Asking “How?” Instead of “Why?”

I am reading Lynn Austin’s On This Foundation.  Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary review copy of this book.  This post here is not my actual review.  I will probably write the actual review sometime next week.  Rather, in this post here, I want to wrestle a bit with a passage in the book.

On This Foundation is set in Israel’s post-exilic period, specifically during the time of Nehemiah.  One of the main characters is Chana, a young lady who recently lost her husband Yitzhak.  Chana’s father has been bitten by a scorpion while he working on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and there is a possibility that he may die soon.  He says to his daughter Chana, on page 341:

“And if I die, Chana…don’t ask God, ‘Why?’  Ask, ‘How?’…How can I make the world a better place?  How can I show His love?”

That is a good point.  As an academic, I like to ask the question of “why?”  Asking questions and finding answers are entertaining to me, and I do not think that my life would be as interesting without that quest, or a belief in new territory that I had not previously considered.  I also think that learning more about “why?” will enhance my appreciation of God.  Or at least I hope that it would.

Suppose I started asking the question of “how?” more often?  Ordinarily, I would prefer not to ask that question.  I do not want to beat myself up for being asocial, or struggling socially, and that could easily happen once I start asking the question of “how?” I can show God’s love to people.  I do not want to feel pressured to give money, and that pressure may emerge once I ask the question of “how?”.

What is interesting, though, is that I did not have my expected reaction or aversion when reading that passage in Lynn Austin’s book.  I can ask “How?”.  That can be pretty open-ended.  I can be imaginative or creative in coming up with answers.  I do not have to follow a set path.  How can I, as me, make the world a better place and show God’s love to people?  I can write.  I can pray for people, privately and online.  I can ask people about needs that they have shared.

A challenging verse for me, though, is James 2:16, which criticizes one who wishes the person in need well, but does nothing to meet that person’s physical needs.  I don’t have to let this verse beat me up.  It should, however, be somewhere in my mind.  I cannot meet the physical needs of all needy people.  But that should not be an excuse for me to give nothing.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to Asking “How?” Instead of “Why?”

  1. You wiuld like to opoerate freely, bu no one has perfect freedom. only God has sic wheel drive and infinite resources. So pray for God.s will and preoare for an answer.


  2. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks for your comment, Murrell.


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