Asking the right questions
November 8, 2019
You go to your car in the morning and it will not start. Which question is better in the moment: Why did I park my car here or what do I need to do to fix it? You wake up sick on your birthday, which question is better: Why do I have to be sick on my birthday or what do I need to do to get better? A student gets an F on the test, which question is better: Why do I have such a lousy teacher or what do I need to study to do better the next time?
When it comes to life’s events and circumstances, sometimes we ask the wrong questions. In the Gospel there is a story about a woman who had 7 husbands, all of whom were brothers. As each husband dies, she marries another brother. Eventually the woman dies. In the story, the religious authorities ask Jesus whose wife the woman will be at the Resurrection (Luke 20:27-38). Jesus does not answer the question because the answer will not matter. What matters is that there is life after death. What matters is that we have life now and God is with us. What matters is that we bring that divine presence to the events and circumstances of our lives, even if we do not know why something happened.
Sometimes we ask questions whose answers, even if we knew them, would not matter. The right questions are the ones that can bring the love of God and a hopeful presence to the circumstances of our lives and the lives of others. For example, when a terrible natural disaster happens in an impoverished area, we ask questions like, why did it have to happen to them, they already are suffering from such horrible poverty? Even if we knew the answer, it would not help. Better to ask: What can we do to help? Whose relative do I know that I can call or with whom I can pray? When my brother died suddenly in his sleep, I asked questions like: Why did he have to die so young? Why does my 90-year-old father have to suffer such deep grief over the death of his son? Better questions would be: How can I be there for my sister-in-law? What can I do to help my dad in his grief? How might I talk to my nieces and nephew who lost their father?
When things happen, asking why is normal. Asking how we can bring life is divine.
Together in faith,
The Very Rev. Christopher Smith, rector