Almost no one is Israel is untouched by the horrific killings on that early morning, October 7th. Daniel Levy, a 34-year-old physician and father of two, was killed in his kibbutz near the Gaza border as he tried to minister to the wounded. Overcome with grief, with anger and rage at the wonton savagery, Daniel’s brother Michael Levy said, “I don’t say this out loud, but I need to ask God why—why was this good man murdered?”
As novelist Peter DeVries lamented, “Why? is the question mark that is twisted like a fishhook in the heart.” And, in the face of suffering, all our Whys are ultimately aimed at God.
In crying his Why out loud, Michael Levy stands in a long line of Jews who know how to call God to task. The Psalmist demands, Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble? The whole book of Job is one giant interrogation. Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, Elijah, John the Baptist—they all question God. Even the Son of God questions God: Why have you forsaken me?
Here’s a good why: Why are we—the inheritors of such a lineage—so afraid to ask God why He can’t be any better? Are we trying to out-spiritualize Jesus?
It happened many years ago, but still sits vivid in my mind. The phone rang about 7:00 pm. A man in my parish had eaten his supper and gone up to sit in bed and read a book, and his wife had found him lying there as if he’d simply dozed off. Man in his 50’s. I drove to the hospital and met his widow outside the ER door. As I walked toward her, she made as if to hug me but then pulled away. “I’m not all right with this!” she wept. “I don’t accept this from God!”
It’s not just OK to ask God Why. It’s necessary, required. Some, we must acknowledge, will move from that anguished Why? into a place of doubt or rejection. All we can do is reverence their suffering and hold them in love. But it is also possible to join that multitude of God-grillers who go on to deeper and more profound levels of wisdom, compassion and understanding, who finally accept both the glory and ruin of life, who can hold others in the throes of a violent Why? and not let go.