On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, fellow police chaplain and ministry leader
Dave Purdle wrote the following that I'm pressed to re-share with you here today:
When the first of September rolls around, two recent catastrophic events in U.S. history stand out in our minds and hearts: 9/11 and Katrina. It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since 9/11 and six years since Katrina. Many lives have changed as a result of these tragedies. Today, many of us still have the same question regarding 9/11 and Katrina: Why?
What is the definition of why? The American Heritage Dictionary defines "why" as: "For what purpose, reason, or cause; with what intention, justification, or motive." The Greek word "why" in Matthew 27:46 means "for what reason." "Why" is not a simple request for an explanation, but it is not a simple exclamation. Rather, it is an unanswered cry. WHY?!
Whether on 9/11, as the towers came down, or in the wake of Katrina, as the waters came up, the cry to heaven was the same: WHY?! The question was not, "Why do some people hate us so much?" Nor was the question, "Why was the response to the storm so slow?" Oh yes, those are important questions, but they are not the question. The question is one word: WHY?!
In Psalm 22 which is a Messianic Psalm, we see the crucifixion of Christ in verses 1-21. Specifically, notice verses 1-2 and 15 in the KJV:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent...My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death."
The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon, made the following comments on this passage:
"Why? What is the great cause of such a strange fact as for God to leave His own Son at such a time and in such a plight? There was no cause in Him; why then was He deserted?...To what extremity of grief was our Master driven?....What must have been His anguish to find His own beloved and trusted Father standing afar off, and neither granting help nor apparently hearing prayer...So tormented in every single part as to feel dissolved into separate atoms, and each atom full of misery; the full price of our redemption was paid, and no part of the Surety's body or soul escaped its share of agony. The words may set forth Jesus as having wrestled with death until He rolled into the dust with His adversary. Behold the humiliation of the Son of God! The Lord of glory stoops to the dust of death..."
The Psalmist, showing the future death of Christ on the cross, depicts Him asking "WHY?!"
On August 29, many along the Gulf Coast remembering the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, still ask the question, "WHY?!" No doubt, it is still the question no commission can ever really answer about 9/11. Not who? Not what? Not when? Not where? But WHY?!
? Fast forward to the crucifixion of Christ as He hung on the cross. Jesus asked that one word question...WHY?...with His dying breath: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).
In the book entitled, "The Words and Works of Jesus Christ," author Dwight Pentecost made this statement: "Jesus had a taste of such a broken communion, the first and last He ever experienced-in those desolate hours when darkness lay upon the earth and upon His soul. That is the reason He used the words of distressed astonishment: "My God, my God, to what end or purpose has thou forsaken me?"
In his commentary, Matthew Henry made the following statement about this verse: "The words are from Psalm 22:2 (and following)...The Lord Jesus was, in His suffering, for a time forsaken by His Father. Not that the union between the divine and human nature was weakened or shocked, nor as if there were any abatement (decrease) of His Father's love to Him, or His to His Father...but His Father delivered Him into the hands of His enemies. He let loose the powers of darkness against Him, and suffered them to do their worst...Christ was made SIN for us, a CURSE for us. Christ's being forsaken of His Father was the most grievous of His sufferings. He did not say, 'Why am I scourged? Why spit upon? Why nailed to the cross?'...But when His Father stood at a distance, He cried out, "Why hast thou forsaken me?"
The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35: "Jesus wept."
The shortest question is one word: "Why?!"
We watched the events of 9/11 and Katrina unfold on television, saw the numerous pictures in the newspaper and internet, and read the accounts of horror. We saw faces and associated names. Maybe we knew someone who went through these tragedies personally. We worried, prayed and waited to hear from them that they were okay...still alive! As we watched, listened, and waited, we asked "WHY?! My God, my God, WHY?!"
Following Hurricane Katrina, a pastor addressed his congregation with this statement: "The Bible does not give us the answer about why things happen, but it does say God is the answer. God is not the explanation, rather God is the answer." So if God is the answer, let me say a couple of things about the Bible, God's Holy Word:
Ø The Bible does not answer our questions; it answers our cries.
Ø The Bible does not provide us with reason; it provides us reassurance. It is reassurance seen in Isaiah 43:2: "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."
Ø The Bible does not tell us "why" such things come; only that when they do we can live with the assurance of David who wrote some of the most reassuring words in any language. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4)
After all this, the question "why" compounds with "Where does one go from here?" I believe several thoughts must be considered about "The Answer":
Ø The suffering person needs to be comforted and have a vision of the growth they can experience. The bottom line is we are people who need God. This provides a glimpse of hope and a goal to attain.
Ø A person who recognizes God's sovereign purpose in suffering and who trusts in God through the suffering will not become bitter toward God or others.
Ø Often, people who have experienced tragedy are eager to "get through" the problem as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Such a response compounds the tragedy because now the person misses the key purpose for the crisis-growth.
Ø Instead of one supreme purpose for the tragedy (which we may never understand), God intends to work a multiplicity of purposes into a variety of lives for His glory (cf. Romans 8:28-30). Only God can paint a masterpiece on a canvas of despair. Only He can generate brilliant light out of devastating darkness.
Ø Frequently, the reminder to "trust God" and to "see His grand purpose" feels more like salt than salve in a wound. The person needs the assurance of Jesus' presence more than the assurance of His purpose (cf. Hebrews 2:18; 4:14-16; 7:25).
When you are faced with catastrophic, life-changing events in your life and find yourself asking "why?" - remember, the one word answer...the only answer...is "God."
"But now thus saith the Lord that created thee...Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee...Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isaiah 43:1-2; 41:10).
Amen! So there you have it -- God's answer to the "Why?" question is The Answer -- Jesus Christ. Do you know Him? Is He YOUR Answer? Is He your true Lord and Savior (relationship, not "religion")? If not, or you're not sure, keep scrolling down.