Why this, Lord?
Saying I grew up in a conservative Baptist church is the same kind of understatement as saying Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups®are the perfect blend of chocolate and peanut butter. We were suspicious of conservatives who adhered to fewer “standards” than we did…and those standards were high, let me tell you.
For one thing, the preacher wasn’t about to let the worldly influence of secular music inside the sanctuary. Consequently, it always felt like we were getting away with something when the best bass singer in the church, a fireman and county animal trapper named John Gilbert, would sing Kris Kristofferson’s popular hit song, Why Me.
It is not uncommon for even the most faithful and resilient among us to ask this question at some point. Take, for instance, my daughter Holly. Her entire life has been a challenge. From day one, she has battled a litany of bodily ailments related to Spina Bifida. This has taken a physical toll on her. Through all of her troubles, she has been an influencer for Christ. She has modeled faith and faithfulness for thousands.
2023, however, has gotten off to a rough start. In January, we lost my mother, her Grandma. Grandma was always ready to listen, always encouraging, always on her side…just like she was with all of us. She recognized Holly’s struggles and saw the special gifts in her, as well. Just like she had done with me when I was a kid, she helped instill in Holly supreme confidence. Grandma was the True Believer, the cheerleader, the encourager, and the accepter of you just as you are. Now, she is gone.
Days after we buried Grandma, Bug died. Bug is Holly’s Beagle. She was small for the breed and she was only three years old. Bug was Holly’s constant companion. Through long days of grueling pain and suffering, she was there to accept and to return the affection of her “Mom.”
Holly is unable to have children. She is a terrific aunt for the children of her sisters. But Bug was hers alone. And she felt – and feels – the loss profusely.
Holly shared with me how she prayed for Bug, prayed for a miracle. A lifetime of suffering, and she had never asked or expected God to completely take away her ailments. But this was something she really wanted, something she felt she needed.
She cried to me, “Dad, why couldn’t God give me this one thing? WHY?”
I didn’t know. I don’t know. I had no answer. I have no answer. If I knew, I would be God – or at least on His level. I would see everything as clearly as He does and I would have all the mysteries of suffering and loss worked out. I know ultimately this world of hurt is the result of sin, original sin, and its inestimable impact on humanity. But it is not always immediately the result of any sin, or deed, or misdeed.
I don’t know why God didn’t spare Bug. I don’t know why Holly has lived a life of suffering and pain. I don’t know. I have had my own moments – and days – of anger and frustration over Holly’s struggles.
Why Holly, Lord???
I think it is easy – and common – for us to ask the question Kris Kristofferson asked…
Why me, Lord?
Yesterday, I listened to the song for the first time in a long, long time – maybe for the first time ever.
Spotify played it for me. I listened. I really listened. I was shocked to hear the country crooner/actor/poet laureate/songwriter/Rhodes scholar getting the question right. He was not asking “Why me” in terms of feeling sorry for himself or being upset with God for his own misfortunes. His question was the total opposite of that!
Have a look for yourself:
Kristofferson reminded me that, too often, I get the Why Me, Lord question all wrong. I focus on the negative things and wonder what I ever did to deserve them. Instead, I should remember that if it were not for grace, the negative things would be all there were. But for the grace of God, it is all suffering, pain, loss, and, ultimately, hopelessness.
What if the purpose of my pain is to ease the pain of another? What if what I suffer is not about my suffering but about how I handle it? What if there is someone somewhere this close to being forever lost and how I handle my pain either points them to or from the Cross?
I wrote Holly a letter and I will only share this portion because I think it is helpful to us all: “When one day you exchange your cross for a crown, you will see every way you mattered, every life you lifted, and every load you made lighter. ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain.’ Keep living. Keep loving.”
Like Kristofferson sang,
Maybe Lord, I can show someone else
What I’ve been through myself
I will try to remember this and also to believe this…
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. ~Romans 8:28
Maybe the next time I say why me, Lord, I will mean it the way Kristofferson put it…as an offering of gratitude and commitment to doing something good with the grace He has extended me and the blessings on my life.