As I was reading a commentary on Job a few months ago, the author tried to distinguish between a reason and a purpose. His logic was that there may not be an actual reason we are going through something, but we can always trust that God has a purpose. The closest I can figure this out using a dictionary is reason seems more about why something started and purpose is about the end goal. It still isn’t a really clear distinction to my mind.
But what he was trying to address is an important topic. We want to know why we have to suffer this way (whatever “this way” is for us at the time). There is the high level sanctification, make me more like Jesus, purpose. Sometimes that is enough but some days, when the pain is too much or the outcome seems so fuzzy or undesirable, we want more. We want to know why. Not even necessarily “why me” as if we don’t deserve to suffer. But at least a “why” do I have to suffer “this”.
We know that need to understand why. Which is why people at funerals and people comforting friends facing cancer can say some of the dumbest things. 🙂
We mean well! We know the person is hurting and asking “why?”, maybe even “why me?”. And we want to help, give some comfort. But I will tell you, the time to find comfort that God is sovereign and in control is long before disaster hits or some time after the pain has eased up. It is not comforting in the moment of great pain if you haven’t been resting in that truth for a long time already. In fact, it can make you quite angry and drive you further away from God if you keep hearing He is in control and you think he really should do something to remove you from this painful circumstance.
Sometimes, it is much better to just give the person a big hug, hold their hand, and stay silent, express grief maybe, but don’t try to have all the answers. In many ways, there is no answer that will satisfy. Don’t do more harm by throwing out something inferior in your desperate attempt to “say something”.
One more warning (or admonishment). You may see a friend many weeks into a struggle who still is whining and complaining when you know in their walk with Christ they should be submitting. It is still probably not your place to correct them. Only a really really close friend may have an opportunity to say something. Instead, pray that God will help them get over the anger and bitterness and find the joy in their salvation that is theirs as they lean hard on Him during this time.
As for yourself, study God’s word, pray with God, and learn the comfort of God’s sovereignty and His faithful love now, so that when the time comes that it is needed you will be ready to hurl His love into the face of whatever disaster or struggle comes your way. And remember the two go together. He is all powerful, and He is all love. He (likely) isn’t punishing you, He is changing you, and He is with you every step of the way!