Sunday, November 5, 2006, is a night our family will never forget.
The weekend was packed with activity. We had traveled two hours for the final baseball tournament of the year. Our son, Zach, and his best friend, Josh Barrick, played on the team, and their dads were the coaches.
We arrived home from the tournament just in time to get ready for our church’s six o’clock service, where our daughter, Megan, and Josh’s older sister, Jennifer, were singing in a choir. Jennifer’s grandfather was the guest speaker. It was an extraordinary night.
After the service, the Barrick family invited family and friends back to their house to watch football and celebrate a memorable weekend together. As people arrived at the Barrick home, they sat in the driveway and waited. And waited. The Barrick family never arrived.
Tim had a six o’clock flight the next morning, so we decided to skip the fellowship and go immediately home. A few minutes after we walked through the door, the phone rang. A drunk driver had hit the Barricks’ car head-on, and the initial report on their condition was extremely bleak.
When tough times engulf us, well-meaning people encourage us to rest in Jesus and trust that He will take care of it all. But that’s easier said than done. In dark times and deep pain, we need more than eloquent words. You know as well as I do that when tragedy strikes it can shatter our expectations of the world and our beliefs about a loving God. When our worldview is shaken to its core, our internal response can range from feelings of complete numbness to a jumble of uncontrolled anger, deep sadness, and bone-chilling fear. And in the midst of the confusing emotions, we naturally ask, Why?
Why did this happen to such good people—an entire family who not only loves Jesus but lives purposely to make His name known.
Why were they all four now lying in different hospitals, fighting for their lives?
Miraculously, all four family members survived. Josh, with the least number of injuries, was back to school about a week later. His parents, Andy and Linda, remained in different hospitals for weeks after being in and out of surgery to repair a plethora of broken bones, damaged nerves, and other serious injuries. Their road to recovery continues.
Jennifer, on the other hand, was the most critical. With a traumatic head injury, she lay in a coma for more than a month. Three months after the accident, she finally returned home. But a different journey had now begun for the Barrick family—a journey they never expected when they left church that Sunday evening in November. Even though she is home, Jennifer still struggles with limited short term memory and poor eyesight.
Why did this happen to such a beautiful girl with an incredibly bright future ahead of her? Why did God allow this trial to touch this most beloved family?
At some point in your life you have asked why. We all have.
Job did too. In fact, he was so desperate that he denounced his birth, asking God, “Why did I not perish when I came from the womb?” (Job 3:11 NKJV). Buried in pain, he saw no hope. And he didn’t have the strength to look for it, either. When God allowed Satan to take everything Job ever loved and owned away from him, Job cried out, “Where then is my hope? As for my hope, who can see it?” (Job 17:15 NKJV). Looking for anything to help him through, he prayed, “What strength do I have, that I should hope?” (Job 6:11 NKJV).
When we have no energy to find the hope we need, and we’re not sure how we’ll make it through, we tend to ruminate on the why question and allow it to torment us. How do we get beyond it?
Pray. When what’s before you seems too much to handle, you can turn to God as Job did and ask for the wherewithal to do what’s necessary. He’s the only thing Andy and Linda have to hang onto. When you simply just don’t know what to do, you can ask the Holy Spirit to grant you wisdom and insight (James 1:5).
People. You must also surround yourself with a community of people who can help you through the tough times. We were not meant to walk through them alone, and often the biggest mistake we make in difficult life circumstances is refusing help or alienating ourselves from others.
Process. Though you may know in your heart that you can turn to Jesus at any time, many of us are trained to spring into action when something needs to be done. Consequently, we try to work our way out of tough times instead of leaning into them and learning what we can in the midst of the pain. It’s all about the process—suffering is about becoming more like Him.
You may never receive the answers to the why questions you have. God neither explained Job’s suffering nor helped him make sense of his loss. But what He did do was highlight the reality of His sovereignty and His unconditional love for us.
Our love for Him in return cannot be based on how we think He is treating us. He expects us to trust Him and His goodness regardless of what happens to us in life. In the end, Job found peace, not in answers or in different circumstances, but in a deeper desire to live in the presence of God.
The why questions become means to an end. And even though the end may not bring the answers you’re looking for, once you reach it, you’re no longer as concerned about the why because something more beautiful and fulfilling has happened—you’ve experienced life in the presence of God.
May that be the desire of your heart.