We've all heard people say this in response to a real or perceived tragedy. "Why did this happen to me? Why did God allow this?"
I've been prone to ask these questions on occasion. When my father was diagnosed with cancer, I questioned God, "Why him? He's such a good man." When a good friend was laid off, I wondered, "Why her?" And when I've attended countless baby showers without a hoped-for pregnancy of my own, I've asked, "Why me?"
But the older I get, the more I realize that's the wrong question to ask.
The Grand Plan
The "why" question has, at its heart, a self-centered, self-protective, tight-fisted focus. We're shocked when troubles burst into our lives. Even though Jesus told us, "Don't take these things personally. You're going to have trouble. Expect it" (John 16:33, my translation), we still cling to the idea that we should have a smooth, uncomplicated life.
Have you read the Bible lately? Can you name one character who had an easy life? So it stands to reason that if everyone has troubles, God must have something planned for us through that. One plan may be so we can learn the power and importance of gratitude.
What's the "Right" Question?
A poster boy for practicing the spiritual discipline of gratitude is Job. Just about every trouble possible happened to Job. And how did he respond? With authentic gratitude. He struggled, he ached, he grieved, and yet in the midst, he praised God.
The military has a motto: "Do the harder right." It's easy to be grateful when life is good and things are going along nicely. But the harder right means we practice thanking God when everything within us screams out, "Why me?"1