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The word that holds us hostage and 2 substitute questions to break free

This post considers the word “Why” in Scripture and how it can undermine our resolve in accepting God’s will. Here are 2 substitute questions to move your faith forward instead of stalling on “Why.”

It’s one word. Three letters. In word economics, it should be cheap.
You could fill a tweet with it more than 40 times.
It’s so small. Seemingly insignificant.

But when you let it invade your thoughts, infect your heart, and cross your lips, it sets up camp and charges rent. And the price is exorbitant. What is that one word? Why.

No, this isn’t an Abbot and Costello routine. I’m not asking you why you want to know the word; I’m telling you the word is W.H.Y.

Held Hostage by ONE Word

This word rarely comes up when life is behaving according to our script.

It’s during those times when the background is crashing around us, the actors aren’t delivering their lines as planned, and our role as director and producer of our lives is being challenged that this prima donna of a word enters stage right onto the scene.

Drama queen. Headed straight for center stage.
And once it is planted there, all other action stops.
No one moves forward or moves on.
You might as well find a chair and have a seat because you’re going to be there a while.

I admit that’s a lot of personification to make a point.

The bottom line is this:
Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all other healthy thoughts and forward motion are held hostage.

 The default word for the Israelites

We see this in the record of the Israelites’ behavior after leaving Egypt. They quickly resorted to grumbling, looking back at Egypt with a collective selective memory.

Over and over their use of the word “why” is documented. And it’s never a pretty picture. They definitey had trouble accepting God’s will.
(All emphases that follow are mine.)

As they stood at the Red Sea:
“Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way …” (Ex. 14:11, NASB)

Less than a month after God provided manna and quail:
Why, did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Ex. 17:3)

Just before God sent fiery serpents, after they had become “impatient because of the journey”:
“And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?’” (Num. 21:5)

It goes on and on, but I think you get the point.

“Why” turns into whine

We all can self-identify to some extent with the people of Israel if we’re honest. We spend much of our lives looking back at what “could have been”— and often with rose-colored glasses. An equally large portion is spent wishing for an easier route to the Promised Land.

Asking “why” quickly morphs into whine in either scenario and Solomon cautions that this is never wise.

Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
(Ecc. 7:10)

And as the why ferments into whine, we find ourselves stalled.

We can’t simultaneously move forward while we stand still asking, “Why did this happen,” pause to look back longingly for the days before it did, or go on strike until we are assured of a better future.

Two New Substitute Questions

Whenever I teach about recognizing the enemy’s lies and resisting them, I end with explaining that it’s not enough to simply recognize and remove.
We have to replace lies with specific truth.

The same is true with eliminating “why” as our own default response when trouble and trials arise.

Consider these two questions as understudies-turned-leading actors when the dramas unfold in your life. They will assist in accepting God’s will:

1. How do I make this count and cooperate with God’s work in my life?

You’ve likely heard it stated many times that God is more interested in character forming than circumstance shaping.
But when we submit to the difficult circumstances, our character actually comes out both shaped and reformed.

Lysa TerKeurst says, “Nothing will make God so real to you as seeing Him change your character. Not change who you are — your personality, your strengths, and your abilities — but how you are — your character.1

Trials refine so that you reflect your Savior more visibly, just like silver reflects more clearly after it has been melted and hammered and buffed.

You are transformed by
submitting to God’s design for the circumstances
and embracing the work of the master’s hands.
Not by changing the circumstances,
crawling off the anvil,
and running from the silversmith’s shop.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

(Ps. 138:8)

In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.
He can and He will make this count, both for your good and His glory. Start by pondering what you are supposed to learn and considering what:

  • lies need resisted
  • habits need submitted
  • bitterness needs relinquished

Entreat Him to give you a passion for His Word and the wisdom to understand what He will show you during this difficult time. In the end, that is the ultimate Make.It.Count experience.2

2. Who can I comfort because of what I’ve experienced?

As I began to delve into God’s Word, looking for answers after my own year of drama, I was led over and over to a recurring theme:

Restoration and recovery
after failure and hardship
lead to
encouragement and comfort
for others.

When those who have “been there” look around, they see the struggle of others more quickly.
You know when to sit beside and say, “I’m sorry,” and how deeply that counts.
And you know when to stand and cheer, “It’s time to move,” and how much that helps.

God intends for you to use your experience of weakness — where you learned that His grace was sufficient and His power was your strength — for good.

  • The noose that once threatened to take your last breath transforms into a lifeline for someone else.
  • Your scars become calling cards that open doors to speak truth to others who recognize them as credentials.
  • And as you limp, you will lead others toward the light — many who never would have followed if you were sprinting ahead of them.

When you comfort, encourage, and proclaim, “There is a way forward after fear, failure, and famine,” you participate in redeeming your pain.

Go Forward

Consider God’s response to the Israelites’ seemingly impossible situation:

“The Lord said to Moses,
Why do you cry to me?
Tell the people of Israel to go forward.’”

(Ex. 14:15; all emphases here and below are mine)

Did you notice that the same word used by the group to grumble is the word their God used to give marching orders?

I had never made the connection until I began studying for this post.
I was floored at the synergy and the irony.

Yes, going forward is the goal.
Yes, we must give up our perceived right to ask, “Why” in accepting God’s will.
But whoa. Be prepared that as part of the forward progress, we may first be faced with God asking the questions.

When God asks, “Why …”

Over and over throughout both testaments, the Lord asks this question.
It’s never because He doesn’t know the answer.
But it always reveals something the questionees need to remove or refine in their lives.

“The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?’” (Gen. 4:6)
“The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, that I am old?’” (Gen. 18:13)
“The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face?’” (Josh. 7:10)

“But Jesus, knowing their thoughts said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” (Matt. 9:4)
Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40)
Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field grow …” (Matt. 6:28)
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46)
Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38)

These selected verses only scratch the surface.
This word appears to have been one of Jesus’ favorites.
He wasted no time in getting to the root of the problem and exposing the toxic thoughts that were thwarting forward progress.

Thus the paradox:
The same word
you can’t afford to stand still asking
about your circumstances
is the same word
you can’t afford not to answer
when it’s your God
moving you forward.

Like I said in the beginning.
It’s one word.
Seemingly so small and insignificant but, in reality, a double-edged sword.

May God grant us the wisdom to replace it in our own questions and the discernment to let it do its full work of revealing when He is the one asking.

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1. Lysa TerKeurst, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2005), 119
2. With thanks to Bronwyn Lea, whose blog post inspired the idea of praying, “Make it count.”

[clickToTweet tweet=”Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all forward motion is held hostage.” quote=”Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all forward motion is held hostage.”]

[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Why’ often ferments into ‘whine’” quote=”‘Why’ often ferments into ‘whine’”]

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66 responses to “The word that holds us hostage and 2 substitute questions to break free”

  1. Groundbreakers Avatar

    “The noose that once threatened to take your last breath transforms into a lifeline for someone else.” That is beautifully magnificent, Christi! Your message is so wonderfully summed up in a phrase you used in this post – In God’s economy, nothing is wasted. That has long been one of my favorite phrases. So glad I found your site today! Visiting at Coffee for Your Heart. You have truly blessed me this morning!

    1. Christi Avatar

      Thank you for this sweet encouragement! It’s fun to find friends who resonate with the same words and phrases. I say that about God’s economy all the time. Looking forward to knowing you better through YOUR words!

  2. Jenny Avatar

    This is great. Sometimes I think the words “what if” should be removed from my vocabulary. I’m always struggling with not wondering what if I had done this or. What if…..

    1. Christi Avatar

      Jenny, that’s a GREAT thought! Makes me think of doing a followup post to this one on those two little words :) I feel your pain, sister! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Karen Brown Avatar

    Christi- This is such a convicting, yet encouraging message! These words pack quiet a punch for me: “Once we start pondering the “why” of our own dramas, all other healthy thoughts and forward motion are held hostage.” And I love your “other” questions, especially the “How can I make this count…” We all need to wonder more about how we can glorify God… instead of seeking glory for ourselves. Eliminating our demand to know why, is a pursuit of humility and a step toward God. Thanks for these words! Beautifully written!

    1. Christi Avatar

      Thank you! Looking forward to getting to know you, Karen. Loved your letter to husbands. Such a fun way to start my morning!

  4. Brenda Avatar

    Wow, Christi, lots of truth packed into this post. Love it. Thanks for sharing.
    I especially love when you said: “Your scars become calling cards that open doors to speak truth to others who recognize them as credentials. And as you limp, you will lead others toward the light — many who never would have followed if you were sprinting ahead of them.” So profoundly true.
    So happy to have found you today through the #TellHisStory linkup. ~ blessings ~

    1. Christi Avatar

      Hi Brenda, Thanks for that encouragement!

  5. Karen Del Tatto Avatar

    Christi, You have such a gift with words!! Once such example was when you said,

    “It’s during those times when the background is crashing around us, the actors aren’t delivering their lines as planned, and our role as director and producer of our lives is being challenged that this prima donna of a word enters stage right onto the scene.”

    The word pictures you draw, like the one above, brought me conviction and cause to reflect on my own Why’s.

    Your insights into the Israelites and the connections you made to the word “why” were very thought-provoking.

    Thank you for spurring me on in the Lord!

    1. Christi Avatar

      Karen, your thought-felt affirmation means the world. I’m sure you know from experience that there are times when we wonder if what we are doing is worth it and if we should continue. So thankful for fellow travelers who speak words of life along this journey. I appreciate you!

  6. Faith Like Dirty Diapers Avatar

    Good stuff here! What a blessing! :)

    1. Christi Avatar

      Thanks, Christy! So looking forward to knowing you better and cheering on your princess!

  7. Shannon @ Of The Hearth Avatar

    This is very insightful. I think I may need to read it a couple of times to really soak it all in! I’ve struggled many times with this question. I never noticed how Scripture describes how others struggled with it, too.
    I’m eager to meditate in the coming days on some of the verses you shared.

    1. Christi Avatar

      What beautiful words to me ~ that anything I strung together would so point to The Word that you would soak and meditate on God’s truths. This is one of my favorite comments and blesses my soul in ways you can’t imagine. Thank you for taking the time to tell me these things. I pray for you this morning that wherever the Spirit takes your meditation, you will become more aware of God’s working in your life.

      I hope we continue to see each other around. Thank you again for visiting!

  8. Rebekah Avatar

    Well I was just pondering my reply for the past few minutes, going back through your post. I had a few sentences in mind, and then I looked at Tiffany’s comment up above. LOL – that was exactly how I was going to start my comment… Oh my goodness! This is an excellent piece, and really provides a fresh perspective to so much of the things I’ve been struggling through the past year or so. Yes, “why” holds everything else hostage. I’m going to be coming back here and digesting slowly because you’ve really driven home some important thoughts for me. Wow, THANK YOU for sharing this with us at Grace & Truth!!

    1. Christi Avatar

      Well, Rebekah, if Tiffany started the lump in my throat, you may have just finished it off.

      So humbled by your comments and amazed by God’s grace that he would redeem my last year in this way. Thank you for being an encourager and ending my day with this honey for my scratchy heart.

      So blessed to have found you and your precious, transparent, genuine community.

  9. sandraj2015 Avatar

    There is so much truth and wisdom in this post, I am so glad I am your neighbor at Faith Filled Fridays. Why – ‘this word rarely comes up when life is behaving according to our script.’ How true and your points on the answers (‘the truth’) are wonderful.

    1. Christi Avatar

      Thank you for such an meaningful comment about truth and wisdom.
      What an encourager you are!

      I am going to do my own visiting later this weekend and will have to come learn from you!

      Thank you for blessing me with the gift of your words and your time.

  10. Tiffany Avatar

    Oh my goodness! I found you linked up at Grace and Truth and I am so glad I did! This has got to be the best article I’ve read in forever, I think you must have been writing it straight to my heart. I wanted to quote some of the lines that just changed my life, but if I did, I would have copied your entire post, ha! Thank you so much for writing and sharing this. If you don’t mind, I would love to print it out so I can keep reflecting on the truth here over the next few days. I will surely be sharing this! And I’m bookmarking your site so I can be sure to come back when I have more time and check out some of your other work. Blessings, Tiffany

    1. Christi Avatar

      I’m a little overwhelmed at your comment and fighting back a lump in my throat as I think of how much I’ve prayed that God would take the brokenness of my last year and use it for His glory and someone else’s encouragement.
      Your sweet, heartfelt, enthusiasm for this tells me He just said, “Yes.”
      If you think it’s worth sharing or quoting, please feel free to do so.
      I just strung the words together.
      Any message that comes through is not of me.

      I hope you’ll find me on the other channels so we can grow a friendship.
      When I get time this weekend, I’ll look for you if you haven’t found me already.
      FB: TheCheerioTrail
      Twitter: @ChristiLGee

      Blessings back! Christi

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