Posted On June 1, 2022

How to Handle the “Why” Questions

by | Jun 1, 2022 | Featured, The Gospel and the Christian Life

Why isn’t my sick family member getting better? Why am I still single? Why is this relationship so difficult? Why doesn’t God do something?

However we frame it, we want to know why—why me, why you, and why does a loving God allow His people to suffer at all?

When I read the book of Job following the diagnosis of three of my children with a serious genetic condition, the words were “living and active” (Hebrew 4:12). I couldn’t relate to all Job’s trials—his ten children had died, his prosperity vanished, and he was struck with physical infirmity. But I understood what he meant when he said: “For the thing that I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me” (Job 3:25).

The thing I feared was at hand, the health of my children was on the line, and I was bewildered. Why had God, who formed my children deep inside my womb [1], allowed the “bad” genes to come together instead of the “good” ones? Why hadn’t He intervened?

You have your own set of confusing circumstances, and some of them don’t have an immediate end in sight. What are you and I supposed to do with our why questions?

So Many Questions

In addition to being full of suffering, the book of Job is full of questions, and Job’s questions pave the way for us to bring our own perplexities to the Lord alongside his. Listen to some of them:

  • “Why did I not die at birth?” (Job 3:11)
  • “Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul…?” (Job 3:20)
  • “If a man dies, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14)
  • “Where then is my hope?” (Job 17:15)
  • “But where shall wisdom be found?” (Job 28:12)

Toward the end of Job, God doesn’t answer this poor sufferer’s questions point-by-point. Instead, He offers His own questions for consideration:

  • “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)
  • “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4)
  • “Have you commanded the morning…and caused the dawn to know its place?” (Job 38:12)
  • “Have you entered into the springs of the sea?” (Job 38:16)
  • “Where is the way to the dwelling of light?” (Job 38:19)

God’s questions put Job in his place—not for the purpose of belittling him, but of pointing a creature to his Creator. With each question, the point is driven home to Job as well as to us, gently but firmly, that God is God and we are not:

We are small, and God is great.

God existed long before we drew breath—the breath he breathed into the lungs he formed.

God, the one who spoke the sun into existence, makes it rise each morning; he sees the springs of the sea and knows the way to the dwelling of light. We do not.

Ultimately, God redirects Job’s “why” questions to “who,” and it has an amazing, settling effect on him. Read Job’s response when the Lord finishes speaking:

“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,

but now my eye sees you;

Therefore I despise myself,

and I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6)

Job had heard of God, but now he sees with new insight who God really is—his sovereign Creator and Lord over all.

Job’s Comfort and Ours

At the end of the book, Job is comforted. And his story offers comfort in our trials too—but perhaps not in the way we might expect. Job’s comfort and ours doesn’t come from having all our questions answered or problems solved. Job finds—and teaches us to find—comfort in God’s sovereignty.

Interestingly, the word translated “despise” is closely connected to the word “comfort.” Job’s comfort isn’t found in God answering his “why” questions. When he says, “I despise myself” and repent “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6), he identifies his comfort with humility. His true comfort is found in knowing that there is a sovereign God whose questions he can’t answer, a God whose ways are beyond his comprehension. And our true comfort is found when we too learn to bend our knees before our sovereign God, trusting our “why” questions to Him, because we trust “who” He is.

Some of our questions may never be answered. There’s much we don’t understand and may never grasp about my children’s health scenario or your difficulties at work, hurts from the past, or future uncertainties. But the most important thing we need to know has been revealed to us: God’s ultimate sovereign plan for redemption through Christ.

In the middle of his pain, Job professed:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

And after my skin has been thus destroyed,

yet in my flesh I shall see God,

Whom I shall see for myself,

and my eyes shall behold, and not another.” (Job 19:25-27)

As those who experience our own losses and griefs, we too hope in our Redeemer. Yet the one Job hoped for from a distance, we know and love as Savior and Lord. And knowing the extent to which He demonstrated his loving care for us on the cross, we cast our cares—including our “why” questions—at his feet [2].

This article is adapted from a chapter in Katie Faris’ book, He Will Be Enough. To learn more about how God takes you by your hand through your hardest days, grab a copy here.


[1] Psalm 139:13

[2] Romans 5:8 and 1 Peter 5:7

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