Asking God “WHY?” is pointless. Instead, ask Him “WHAT?”

– Rebekah Binkley Montgomery

Asking God “WHAT?” Rather Than “WHY?”

By Rebekah Binkley Montgomery

When tragedy touched Job, he wanted to ask God “WHY?” Maybe you have had an occasion when you wanted to ask God “WHY?”

Me, too. When we lost our baby son, I wanted to march into God’s throne room and demand to know “WHY?” And when an infected mosquito gave me West Nile Virus, leaving me with right-side paralysis and in searing pain, I wanted to ask God “WHY?”

When Job asked God “WHY?” God turned the tables. “Brace yourself,” He said. “I’ve got a few questions for you. Answer mine and I’ll answer yours.

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth and set limits on the sea? Have you journeyed to the recesses of the deep? Have you seen the gates of death? Are you able to make a pet out of a whale? And who do you think teaches the hawk to fly?” (Job 38, 39, 40)

Apparently, there is an answer to “WHY?” But if we can’t grasp even the ordinary workings of God’s creation, we won’t understand the “WHY?” if God tried to explain it to us with flip charts, diagrams, and a slick multi-media presentation.

James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3a)

Commentators say in the original language, “testing” and “perseverance” are jeweler’s terms. Testing describes the process in which raw ore is heated to various temperatures. With each smelting, impurities are released and skimmed off. Ore that survives the crucible perseveres becomes sterling.

In verse 4, James spells out “WHY?”: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

James says the question we really need to ask is “WHAT?” What do You want me to do with this painful circumstance?” His answer:  ask “WHAT?” James spells out the “WHAT?” “If any lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.(vs. 5) 

In other words: Asking God “WHY?” is pointless. But since we are living in the here and now, ask Him “WHAT? What do You want me to do with this situation? How can I bring glory to you in it?”

I rarely have an immediately answer to “WHAT?” But as I seek God’s ultimate purpose for my life—to make me like Christ—I grow nearer to considering every trial as pure joy.”

-Rebekah Binkley Montgomery