Why Me? Why Not?

One of the questions I receive most frequently as a chaplain is this: “Why me?” Usually it comes during a conversation about some tragedy that has befallen the person to whom I’m speaking and they want to know why it happened. Does God hate them? Why doesn’t God fix this?

This question is a universal one. As human beings, we are built with insatiable curiosity. We are constantly asking “Why?” because the reason behind the events of our world matter to us. Our desire for information is driven not only by our desire to know but, even more importantly, by our desire to control. If we can answer the “why” question, then perhaps, just perhaps, we can affect the outcome. We can game the system and turn things to our advantage. We can win against that most frightening of specters—death.

The problem is that we can’t know. Not always. Sometimes the reasons behind a situation are just not available for us to know. And when faced with an informational black hole, we begin to speculate about what the reason MIGHT be. Could it be that God has it in for us? That God hates us for some reason? That God has actually CAUSED this terrible thing to happen on purpose?

This is where the “Why me?” question takes shape. It grows from anger, self-pity, and a sense of unfairness. Generally speaking, people like fairness. They like to know that if they do good things, they will receive a reward, and that people who do bad things will likewise have bad things happen to them. So it comes as a big shock when bad things happen to people who perceives themselves as good. Life is just not supposed to work that way!

Sadly, however, it often does. And when we continue to hold ourselves out as people who are so good that nothing bad should ever happen to them, we fall into a trap of our own making. Because NO ONE is so good that nothing bad should ever happen to them! Nobody is perfect, so why would we ever allow ourselves to think that we should be immune from the bad stuff of life?

So let’s switch that up. Instead of asking, “Why me?” perhaps we should ask instead, “Why NOT me?” If we are true human beings with both good and bad sides, why should any of us expect that we won’t experience both good and bad in life? If we allow ourselves to realize that, it can be freeing. Sometimes good stuff just happens. And sometimes bad stuff just happens. God never promises us that it won’t. But God DOES promise to stand with us when it does, just as God stands with us when we rejoice in the good times.

Maybe what we need is a third question: “Where is God in this?” Perhaps with a better question we can find a better answer: one that satisfies and gives us peace. Even in bad times.