Summary: An exploration of the biblical texts asking God why and seeking an answer to the question “Is God silent when I am hurting?”
Purpose: to be the Holy Spirit’s second witness calling God’s people in my care to trust in God even in times of adversity when He seems silent.
Response: individuals prompted by the Holy Spirit will accept the invitation to come forward to the altar rail and pray.
In the fall of 1991, Gerald Sittser and his family were returning from a weekend trip when a drunk driver, struck their minivan head-on. As a result, he lost his mother; his wife of 2O years, and a four-year-old daughter. He and his three other children escaped relatively unharmed. The following excerpts from his book A Grace Disguised (Zondervan) record some of his feelings.
My wife, Lynda, and I had a conversation once about an accident reported in our local newspaper. A station wagon with six children and their mother had skidded off the freeway and sunk in six feet of water, killing three of the six children. We both commented nervously that the problem was not simply that something bad had happened to innocent people, but that something bad had happened so randomly. We shivered with fear before the disorderliness of tragedy. If there were going to be suffering, we at least wanted reason for it, predictability to it, and preparation to endure it.
One of the worst aspects of my experience of loss has been this sense of sheer randomness. The event was completely outside my control — an “accident,” as we say. I began to look with cynicism on the absurdity of life. Maybe, I thought, there really is no God and no meaning to life. I was tormented by an inability to discover any explanation that made sense of the tragedy. An answer to the “Why?” question eluded me.
I have asked the question “Why me?” often, as many people do after suffering loss. Most of us want control of our lives. And we succeed a great deal of the time, which is due in part to the enviable powers Western civilization has put at our disposal. The possibility of so much control makes us vulnerable to deep disappointment when we lose control.
Loss deprives us of control: Cancer ravages, violence erupts, divorce devastates, unemployment frustrates, and death strikes—often with little warning. Suddenly we are forced to face our limitations squarely. We resent the intrusion, the inconvenience, the derailment. We never plan on loss.
Loss also has little to do with fairness: There is often no reason for the misery of some and the happiness of others. Our universe is hardly a safe place; it is often mean, unpredictable, and unjust, resulting in our asking the question over and over, “Why me?”
Key Question: Does God answer our questions? When we’re suffering and asking “Why me?” is God silent?
Let me start by pointing out that it is OK to ask God questions. THE BOOK OF PSALMS IS FILLED WITH QUESTIONS LIKE “WHY?” AND “HOW LONG?” Listen to just a few examples.
1. Psalm 6:3 -- My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?
2. Psalm 10:1 -- Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
3. Psalm 13:1-2 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
4. Psalm 44:23-24 -- Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?
5. Psalm 88:13-14 -- But I cry to you for help, O LORD; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?
In each and every Psalm, God never answers their questions. He surely seemed silent to these songwriters.
JOB MAY HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE FIRST MEN TO WRITE DOWN HIS QUESTIONS.
Do you remember what he went through? Job had a flawless relationship with God (Job 1:1). He had a great family (Job 1:2). He was a very rich man (Job 1:3). He cared about his children and their spiritual lives (Job 1:4-5). He lost it all in one day, but at least he still had his health (Job 1:6-19). Job worshipped God (Job 1:20-22). Then he lost his health and his wife told him to curse God and die but Job still trusted God. (Job 2:1-10). Then, three “friends” came to comfort Job and accused him of committing a terrible sin. They all reasoned that God would only punish an evil person with events like Job was going through, so obviously Job was evil.
JOB ASKED WHY QUESTIONS UNTIL HE GAVE UP IN DESPAIR.