But most of the time, for me and for most of us, "Why" means we're not satisfied with how God is running the world.
For the past several days, the Old Testament readings in the One Year Bible have included some chapters from Job. The book of Job has magnificent poetry and beautiful imagery. It also has some ugly, pious-sounding nonsense from Job's three friends, who basically blame Job for his suffering. Job wants to meet God face to face to make his complaints. Then Elihu speaks up and tells Job this is impossible: "Now no one can look at the sun" (Job 37.21)
Elihu says a little more, and then in chapter 38, God appears:
"Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.So I guess the point is that we are not qualified to judge how God is running things because we don't even understand the physical universe; it's not under our control.
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? ..."Job 38.2-5
We understand a lot more about the universe today than we did, say, in the 1970s, and technology has advanced astonishingly. But we are still impotent in the face of earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes. We like to think that we're in control, master of our own fates, captains of our own souls. But this is, as Henry Ford said, "bunk."
Which is a humbling thing. I want to feel like I know where I'm going, and why I think and feel the way I do.
In fact I don't know any of that, but I do know someone who does. Not only does he know, he also cares deeply. And, like the song says, "He's got the whole world in his hands."
And that's good news for me today.