“Why did this happen?”
This is one of the most oft asked questions I hear in ministry sessions. And usually God’s name is inserted into the equation so that the sentence reads, “Why did God let [make] this happen?” I always encourage folks to take that question directly to Him and then to be available to whatever He might reveal; but I let folks know that other than something like, “That’s what happens when you jump off of buildings”, my experience has been that the Lord rarely answers that question. My sense is that He wants us to trust Him now, not get all twisted up trying to figure out why things happened then. I think, instead, He would rather have us ask this question:
“What do I do now?”
As I think about the life of Paul the Apostle, I can see where he could have easily gotten caught up in the why question. He had a miraculous interaction with Jesus on the road to Damascus and was aggressively executing one of the most effective evangelistic, church planting campaigns the world would ever see – until he ended up in jail. If I were Paul, I can just envision me pacing that cell, fretting over the loss of my ministry, wondering what I had done wrong, crying out to God, “Why did you let this happen?” Thankfully, Paul apparently did not spend a lot of time asking why. Instead, he asked “What do I do now?” and the answer to that question resulted in the letters to the churches that comprise half of the New Testament.
Sadly, we often spend a lot of time focusing on what we do not have.
I recall a very challenging time early in my marriage when pretty much the only thing I thought about was what I “did not have”; it was such a strong focus that I could think of nothing else and it was crippling to my marriage and my personal life. In fact, it was so debilitating that, in hopeless despair, I asked for a divorce. Thankfully, Debbie did not give up on me and asked me to go with her to speak with a pastor. Quite unexpectedly, that man (empowered and led by the Holy Spirit) made me confront and repent of my sin and selfishness; and once that glaring obstacle was out of the way, my focus shifted from what I did not have to what I did have – and that has made all the difference in our marriage.
Again, it would have been easy for the Apostle Paul, sitting in that jail cell, to get frustrated, even angry about what he did not have (freedom, mobility, large crowds to preach to, new cities in which to plant churches); thankfully, he looked around to see what he did have – and there he found paper and a pen. And yes, it has made all the difference in Christianity.
I have spent thousands of hours over the last two decades giving people a safe place to look at the past events of their lives but not primarily with goal of understanding why things happened. The emphasis has always been to uncover and release the power given to those events by the person themselves (by the way they interpreted them or the value they assigned to those situations) so they could be free from the bondage and burdens that hinder them from asking the more important question: “Jesus, what do You want me to do now?” Additionally, the effort over the years has been to help folks shift their focus from what they do not have (which also becomes a constant and heavy burden) to what they do have; they are often surprised at what and how much is there.
Take a little time this week to intentionally look at what you have (Jesus can shed some light on that if you need help; just ask Him) and then ask, “So what do I do now – today” (Jesus has been known to help with that one, too!)