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If I Only Knew Why

I contracted polio long after it was supposedly eradicated. The doctor misdiagnosed my symptoms because she had never seen polio before. And the wrong diagnosis led to widespread paralysis, with a childhood spent largely in hospitals, marked by painful surgeries.

Over 30 years later, my infant son died because the substitute doctor was unfamiliar with his heart condition. The doctor took him off his life-saving medicine. Within two days, my son was gone.

How could I possibly reconcile these losses? They were unspeakable. Preventable. Unexpected. And in the face of such catastrophes, my natural question was, “Why?” Why did this happen? If God was in control, why did he allow it? Why didn’t he stop it? Why? Why? Why?

That question haunted me for years.

That Elusive Explanation

I was certain that if I had an explanation for my trials, if I could understand God’s purposes in them, if I just had a reason, then I could have accepted my losses with more grace. And I’ve heard countless others say the same thing: If they only knew why, they would be able to move on.

Knowing why seems to be the elusive key that will somehow unlock all our pain. The key that will bring clarity and peace. Freedom.

Not knowing why, having to trust God in a senseless situation—when the world feels like it has exploded and we are left picking up the splintered fragments of our life—seems impossible.

Trust Him in the Dark

God is asking the unthinkable. To trust him in the dark. To accept his will when we don’t understand. To submit to his sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty. To believe he has a purpose when nothing makes sense. Unthinkable as it is, God keeps asking me to trust him.

This invitation is not what I want. I want to understand. I want to see. I want to agree. Accepting God’s invitation takes faith, which I possess in great measure when I’m not in the furnace. But that faith wavers when the flames envelop me and my dreams fall apart.

My son’s death, my failing health, my shattered marriage—each brought inexpressible agonies. After each loss, I resolved to trust God implicitly, but fresh losses inevitably brought in new pain and brought back old questions. Are you good? Do you love me? Why is this happening?

Each time it took time to come to the place of release and trust. But as I saw how my questions only fueled my agitation, I eventually surrendered my demand to understand. And paradoxically, it was this surrender that held the elusive key for which I had been searching. This trusting, accepting, submitting and believing is what transformed me in my grief.