When trials and tragedy hit, we end up asking, “Why?” When Danita Jenae was a military spouse and young mom with toddlers, she was too weak to lift her laundry basket, could not answer simple yes/no questions, and her devastating state left her asking “why?!?” In that season, Danita and her husband Dan learned to fight for her life together on their knees. They discovered the power of lament, crying out to God with their doubts and questions. God did the miraculous and healed her, just months before relocating to the mountains for their family’s final military move. But shortly after Danita got her life back, her husband Dan lost his. Suddenly and unexplainably. She found herself with empty arms and fistfuls of questions. Those trials stoked fire into the belly of this soft-spoken woman’s prayers. May her story fan the flame of yours today. It’s a grace to welcome Danita to the farm’s table today…
Every moment that brought me to my knees, wailing, “Why? Why, God? Why?” brought me closer to the heart of Christ than maybe I was ready for. We pray to know His love and sometimes find ourselves carrying a cross—a symbol of suffering and persecution—in order to understand it. We want to taste His goodness, but we’re surprised when the manna only falls in desert places.
“We want to taste His goodness, but we’re surprised when the manna only falls in desert places.”
It took weeks before the shock of my husband’s death wore thin enough to even formulate the question. But when I was finally ready to ask it, the question burst out, kind of explosive-like as I squatted on the floor of my little apartment bathroom. Unexplainable groans and fierce wailings of “Why, God? Why?”.
Why him? Why now? Why, when we finally got my health back and when we finally had hopes for the future again?
And then I wondered. Am I allowed to even ask why? Is that okay? Is it useful? Did Jesus ever ask why?
And then I remembered.
The cross. Oh, my Savior.
Yes. Jesus asked why. And He did so in more agony than I’ll ever know. In more suffering, darkness, betrayal, and isolation than I’ll ever know.
The cross felt closer to home than ever.
Maybe we won’t get answers to our whys, but it sure feels like breakthrough to finally ask.
A childlike faith is full of questions, wonders, curiosities, and even doubts. Healthy faith knows how to be kind to doubt. But let’s agree that there’s a difference in questioning God’s plan for you and questioning His heart for you. I’ve questioned all of it before.
That day the whys flooded out on the bathroom floor was the day I reluctantly took up my own cross. Jesus didn’t want His cross either. He questioned and asked if there was another way out. But when there wasn’t, He surrendered it all.
“What would happen if we give ourselves permission to both surrender and question, even if we don’t get our answers?”
What would happen if we give ourselves permission to both surrender and question, even if we don’t get our answers?
Jesus surrendered all—calling out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46, NIV). The Jews of Jesus’ day would’ve immediately recognized those words from Psalm 31, a prophecy of the cross that was fulfilled when He shouted those ancient words.
Jesus also questioned why—saying in a loud voice, “My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?”(Mark 15:34). Hearing this, they would have recalled the entirety of Psalm 22, prophesying the mockery, physical agony, and piercing of His flesh. Why have you forsaken me? However, we don’t see Jesus getting a clear answer.
“All their personal suffering was redeemed for the sake of a bigger picture, the saving of many lives.”
Why did God, in all His intentionality, choose a man named Joseph to bury His Son? Maybe to remind us of Joseph’s namesake, the great-grandson of Abraham, grandson of Isaac, and favored son of Jacob. Seems like Joseph’s story parallels Jesus’ story better than anyone else’s in the Bible. Both were sold by jealous “brothers,” falsely accused, abused, abandoned, hated, taken for granted, and imprisoned unjustly. And God lifted both of them up to a place of honor at the right hand of a king. All their personal suffering was redeemed for the sake of a bigger picture, the saving of many lives. Both could have judged their oppressors harshly, but they chose to show humility, forgiveness, compassion, and mercy instead.
Genesis 50:20 is where you’ll find God’s plan to redeem the evil plot of Joseph’s brothers in order to save many nations through his devastating loss. Joseph’s brothers, who left him for dead and then sold him into slavery, later found themselves at his mercy for their very lives. Joseph’s response could’ve easily been vengeance. But mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). Essentially, Joseph replies, “Don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery because God sent me here to preserve your life. It was for the deliverance of many” (Genesis 50:20).
Joseph’s response reminds me of Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing”(Luke 23:34).
And Jesus knew why—it was to rescue your very life and mine. It was for the deliverance of many. And He even endured the excruciating cross for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).
A few months after my husband died, I curled up on the sofa to read Chasing Vines by Beth Moore. It triggered a flood of memories of Dan and me visiting vineyards together in Italy, California, even Nebraska—a vineyard with sweeping views so beautiful, we may as well have been in Tuscany. I finally broke down and let it all out as loudly as I could until it hurt my throat and my gut:
“Lord, where are Your angels? Where is Your Spirit? Where is Your presence? Where is Your defense? WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
“Every time we cry out, “Why, God! Why have you abandoned me?” I guarantee it’s because you’ve found yourself in that excruciating place of taking up your own cross.”
I didn’t expect such a quick response, if any at all. In my spirit, it was so clear that it may as well have been audible. A paraphrase of Genesis 50:20. Why have you forsaken me?
For the deliverance of many.
As we continued that heated conversation in prayer, it brought me right back to where I started, bellowing, “BUT WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”
For the deliverance of many.
What if God really can use what was intended to harm me and flip it around to accomplish good, beautiful things? What if turning it around includes “the saving of many lives”?
Every time we cry out, “Why, God! Why have you abandoned me?” I guarantee it’s because you’ve found yourself in that excruciating place of taking up your own cross. A time where you’re being crucified with Christ and you no longer live, but Christ lives through you (Galatians 2:20). It’s a time when you get to partake in His bitter sufferings. May you also know the sweetness of His joy, the saving joy set before Him.
We won’t ever get all our answers to “why”, but could part of the answer be “for the deliverance of many”?
By grace alone, Danita Jenae, a military widow and young mom, has overcome severe postpartum depression, autoimmune disorders, countless losses, and the tragic passing of 14 loved ones within one year. Through it all, she has learned how to carry joy and sorrow in the same breath. Danita is an author and speaker dedicated to helping women practically and prayerfully keep the faith when they feel fresh out, as well as advocating for grief and trauma support for surviving families of fallen soldiers. She offers free copies of The Grief Relief Guide and How to Help Your Grieving Friend on her website, helping others navigate loss in prayerful and practical ways.
Danita walks alongside the brokenhearted, with gripping honesty, reassuring gentleness, and surprising witty humor in new release, When Mountains Crumble: Rebuilding Your Life After You Lose Someone You Love. This interactive healing journey braves the troubling questions and big emotions of sorrow. You’ll find uncommonly refreshing practical support and creative prompts in this devotional. When mountains crumble and everything you thought was stable falls apart, Danita will take you by the hand and show you how to find refuge in the Rock of our salvation and His unshakable peace.
[ Our humble thanks to Moody Publishers for their partnership in today’s devotion. ]