Thursday, October 15, 2015

Asking "How?" Instead of "Why?"

I am reading Lynn Austin’s On This Foundation.  Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary review copy of this book.  This post here is not my actual review.  I will probably write the actual review sometime next week.  Rather, in this post here, I want to wrestle a bit with a passage in the book.

On This Foundation is set in Israel’s post-exilic period, specifically during the time of Nehemiah.  One of the main characters is Chana, a young lady who recently lost her husband Yitzhak.  Chana’s father has been bitten by a scorpion while he working on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and there is a possibility that he may die soon.  He says to his daughter Chana, on page 341:

“And if I die, Chana…don’t ask God, ‘Why?’  Ask, ‘How?’…How can I make the world a better place?  How can I show His love?”

That is a good point.  As an academic, I like to ask the question of “why?”  Asking questions and finding answers are entertaining to me, and I do not think that my life would be as interesting without that quest, or a belief in new territory that I had not previously considered.  I also think that learning more about “why?” will enhance my appreciation of God.  Or at least I hope that it would.

Suppose I started asking the question of “how?” more often?  Ordinarily, I would prefer not to ask that question.  I do not want to beat myself up for being asocial, or struggling socially, and that could easily happen once I start asking the question of “how?” I can show God’s love to people.  I do not want to feel pressured to give money, and that pressure may emerge once I ask the question of “how?”.

What is interesting, though, is that I did not have my expected reaction or aversion when reading that passage in Lynn Austin’s book.  I can ask “How?”.  That can be pretty open-ended.  I can be imaginative or creative in coming up with answers.  I do not have to follow a set path.  How can I, as me, make the world a better place and show God’s love to people?  I can write.  I can pray for people, privately and online.  I can ask people about needs that they have shared.

A challenging verse for me, though, is James 2:16, which criticizes one who wishes the person in need well, but does nothing to meet that person’s physical needs.  I don’t have to let this verse beat me up.  It should, however, be somewhere in my mind.  I cannot meet the physical needs of all needy people.  But that should not be an excuse for me to give nothing.

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