Purpose in the Pain: Can I ask God, “Why?”

My family and I went through a very trying time nearly six years ago. It actually started more than six years ago, climaxed, and has been affecting us to this day. Our world was shaken like it never had been before. For all we knew, this was the end of our family and most certainly our neatly packaged, conventional life. Our world began to unravel, and it has never been the same.

Is it okay to ask God, “Why?”

For years I battled with this question. I saw the kingdom I’d built for myself begin to fall apart, and I realized I was not as “in control” as I had believed. Yet this pain and undoing in my life seemed too BIG not to have a purpose. It seemed too humbling not to have a reason behind it. It seemed to me that to miss the purpose was to waste the pain.

So, the answer to the posed question seems quite logical -How else can you know what God is trying to teach you without asking why? We find this truth confirmed by Scripture in James 1:2-5,

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” ([Emphasis added] ESV‬‬).

Why would James assure us that God will not scold us when asking him for wisdom in the midst of trials? Why would anyone believe that God would scold him/ her when asking for wisdom to face a trial? Because to understand the purpose of the trial, we must ask, “Why?” James gives us confidence by letting us know that God gives us permission to ask that all-important question. God will not say, “How dare you ask me that! I am God, and you can never understand my ways. Who are you to question me? You need more faith!” God wants to mature us through the pain (v.4). That’s why he says it’s okay to ask him, “Why?”

The spirit behind the question

James tells us that God wants to use our pain to mature us and that it’s okay to ask God the reason for the pain because he wants us to grow. He wants us to see what he is trying to teach us; he wants us to see the purpose and get a glimpse of the big picture. When this is the purpose behind the “Why”, there is no reproach from God.

However, there is a why me attitude that comes along with the American sense of entitlement. It implies that I don’t deserve to go through this; I don’t deserve to suffer. Let’s be honest, we don’t deserve God’s goodness; none of us deserves to be the recipients of his kindness and grace. A why me attitude is certainly not what James had in mind, but in all honesty, it’s an easy trap for us all to fall into. We must carefully evaluate the attitude behind the “Why”, because if we have a why me attitude about suffering, the pain will most likely be wasted, and what a shame that would be.

Final thoughts

Next time I want to pass on what I learned and am learning from the trials we faced. I hope you find hope, healing, and purpose in your suffering. Ask God why he is allowing you to go through this tragedy, what it is that he wants you to learn. He doesn’t want the pain to be wasted; he wants you to grow and to be closer to him in the end.

If you have thoughts, please share them, and God bless you in your journey of growth.

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