March 15, 2021
“Why is light given to those in misery,
and life to the bitter of soul,
to those who long for death that does not come,
who search for it more than for hidden treasure,
who are filled with gladness
and rejoice when they reach the grave?
Multiple stages of our lives beg the question, “Why?” Toddlers ask “why” until parents are ready to tear out their hair. Uh . . . their own hair, not the child’s. I’ve heard my middle schoolers and high schoolers lament, “Why do I even need to go to school?” Many a PhD student has gotten bogged down mid-degree and wondered if they should keep going. Quarter-life and mid-life crises make us question if we chose the right path, spouse, or career. And I’ve heard widows and widowers wonder why they should go on living, now that their loved ones are not.
Here we see Job ask the same question in the midst of his suffering. “Why are we here? What is the meaning behind all of this? What is even the point?” You might be asking this same question in light of your life stage or circumstance. I’ve got an answer for you – a phrase you can say almost every time these questions come to mind.
I don’t know.
It’s a simple phrase, but carries powerful consequences. You see, I’ve been told since a very young age that I should know. I should know how to tie my shoes. I should know how to do long division. I should know how to apply for college and get a job. I should know how to raise a child (did any other new parents bring home their newborn and feel completely clueless?). I should know how to do my job, complete my degree, and woo a spouse. But at most points in life, the truth is that you and I don’t know how to do any of those things until we’ve been taught or stumble our way forward through a forest of mistakes.
As a result, we don’t ask for directions, ask for help in the store, confess that we don’t know how to do a part of our job, or ask where we should point our research next. We’ve become obsessed with appearing competent. And nothing reveals our own lack of knowledge like the phrase, “I don’t know.”
Let me encourage you to get comfortable with not knowing. If you’re the type to not try anything until you know how it’s going to go, or if you’re obsessed with the “why” behind your suffering, to the detriment of processing your grief, you might need to strengthen your muscle of peace in uncertainty. You might try saying, “I don’t know why” in response to your circumstances and sit with God in uncertainty instead of relentlessly looking for a reason. It’s not the final step in processing our lives with God, but it is a healthy and helpful first step.