“Why?” Isn’t the Most Important Question

The wisest people are not those with all the answers. Wisdom teaches us to ask the right questions. Asking the right question leads to the right answer, and the right answer is always a person—never a reason. Among the educated, the privileged or the elite, the right question seems to be Why; but among the humble, the lowly or the disciple, asking the right question is the journey from Why to Who.

Not only are we a people of unclean lips, we have become a people of prideful questions. On the lips of the childlike, Why is a question of wonder and awe; on the lips of a grown-up, Why becomes a demand for accountability. Why summons those we hold responsible before the court of our understanding. And the bigger the issue, it always ends up being God:

Why did God make this happen?

Why didn’t God intervene?

Why did God give this illness or take my loved one?

We foolishly believe that if we can understand the reasons behind an event, we will be equipped to cope with it. Yet it turns out that Why never brings comfort. Cold is the comfort and hollow the explanations of people who deal in Why-answers. We ask, Why did this have to happen—and even if we could actually receive a full accounting—it brings no comfort.

Asking Who brings the Comforter near. Why demands an answer. Who seeks a comforter. Why deals in theories, ideas and concepts. Who leads us to a Person.

Even in the middle of Apostle Paul’s most theological letter, filled with theology, explanations and reasoning, we see the importance of Who. When he despaired of his wretchedness he cried out “Who will deliver me?”

Who can I turn to?

Who will deliver me?

Who will walk with me?

Deeper still, Who leads us to look beyond ourselves. After we have turned toward the Comforter, the Spirit gently urges us to become the presence of Who for others:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

This is the heart of ministry, because it’s the heart of God, the one who simply promises, “I am with you, always.”  

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Ray Hollenbach
Ray Hollenbach, a Chicagoan, writes about faith and culture. His devotional book "50 Forgotten Days: A Journey Into the Age to Come" is available at Amazon.com He currently lives in central Kentucky, which is filled with faith and culture. He's also the author of of "The Impossible Mentor", a deep dive into the foundations of discipleship.