Best of Daily Reflections: Why?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Why do you forget us continually; why do you abandon us for such a long time?

Lamentations 5:20

For 151 verses, except for a brief respite in chapter 3, the writer of Lamentations has poured out his sorrow. Judah has fallen to the Babylonians. Jerusalem has been destroyed and the temple decimated. The people have suffered terribly, with many taken into exile. The root cause of this agony has been Judah’s persistent rejection of God and his ways. Thus, God’s judgment is just. His people are getting what they brought on themselves.

Not once in the first 151 verses of Lamentations does the writer question God’s justice or his sovereignty. But, finally, in verse 152, the third from the last in the book, the author cries out, “Why do you forget us continually? Why do you abandon us for such a long time?” (5:20). God is right to judge his people. Their suffering is deserved. But why must it last so long? Why hasn’t the Lord intervened on behalf of his people? Why such an extended season of hardship?

When we go through times of suffering, it’s natural for us to cry out to the Lord in this way. We want to know why God isn’t helping us? Why he has apparently abandoned us? Why he fails to heed our cries for mercy? Why? Why? Why? The example of Lamentations 5:20 suggests that we should feel free to call out to God in this way. It’s appropriate to ask him why.

Unfortunately, God often chooses not to answer this question. We have no evidence that he answered the writer of Lamentations. Our experience tends to reflect this frustrating situation. We cry out “Why?” but God doesn’t answer, at least not in the ways we want him to answer.

The stunning Terrence Malick film, The Tree of Life, tells the story of a family dealing with the death of a beloved member. The question of “Why?” runs throughout the film. But this question never receives the kind of answer we might expect. Instead, the core of the film depicts the creation of the universe, thus illustrating the biblical passage with which the movie opens, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth...When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4,7).

Ultimately, God’s answer to our “Why?” question is not to give us explanations, but rather to give us the Word Incarnate, who reveals God’s love, who enters into our suffering in order to break its power and give us hope that will not disappoint us.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you every cried out “Why?” to God? What response did you get? Are you wondering right now why God is doing something in your life, or failing to do something you would like him to do?

PRAYER: Thank you, dear Lord, for the freedom to cry out to you in prayer. Thank you for the example of Lamentations 5:20, which encourages us to ask you “Why?”

Sometimes, it seems, you answer this question when we pose it to you. Sometimes, we see an answer, but only much later. Often, though, you don’t answer us in the way we would prefer. Instead, you remind us of who you are, your greatness and power as revealed in creation. You remind us of your love and grace, revealed in Jesus Christ. You reassure us without explaining why.

We trust that you do what is best, even when we don’t understand and don’t like it. So help us, Lord, to live with our limitations, to trust you when we can’t fathom you, and to sustain our hope in you. Amen.