Why? Or Who?

PMT 2014-058b by Don Strickland

Job 7:20: “Why have you made me your target? “(NIV)

Job 42:5-6: “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (NASB)

Almost thirty years ago, Harold Kushner wrote a book entitled, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” It became a number one bestseller. And even before I began working in bookstores, I noticed that the book could often be seen in Christian bookstores and enthusiastically recommended by Christians, even though the author was a Jewish rabbi.

What was Kushner’s message? He said that we all know of people experiencing undeserved hardships or tragedies. Why? Since there is a God, He must, therefore, be either limited in His power (ie not omnipotent), or He must not be completely just (or not “good”). And since we cannot imagine God as being anything but just and good, Kushner reasoned, God must not be all powerful. In other words, God empathizes with our hurts and injustices, but He is powerless to do anything about them on this earth.

There are some very serious theological problems with Kushner’s work – too many to delineate here. But the one problem I wanted to point out here has to do with his methodology. Kushner, like Job above, started with experience and asked the question, “Why?” This method can only lead to a wrong conclusion in an unbeliever (as in his case), or confusion in a believer (see Job).


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Job asks “why” of God fifteen times in the book that bears Job’s name. In his confusion, he despairs. But Job is then confronted by God Himself. And Job’s “why” question disappears. It disappears not because it is answered. It, in fact, was not. It disappears because of God’s supreme majestic omnipotence and knowledge (verbally put on display in chapters 38-41).

Whatever we may experience, our first question should not be “Why”. Instead, it should be “Who”. Who is God? (Answered by what does the Bible teach about Him.) Only after we answer that question, can we ask, “What is God teaching us?” A “why” question may never be answered in this life, but the foundation laid of knowing who God is will be enough to give us confidence and strength to look and live beyond our experiences to His glory.

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