Asking What Next Instead of Why

This is the sermon Hugh gave in our Prayer Service on Wednesday March 29, 2017 during the fourth week of Lent.

The Jewish Rabbi Harold Kushner had a son – a son that meant the world to him, a son that was his everything. And then, one day, the unthinkable happened – his son was diagnosed with a horrible disease, and then died while still in his early teens.

As a result of his trying to understand this senseless tragedy, in the early 80’s he wrote a popular book with the title, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” But that isn’t the way most people remember the book’s title – most people actually believe it is “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.” Because that is the question we all want the answer to.

Why? Why did this happen?

Why did my mom die of cancer? Why did I lose my job? Why did that man hurt me? Why did I lose my child?

Why? Why? Why?

To run the risk of disappointing you, I don’t really have an answer for that. I don’t know why bad people prosper and good people struggle. I don’t know why my friend Nancy died at 35 and left behind a beautiful daughter who loved her while men I know who have fathered bunches of kids they ignore have what seems like great lives.

But I do know that you and I are not alone in wanting to know why things happen.

In the short story Laura just read, the disciples come across a man born blind. They see this man, who in that time was pretty helpless, was unable to have a trade, was utterly dependent on others for his survival, and they ask Jesus why. Why was this man born blind? Who sinned that he deserve this? What happened to cause this?

“What, Jesus, is the root cause of this man’s trouble? And whose fault is it? Who can we blame for this?”

When people who don’t know any people who are homeless come to volunteer here at Love Wins, sometimes they have questions. And one of those questions is often, “Why?”

Why is he homeless? Why doesn’t she have a job? What happened that he can’t seem to get ahead?

Why, in other words, have bad things happened to these people? And is it their fault? Who can we blame for this?

And I tell them what Jesus told the disciples, when they wanted to know why tragedy had happened to the blind man, and wanted to know who to blame. I tell them they are asking the wrong question.

The question to ask is not, “Whose fault is this tragedy?” Because that is ultimately unanswerable. The question we can ask and actually get an answer to is, “How can God be glorified in this? Where is hope in this? What can I do in this to make the world better?”

There are things in life that don’t make any sense. Sometimes, crap just happens. I once knew a lady who lived in her car for several years. She had had a pretty good life until a series of tragedies happened, resulting in her husband dying, her son going to prison and her losing her house. And now she was living in her car.

I asked her if she was mad at God for the way things had turned out. She looked at me like I was stupid.

No, honey. I don’t waste any time like that. I don’t ask God how I got here – Instead I just ask what I can do now that I am here.”

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Hugh Hollowell

Hugh Hollowell

Pastor & Executive Director at Love Wins Ministries
Hugh is a Mennonite minister and the founding director of Love Wins. He likes peanut M&Ms.
Hugh Hollowell

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Hugh Hollowell

Author: Hugh Hollowell

Hugh is a Mennonite minister and the founding director of Love Wins. He likes peanut M&Ms.