house we wanted. In September, two of my biggest consulting clients faced financial difficulties and abruptly ended their contracts with me. In November, a major conflict erupted on my side of the family. 

Don’t even get me started on 2020.

Six years ago, when these transitions all started, I asked a lot of ‘why’ questions. Why God? Why all this expected transition? Why all the loss? Why this way? Why not that way? They never seemed to satisfy. Though ‘why’ questions helped me to lament, more often than not, they caused greater confusion.

But this year was different. Somewhere along the way, I realized I could ride the waves of change or let the waves ride me. I could hang tight to the Creator of the waves or the illusion of self-rescue. But I couldn’t do both. Faith or fear. Empowered or victim. I had – I have – a choice. Every moment, every hour, of every day, He lets me choose. Cling to the fantasy of control or the One in control. Regardless, I will cling to something.

I’ve found it to be way more fruitful to ask God ‘what’ questions throughout seasons of change, rather than ‘why.’ As Laura Story points out,

“The disciples asked, “Why was this man born blind?” In this question, they were asking why for all of us. But in His answer, Jesus didn’t respond directly to the why. Instead, He changed the why question to how.

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” — John 9:3

How might this man’s blindness be used to reveal the work of God? Just as surely as He turned water into wine, Jesus turned the disciples’ blame-seeking why question into a God-seeking how question.

Man asks why. Jesus asks how. Man asks, “Why did this happen?” Jesus asks, “How might My Father’s glory be displayed through this situation?”

The answer to why doesn’t help us heal. But knowing that God’s glory can be displayed, even in the brokenness of our lives, gives us hope despite our circumstances. I promise you will find more purpose and joy in your life if you set aside the why and begin to ask how.”

God has been using these ‘what’ (how) questions to shift my perspective:

  • What are You making room for? 
  • What are You up to, exactly? 
  • What is Your purpose in this? 
  • What ways are you using this transition to transform me?
  • What is the big picture? 
  • What aspects of the gospel can I see here? 
  • What are You revealing about yourself – Your heart – in this? 
  • What ways are You intending to make me like Jesus through this? 
  • What are You asking me to confess, surrender, repent of?
  • What ways are You’re building the Kingdom through this?
  • What can I praise You or thank You for in this?

How I – how we – need a God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Our ultimate longing for constancy is for Him. Praise God that in the new creation we will know and experience this fully! May every detour turn our hearts toward Him. 

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