Tuesdays with Sarah… Solving for Y (or why)

The 2 math books I kept from college

I am a math major.  I have spent many hours and even years solving for ‘Y’.  I love the black and white of it.  There is a problem.  You apply the rules, and you come out with the answer.  Simple.  Sometimes the rules can be tricky and complicated.  But there is an answer.  There is a solution.  It doesn’t change based on how I interpret the question.  It doesn’t change based on how it makes me feel or not feel.  Math is math.  There’s a problem, and there’s a solution.

When COVID-19 reared its ugly head and schools were closed, there were several weeks left in the school year.  My oldest daughter was in geometry.  I hadn’t been able to help her that much with her math over the last couple of years because, to put it simply, I had forgotten a lot of it.  I finished my math degree in December 1998.  That’s almost 22 years ago!  In the meantime, I’ve been working for a life insurance company.  So that’s what I know now.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?

But when she came to me with some geometry questions, I could help!  I quickly re-acclimated myself with the formulas for area, volume, circumference, etc…  We worked together and finished her geometry assignments for the rest of the year.  We solved for Y over and over again!  I loved it.  And of course I loved being able to help my girl.

Me and my Zoe girl

But the fact is, I had truly been solving for ‘Y’ weeks before.  And have continued to solve for ‘Y’ throughout this quarantined, toilet paper hoarding, rioting, politicking, Lysol searching, masked world we now live in.  But not the ‘Y’ I was describing above.  The ‘Y’ I’ve been desperately solving for is actually “WHY”.

Me and my masked self

This is what I’ve been trying to solve, discover, understand…  WHY.

WHY…  have You asked us to plant a church in the middle of a pandemic?
WHY…  can’t I seem to lose weight though I try and try?
WHY…  did a 3 year old baby girl get diagnosed with a brain tumor and die within 7 weeks?
WHY… did a 17 year old boy full of life die of a seizure right before his senior year?
WHY…  were these girls sexually assaulted and trafficked?
WHY…  are you asking me to do (insert blank here)?

So many “whys”.  And if you noticed, or looked at your own “whys”, you can categorize them.  There are “whys” that are connected to obedience.  Like the first and the last one in my list above.  He asks us to do something, and if it doesn’t seem to make sense to us, we quickly look for the “why”.

I was discussing this very thing with a friend of mine recently.  The Lord had told her to stop doing something specifically, but it made no sense to her.  What she was doing wasn’t wrong, biblically or physically.  But she just couldn’t shake it.  He kept telling her to lay it down.  And she just really wanted to know “why”.  She was trying to solve that equation – that command.  Finally, she stopped trying to figure it all out and obeyed.  And what rushed in was freedom, joy, and peace!  She may never truly know the “Y”, but she is quite content resting in her obedience and knowing God knows the “why”.

The other category of “whys” are harder to solve for, and are often never solved for here on this side of heaven.  These are the “why” of bad things happening to good people.  Why people get sick.  Why people die.  Why people lose jobs.  Why people are assaulted.  These “whys” go on and on and on.  And seem to really be piling up during 2020.

I’m afraid those are problems that we may never figure out what the “why” is.  An equation that is just unsolvable.  A problem without a solution.

Or is it?

I decided to go to the best textbook I have, which has lasted the test of time, and also doubles as a  love letter, map, and instruction manual – the Bible – to do a little more research on these problematic “whys”.  I discovered many people in the Bible were also solving for “why”.  Habakkuk, David, Job are a few examples…  but one of my favorites has to be Habakkuk.

Habakkuk is a short book in the Old Testament – only 3 chapters long.  He is considered one of the minor prophets.  Most of the books in the Bible named after prophets are messages from God to His people.  This one is different and that’s why I like it.  It’s more of a dialogue between Habakkuk and God.  It consists of 2 complaints made by Habakkuk, the Lord’s answers, and ends with Habakkuk’s prayer and praise.

Habakkuk Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

The first complaint Habakkuk made was basically, “WHY does the evil in Judah go unpunished?”  Notice that ‘why’?  Judah’s leaders had been evil and disobedient.  Habakkuk was frustrated at God, because it seemed as though God was doing nothing about it.  

The Lord did answer.  But it wasn’t the answer Habakkuk was looking for.  God said He was going to take care of it in a very surprising way.  He was going to use the Babylonians to punish Judah.

Habakkuk has a follow-up complaint.  “How can a just God use such an evil people/country to punish a people more righteous than themselves?”  The Babylonians were really evil and terrible people.  So basically he was asking, “why would You let these wicked people live, much less use them against us?”

He concludes his second complaint by telling God that he will sit on the wall of the city waiting to see and hear from the Lord.

God does answer him again.  And again not the answer that he was looking for.  In chapter 2, you can read where God tells him that he is going to punish Babylon in time (a series of five woes). He also reminds Habakkuk that “the righteous live by faith”.  They must wait patiently on the Lord and live by faith.

The reason I say that it probably wasn’t the answer Habakkuk was looking for is that God never really answered the question.  He didn’t give a solution to Habakkuk’s “Why” problem.  He never said why he chose to use the Babylonians to punish Judah.  He never said why he let Judah go on in their evil ways for so long.  But He did offer this promise – the righteous will live by faith.  

Habakkuk’s response is a prayer, recollecting all that God has done in the past to save His people.  It leaves him in awe, ending the book with one of the most faith-filled statements in all of Scripture:

“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights. –
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Through his going back and forth with God, he learned that living by faith – trusting in God’s sovereignty regardless of circumstances – is the only way to truly live.  And the reason that is possible is because of what verse 18 says.  That God was his Savior.  Which at the time was much harder to see because Jesus had not yet come.  BUT WE HAVE JESUS.

Jesus, God incarnate, God made flesh, was sent here to dwell here among us (John 1:14).  His presence is the only thing that can answer the “whys”.  And it’s not that He really answers the ‘whys’.  But because He sits with us in the middle of the problem, in the middle of the circumstance, in the middle of the mess, He makes it more bearable.  He even helps us when we are trying to find a solution to a problem that is unsolvable.  

He doesn’t get mad that we are trying to figure it out.  I personally think He enjoys the interaction.  Just like with Habakkuk.  A pastor friend of ours, John Nicholson, preached on Habakkuk one time.  20 years later, I still remember.  He said, “God doesn’t mind you questioning Him.  Just remember who you are talking to.”  Same with my girls.  If there is something they don’t understand about a decision I make or something I have said, I honestly don’t mind them questioning me or asking me why – as long as they do it respectfully, remembering that I am their momma and I have reasoning behind my decisions that they are not aware of.  Same with God.  He doesn’t mind the questioning, the wrestling, the banter… as long as we remember to stay reverent, remembering who He is.  That He sees the big picture.

He also has walked this broken ground and experienced the results of this fallen world.  He knows what it’s like.  He knows what we are feeling.  And He told us in John 16:33 that we would have trouble.  Not maybe, but with certainty.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Lee Strobel made this quote, and it is indeed one of my all time favorites outside of scripture.  He said, “God’s ultimate answer to suffering isn’t an explanation;  it’s the incarnation.”  

We will never fully understand or solve the problems here on this side of heaven.  And in reality, we probably couldn’t handle it if He did reveal the “Y”.  But what we can experience is His presence.  

Kim Walker Smith is one of my favorite worship leaders.  I recently read her biography called “Brave Surrender”.  She describes how she had a painful childhood, filled with abuse and loss.  But as a young adult, she began a healing process as she entered ministry school.  This paragraph speaks right to the heart of the “why” problem:

”During times of prayer in the weeks and months following that encounter, the Lord led me back to the pivotal events of my life and began to show me His perspective on them.  With every memory that He showed me, He answered the 2 big questions I had always asked Him:  “Where were You?” And “Why did You let this happen?”  First, He showed me that He was always right there with me, and not as a passive observer, simply allowing things to unfold.  He was protecting me, weeping with me, comforting me, and strengthening me.  Then He showed me His redemptive purpose – which encompasses the end from the beginning – in even the most painful and confusing moments.  In the process, He revealed certain truth s about me that completely changed the way I saw my story and myself.  It’s incredible how different your story is when you look at it with Jesus.”

We don’t have to consumed by solving for “Y’, because we have already discovered “X”.

Yep!  Back to math.  You know how at Christmas time, people use X-mas often to abbreviate it?  Well, it’s not really a bad thing!  X is actually the Greek letter for “chi”, which is the first letter in the word for Christ.  “X” has been an acceptable symbol for Christ for ages.  

So since we have already found our answer – “X” – we don’t have to stay bogged down trying to solve for “Y”.  We’ve been focusing on the wrong variable!!

I want to wrap up with one more thing.  There is one more very important person who also asked God “why”.  And it was His very own Son – our “X” – Jesus Christ.

Matthew 27:46 says, “About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”)

Jesus cried these words while on the cross, minutes before He died.  

There is a song that I’ve been singing for years now, written by Nichole Nordeman, called “Why”.  It’s the story of a little girl who lived at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The first part of the song is her asking her dad why did everyone want Jesus to die.  The second part was inspired (I think) from this scripture in Matthew, where Jesus is asking God for a reminder of why He had to die.  And lastly, it was God bringing it back to the image of the little girl who started the song.  She was the “why”.  The lyric says,

“Look there below, see the child,
trembling by her father’s side. 
Now I can tell you why. 
She is why You must die.”

We are the “why”.  

So when you are in the middle of trying to solve for “why”, remember that 2000 years ago, we were the “why”.  And because of that, we have access to the best Problem Solver of all time.  He is our “X”.  The more I search for “X”, the less need I have to solve for “why” (Y).

This entry was posted in Sarah and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tuesdays with Sarah… Solving for Y (or why)

  1. christinelangford316 says:

    Such good words, Sarah. Your metaphor is perfect. So true, the more we search for X the less we need to solve for Y!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s