Let me be super honest with you for a minute. The last few months (or year) have been challenging in several ways. My family has experienced some frustrating and challenging situations and we have watched some friends and family walk through a few very trying times in their life. It seemed like it was one thing after another. When it rains it pours, right?
I know I’m not alone in this because I’ve talked to a lot of different people who have walked through times like this as well. And, to be honest, this wasn’t the worst time in my life, it just left me wondering “why?”. What’s the purpose of all these things? Why do we have to walk through these difficult times? It got me down and feeling a little hopeless, which is not like me at all.
Well, a few days ago I was reading through a devotion book by Jennie Allen, Restless, (affiliate link) for the second time and something really stood out to me. The book walks through the life of Joseph, which is one of my favorites to study. But, this time I saw something different in it—the reason we need to move past asking “why?” and the one question we should be asking instead.
When you should ask yourself “why”
This is the disclaimer section. I’m not saying that you should never ask yourself “why” something is the way that it is. In fact, there are some times in life when it’s necessary to do so. For example, when I was at the lowest point of my life I had to ask myself why I was there. This helped me to determine where I went wrong and what needed to be changed. This was a crucial first step. But, I couldn’t just camp out there. Once I knew why it happened I had to move on to the next part of determining how to make it different.
It’s also important to understand “why” when setting and working towards goals. It’s not often the goal itself that matters to us, but the “why” behind it. For example, if you want to create a business that allows you to work from home it helps to know why that matters to you. It might be so you can stay at home with your children when they are young, or attend school parties during the day because you can set your own schedule. Or, it may be so you can help contribute financially to your family. There are many reasons why it matters, but you need to know why it matters to you or else it’s hard to stay motivated.
But, that’s not what we are focusing on today. Today we are focused on those times when life gets rough and we camp out in trying to figure out why. It’s when we spend days asking ourselves “why do bad things happen to good people?” or “why everytime I have a little extra money does something go wrong or break so I have to spend it right away?”. We are talking about those moments in life that don’t seem to make sense and we work at trying to figure them out.
We need to stop asking “Why?”
As a Christian, I need to stop asking myself “why?” all the time. I’m usually pretty good at this. I’m more of the blind faith kind of person that doesn’t need to question everything. I enjoy just knowing that there is a lot of stuff out there that my brain just doesn’t understand, or even can’t understand, right now. I usually do quite well simply believing that God has a plan that I don’t understand, but that in the end, it will all work out.
However, as I work through difficult times in my own life or watch things that just seem unfair happening to other people it can start to get to me. However, asking “why” has never really gotten me anywhere in these situations.
The Bible tells us a lot about Joseph’s life. He had a big God-given dream and then a lot of setbacks. He was thrown in a hole and then sold into slavery by his brothers, imprisoned for doing the right thing, forgotten about in prison after helping someone else out, and yet there is no record of him giving up on his dream, questioning God, or wasting time asking “Why did this happen to me?”. It appears he simply didn’t do it.
Why we shouldn’t get caught up on asking “why”
If Joseph had been so caught up in his own problems he would have missed the doors that God was opening for him. In each rough place that Joseph ended up, there was an opportunity that presented itself, like interpreting the dreams of Pharoah’s workers, which eventually led him out of prison and into a position of leadership over Egypt. However, I don’t think Joseph ever would have noticed these opportunities if he was so busy feeling down, hopeless, and asking himself “why did this happen to me?”.
When “why” steels are focus we miss all the good things that are happening around us. We also miss the opportunities that we have to use our situation to benefit others. The truth is, I don’t know why some people have to go through what they do. But, I do know that God uses the low places of our lives to reach other people if we are open to the opportunity.
Focusing on the “why” also steals our power. It puts our focus on trying to figure out things that are outside of our control (remember, we aren’t talking about situations we got ourselves into). There are many things in life that we cannot control. But, when we focus on those, we lose any sense of power that we have to make a change or take action.
The One question we should be asking instead
We need to stop asking”why” and start asking “what should I do now?”. This changes our focus from feeling sorry for ourselves to focusing on what we can do about it. Instead of wasting time on a question we might never get an answer to in this life, it moves us to a place of action.
There are a lot of things that are outside of our control in this world: disease, death, abuse, accidents, the actions and words of other people. But, we can control ourselves. When we ask “what should I do now” it restores the fact that there is something in the situation we control, even if it’s only our attitude.
This is the first step to moving forward and improving our situation in even a small way. It’s also the thing that lets our story be something that other people can learn from and be inspired by. Who would want to read Joseph’s story if it was all about him sitting around, questioning, feeling bad, and then staying stuck in this place? No one.
It’s a process
There are challenging and hurtful things that happen in life. There are times for grieving in these situations. Please don’t think I saying that that shouldn’t happen. But, staying camped out in the place of asking “why?” is not a healthy place to remain. Sometimes when we are too close to a situation it’s helpful to get the help of others, like a therapist, pastor, or friend, to see what your next step should be. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help when needed.