Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The unanswerable question

It’s a question with no knowable answer, and yet I can’t help but ask it.


Why does a seemingly perfectly healthy man in his early 30s pass away suddenly, leaving behind his wife and young children?

Why would a loving and powerful God allow such a tragedy to occur?

Why him and not the sociopath who hurts people for the thrill of it and has no remorse?


I know there’s no answer, at least there’s not one that explains why with enough reasons for to satisfy my mind. But I ask anyway.

At times like this, there are plenty of cliché answers as people struggle to come to terms with the tragic and sudden loss of a colleague, a friend, a teammate, a son, a spouse. Phrases like “we just have to trust God” or “God has a plan, we just don’t know it.” I understand people who say that are dealing with grief in their own way and are trying to be helpful. I really do. But I find those answers unsatisfying at best and, at worst, indicative of a God who has the power to prevent or suffering and chooses not to.

So I don’t know. More importantly, I know that I don’t know.

And I know that I can’t know.

It’s an unanswerable question that people with far more intelligence, far more studying, and far more life experience than I have experienced have been unable to come up with an acceptable (to me) answer.

So what do I do?  What CAN I do?

The answer I keep coming back to is nothing.

And everything.

There’s nothing I can do, no amount of reading to be done, or questions to ask or insights to be gleaned that will help me find what I’m looking for. There is, ultimately, no satisfactory answer as to ‘why?’

But rather than take that as an excuse to do nothing, it’s a call to do everything. We may not know why people suffer and we may know it’s not fair, but that doesn’t mean you don’t do anything to alleviate that pain.

And it doesn’t have to be big things.

Smile at the cashier in the grocery store.

Visit a nursing home.

Ask someone older than you about their childhood.

Leave a note for the custodian at work to let you know you appreciate his or her work.

Send an email to someone thanking them for being a part of your life.

Take your kid out for ice cream.

Better yet, take your kid and the neighbor’s kids out for ice cream.

Do something for someone else. We all suffer in big ways and, more often, in ways we keep hidden from our friends, our loved ones and even (especially) ourselves. Getting outside of that suffering, even briefly, to help someone else is often all we can do. And while a visit to a nursing home may seem like nothing to you, it could be everything to someone who just needs someone to listen for 45 minutes.

Why do we suffer?

I don’t know. I’ll never know. But I am sure that you can’t go wrong being nice to someone.

1 comment:

Victor Scott said...

Hey Luke,

As always you have a way of putting into words what many of us think. You are so right. There is no way of knowing "why" things happen. We are left to deal with the aftermath of what did happen.

I find that my frustration with events and realities like these (the death of someone far to young to be gone) comes from my inability to pull together the strands of God's will that would make this "make sense." I do not like, I would even say I hate that this event has taken place. I mourn with you and am filled with sorrow for the family.

You are so right to point out that this should not cause paralysis or inactivity. We should be spurred on to actions saturated by love. Thank you for your thoughts.