There is a file in my brain and heart with the label “Why?” It’s where I file the tragedies that make no sense. Some of these tragedies happened to people close to me, others far removed — but no matter. The thing they share is the “why?”
The file started when I was young. Why did Lizzy Hover’s dad die? Why did the little baby from the sweeper colony die from a freak accident?
Growing up, we faced many tragedies, And one of the ways I chose to cope is to create this file. The file grew as I grew. Why did my friend lose her husband on their honeymoon? Why did Amy Jo die!? Why did a beloved pastor fall to his death in Cairo? Why did my brother face such extreme loss at such a young age?
And then there’s the looking back in time. Why the massacre of the innocents by Herod? The weeping and grief of mothers captured by an artist in the 16th century, a brutal reminder that has lasted through the centuries.
The file sometimes stays closed for a long time, and then it opens again with an angry roar. That’s what it did yesterday. A young man, new husband, newer father dies. It makes no sense. The tears flow for his young wife and the child who will know him only through pictures.
I put these things in the “why” file because they make no sense to me. Discussions on a broken world, on evil, on the goodness of God don’t help.
The only thing that helps is the face of Jesus, God incarnate. It is the icon of the Pantocrator that I weep before. “He had compassion on the crowds,” I’m told. And I beg for his compassion, his mercy.
A poem from long ago comes to mind and I alternate between that and the Jesus Prayer.
“I lay my ‘whys’ before your cross, in worship, kneeling. My mind beyond all thought, my heart beyond all feeling. And in worshiping realize that I, in knowing You, don’t need a ‘why?’ “
The file stays, and it won’t be open until I see the one who can make sense of all of it. Until then, I’m allowed to grieve, I’m allowed to weep, I’m allowed to lament. And I’m allowed to have a file labeled “why?” Because at the feet of Jesus, it will all make sense. And I stake my life on that.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12