By SUSAN E. RICHARDSON
“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told,” (Habakkuk 1:5).
“Why?” is one of the most fundamental questions we humans have. Children go through the infamous “why?” stage when they ask why about everything. As we grow older, we continue to ask “why?” And when we run headfirst into pain we can’t understand, our natural reaction is to ask God why.
Sometimes “why?” is a good question. Usually when challenges come we know what caused them even if we don’t know why God allowed the situation. But sometimes we don’t know where our pain came from. If that’s the case, we have a difficult time understanding and resolving the problems. We must ask why until we see the pattern that leads to issues, then work to resolve them.
Asking “why?” about the circumstances causing the suffering is more common. When I was living with peer abuse, I tried to stand up for myself a few times. One day I yelled at the group persecuting me, “Why don’t you just leave me alone? I haven’t done anything to you!”
“Why should we?” one of them responded. “We’re having a good time.”
Their response sent a clear message to me: what you feel doesn’t matter; we’re the only ones who matter. The answer to “why?” was painfully personal. Over and over the messages repeated. Who you are is laughable. What you wear is bizarre. What you do is stupid. What you know is ridiculously overblown. What you feel is unimportant.
From adults came other messages. You aren’t worth rescuing. You shouldn’t hurt because of what’s happening. You did something to deserve this. You should ignore it.
This type of why goes back to fallen and imperfect humans, whether those who found pleasure in my pain or those who were well intentioned, but still hurt instead of helped. That pushes the why right back to God.
I had to work with my pain a long time before I begin to understand that the real question isn’t, “Why, God?” We respond that way naturally, trying to understand what’s happening, but it isn’t productive. The real question is, “Now what, God?”
After a while I began thinking of the process as “learning through” the issues. We would all prefer a quick answer. Walking through the journey and developing understanding piece by piece takes longer. However, learning through provides deeper comprehension and lasts longer than quick answers do.
Answering “now what?” is a matter of one small piece at a time. Or as Granny Max puts it in Stephanie Grace Whitson’s book Secrets on the Wind, “Do the next thing.”
The “next thing” is usually quite small. In the context of the book, cooking dinner or washing the dishes might be the next thing. We can do the same thing on our journey. Maybe we don’t need to cook dinner, but do whatever small piece of the process we can see. Eventually, doing the next thing will answer the larger question of “now what?” Piece by piece, the Lord will put next things in front of you until you see His answer.
In the early stages of my journey, I had friends tell me similar things, especially related to this Scripture from Habakkuk. They reassured me from their own journeys that the Lord would do incredible things. They told me I’d be amazed at the work He had planned. Even though I didn’t believe them, I chose to trust them enough to keep moving ahead without knowing just how all the pieces would come together.
When we’re wrestling with God over the hard questions, we often don’t feel trustful or confident. Getting beyond the why stage does help, but does not finish the job. In the end, we must keep moving forward as the Lord guides. Piece by piece He works until He has brought healing to what was pain and despair. The Lord has amazing plans for us.
Father, grant us the courage to walk through this part of the journey. Help us to trust You with the small pieces even when we don’t understand the bigger questions. Strengthen us to step forward in faith without knowing where the walk will lead.
(To get started with the full Chewed Petunias story, please visit www.chewedpetunias.com. You’ll find the story plus other material that may help you along the way.