Today, we look back and honor the life and ministry of David Powlison (1949–2019), a husband, father, teacher, counselor, and the director of the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. In this excerpt from his book God’s Grace in Your Suffering, Dr. Powlison reflects on how God can transform our “Why me?” question into something new and wonderful.
A New and Wonderful Question
So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is “Why me? Why this? Why now? Why?”
However, in the midst of such suffering, we must remember that the real God comes for you, in the flesh, in Christ, into suffering, on your behalf. He does not offer advice and perspective from afar; he steps into your significant suffering. He will see you through and work with you the whole way. He will carry you even in the most difficult situations. This reality changes the questions that rise up from your heart. That inward-turning “Why me?” quiets down, lifts its eyes, and begins to look around.
You turn outward and a new and wonderful question forms. “Why you? Why you, Lord of life? Why would you enter this world of evils? Why would you go through loss, weakness, hardship, sorrow, and death? Why would you do this for me, of all people? But you did. You did this for the joy set before you. You did this for love. You did this showing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
As that deeper question sinks home, you become joyously sane. The universe is no longer supremely about you. Yet you are not irrelevant. God’s story makes you just the right size—neither too big nor too small. Everything counts and everyone matters, but the scale changes to something that makes much more sense. You face hard things. But you have already received something better, which can never be taken away. And that better something will continue to work out the whole journey long.
Why you? The question generates a heartfelt response. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget any of the good things he does, who pardons all your iniquities and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with loving-kindness and compassions, who satisfies you with good things as your adornment, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. Thank you, my Father.” You are able to give true voice to a thank you amid all that is truly wrong, because all sins and all sufferings have now come under his loving-kindness.
If in some way, your faith might serve as a three-watt night light in a very dark world, why not me? If your suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, why not me?
Finally, you are prepared to pose—and to mean—an almost unimaginable question: “Why not me? Why not this? Why not now?” If in some way, your faith might serve as a three-watt night light in a very dark world, why not me? If your suffering shows forth the Savior of the world, why not me? If you have the privilege of filling up the sufferings of Christ? If he sanctifies to you your deepest distress? If you fear no evil? If he bears you in his arms? If your weakness demonstrates the power of God to save us from all that is wrong? If your honest struggle shows other strugglers how to land on their feet? If your life becomes a source of hope for others? Why not me?
Of course, you don’t want to suffer, but you’ve become willing—like your Savior, who said, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39 NASB). Like him, your loud cries and tears will in fact be heard by the One who saves from death. Like him, you will learn obedience through what you suffer. Like him, you will sympathize with the weaknesses of others. Like him, you will deal gently with the ignorant and wayward. Like him, you will display faith to a faithless world, hope to a hopeless world, love to a loveless world, life to a dying world. If all that God promises only comes true, then why not me?
This article is adapted from God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison.
Scripture captures both the subjective experience of being internally broken and the external experience of having something objectively hard circumstances.
There’s no way you’re ever going to learn endurance without having to keep on going through something hard that doesn’t go away.
Jesus is a most sympathetic friend, fellow sufferer, and Savior. He has walked a hard road and he understands.