If you are alive, you have gone through some sort of crisis in your life. And chances are high that somewhere during the suffering of this crisis you asked the question, “Why me?”. I was sixteen years and one week old when I got my driver’s license – as the law in Indiana required. I drove myself to Cross Country practice, and some of my girlfriends had invited me to come out for the soccer team, so I left the high school (where cross country practice took place) and drove out to the county elementary school (which I had not attended, and to which I had never driven), and I accidentally drove past the school. I continued driving looking for an optimal place to turn around and eventually I came up to a gas station. Wanting to turn left on the cross street so that I could turn around in the gas station parking lot, I came to a complete stop. At the same time a woman had stopped on the cross street to my right. Remembering from driver’s ed that the car to the right at an intersection has the right of way, I waited for her to go first as we had stopped at the same time. My street did not have a stop sign, however, and therefore I had the right of way. She waved me on, and without looking back, I started to turn left. There was a van coming straight at me, speeding excessively, and she T-boned my huge Ford Taurus, spinning us both and knocking me out briefly. When I came to, and when I processed what had happened, I immediately started praying, “God, no!” And then, “God, why me?” and lastly, “God, why didn’t you let me die?!” You see, my father had promised that if I ever wrecked his car, that I would not drive again until I was 18 or until I had bought my own car. And this happened the very first day that I had my driver’s license. And my father was a very strict man. I would have preferred to go home to Heaven then to suffer the consequences of my mistake.
Now, looking back on everything, it was a minor thing – even though my family still gives me a hard time. (I am now fifteen years accident free, thank you very much!) But in the moment, my world had come to an end. I despaired of life. And I spent many years paying off that mistake.
The tragedy of the “Why me?” question.
Having the immediate response asking “Why me” to tragedy, to a mistake, to anything is detrimental to our souls. It is a black hole into which our culture is being sucked – or is willfully pursuing – that will destroy us. Why? Because at it’s core is pride and a false understanding of reality. At the core it says, I am a good person and I do not deserve this. It elevates self, it looks past everyone else, and it fosters entitlement.
In this world there will be suffering for everyone. Even if you are born as royalty and your every whim is catered, there will come a day when a parent or friend dies. There will come a day when something does not go how you planned it, or wanted it. You will fall down, you will wreck your daddy’s car, you will break something. The entire religious system called Buddhism is built on the statement and belief that “All of life is suffering”, and the goal of the religion is to remove one’s self from bondage to this world and therefore escape suffering.
The Bible teaches us that life on earth is vanity, marked by suffering, and chasing after the wind:
“I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.”
– Ecc 1.14
If you do not know from your own experience that there is suffering in this life, then come back once you have realized it, I will not spend any more time trying to convince you that there is.
But what about entitlement and our response to suffering? Our culture wants to believe and tries to convince us that “You deserve to be happy“. We continue to make and upgrade products that make our lives easier. We have convinced ourselves that education will enlighten us and elevate us and give us the opportunity to work the job that we want in order to make lots of money, change the world, and be happy. But as soon as we graduate college we realize that there are few jobs out there and that everyone has the same education, so now we are highly educated self-declared elitists who are unwilling to work for our success, and become depressed when life is hard and we have to work a job that we hate. I want to be unique, I want to be creative, I want to change the world, and I want to get rich doing it. But then it does not happen and we bemoan our existence shaking our hands at God, or the universe, or society and say, “Why me?”. I don’t deserve this. I did everything right.
But when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, and when we allow the Bible to be the authority over our lives, we realize that this worldview is deeply flawed. Jesus promised us that in this world there would be much suffering, and He was our forerunner and example of how to endure suffering:
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
– John 16.33
And not only is there suffering promised just by the very nature of being alive, but Jesus promised us that the world would hate us because it hated Him first, and that we would suffer persecution because of His name.
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
– John 15.18-20
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
– 2 Tim 3.12
We need to first and foremost change our mindset. We will encounter suffering, and if we want to be like Jesus, if we want to be saved, we are guaranteed that the world will hate us and persecute us. Do we deserve to be happy? Nope, not by the world’s standards. But God will use our suffering to make us holy. If we have this mindset when we enter into a trial, we will no longer ask, “Why me?”, but we will seek the Lord’s direction through it. Scripture teaches us that we actually find favor with God when we suffer unjustly and handle it well:
For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
– 1 Peter 2.19-24
We were actually called to suffer. We are not so intrinsically good and pure that we should be kept from suffering. God uses suffering to test us, to refine us, and to make us holy (Rom 5, James 1). So if you are walking through a trial today, instead of getting defensive, instead of questioning God, turn to Him and rejoice. Trust Him. Follow Him through the trial. Ask Him what His plan is, ask Him for the strength to suffer well and follow the example of Jesus. Praise Him that He is refining your faith and giving you an opportunity to grow. Stop asking, “Why me”, and start asking, “How can I glorify you through this?”
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity…
– 1 Tim 1.8-9