Friday, March 3, 2017

Friday's Essay - Why?

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website ( for more church information.

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When I was teaching school in Buckingham County Virginia, there was another teacher in the history department who would tell his students that, even though most of history and all the state-mandated tests dealt with the who, what, when, and where, for him, the two most important questions involved how and why. In other words, although a person might have a grasp of an event or a movement by knowing the participants and the time frame and the location, one can’t really understand it until there’s some awareness concerning the nature of the action and the reasons for the event. And to get that, well, a person needs to understand the how and the why.

Image result for whyAnd I’ll tell you, I agree with him. And I wouldn’t limit this to just history. I mean, in life, I think we need to know more than just the facts; we need to understand the process, I’m talking about the options and the possibilities and the opportunities. Without a sense of how something is done or how we might respond, we’re pretty much paralyzed. And so the how is always important. And so is the why. To understand a situation, we need to be able to grasp the motivations and the reasons. It’s not enough to just know the cause and the effect; we need to understand the reason a certain action led to a certain reaction. My gosh, without that, making a prediction is very difficult. And anticipating a problem is extremely challenging. And applying our understanding to a different situation is virtually impossible. Insight comes only when we’ve answered the how and the why.

Image result for whyAnd although both questions are important, I think those which start with the word “why” are particularly alluring and evasive. I mean, let’s get really, when something happens, especially something that we didn’t expect and that we didn’t want, one of the first questions we ask starts with the word “why.” Why did I fail the test? Why didn’t I get the job? Why was I laid off work? Why did my girl friend leave me? Why am I not happy? Now I think those are the kinds of questions we often ask; therefore, when we sense them bouncing around our grey matter, we probably shouldn’t be surprised or worried. But there is a problem; often these kind of questions don’t have clear and indisputable answers. For example, if I’m involved in an accident, it easy to know where and when it happened. And it’s easy to know what happened and who was involved. As a matter of fact, with a little digging, I might even understand how the accident occurred. But the why, why did it happen and happen to me? Why did I have to suffer or get to avoid certain consequences that others who face similar situations have to face? And why was I at that exact spot at that exact time with those exact people? Now that’s the sort of stuff we ask. And I think we all recognize that these questions just don’t have answers that are clear nor are they indisputable. And yet, they’re the kind of questions that tend to disrupt sleep and distract attention. Good night nurse, why here and why now? Why this and why them?

Related imageAnd so, with this in mind during the season before Easter, the season we call Lent, we’ll consider some of life’s difficult questions. And to do that, we’re going to look at a book in the Old Testament in which the question of why runs from start to finish. You see, Job constantly struggled with why. And so that’s the book, the story we’ll use. And during the next six weeks, starting this Sunday, we’ll struggle with the following questions:

  • Why do bad things happen to good people?
  • Why don't people understand me?
  • Why don't I understand what's going on?
  • Why is God allowing this to happen?
  • Why doesn’t he make things clear?

Of course, since we post all the texts and podcast casts of the sermons, you can find them on The Cove Community blog and the Covepresbyterian Podbean page, if you’re not with us on Sunday morning.

Now that’s what we’ll be doing. And even though we’ll use the story of Job and his friends and God sort of to ferret out some answers, we’ll also consider how we might learn to live with a lot of questions.

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