Asking why is only natural when bad things happen. But sometimes waiting for the answer keeps us from getting on with healing.
When I dropped off my youngest child for his first year of college, I knew (as every mother does) that there was a good possibility he might get sick or injured during this foray into adulthood. And that we (mostly me) would need to be brave and allow him to handle things on his own. For the first time. Without his mom. I thought I was prepared.
But I wasn’t prepared for the call I got just two months later. He was on his way to the emergency room. The campus nurse had looked at some painful blisters in his mouth and ran blood tests. And the tests revealed that Taylor had a platelet count of zero. Normal is 150. Platelets are what cause blood to clot. I was a five-hour drive from my son, and he was on his way to the ER to see a doctor. On his own for the first time in his life. And the news wasn’t good.
Taylor was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. ITP for those of us without a medical degree. A bleeding disorder with no known cause in which the immune system destroys platelets.
In the middle of the panic, the question WHY was shouting in my head.
What had happened to my usually healthy son? Were there early warning signs we should have seen (as any good mother would have)? Was it because of all the germs floating around the freshman dorm? Had Taylor not been getting enough rest? Enough healthy food? Enough care from someone who loves him?
And in the midst of all these questions, God sent us an answer. In the form of a small statured, white-haired doctor who works his office hours in stocking feet. When I pressed him for WHY, Dr. Lewis summoned his years of medical training, experience, research, and expertise, and told me this: “Sometimes there is not an answer to the question of why. Sometimes it’s just a piece of sh*#ty bad luck. Now, let’s talk about treatment options.”
And there it was. My ticket to freedom. Freedom to focus on what to do next instead of worrying about how this bad thing had happened.
I’m a big believer in understanding why things happen. I’ve experienced the healing that can come from gaining insight into the underlying reasons why things go haywire in life. And using that information to make necessary and healthy changes so things can get better. The therapeutic value of knowing why things aren’t working is not lost on me. But I also know that I can get stuck there at times. Pondering. Searching for answers to the sometimes unknowable question of why. And missing what God is already doing to get me through to the other side.
Idiopathic means “arising from an unknown cause.”
Just as Taylor’s diagnosis was “idiopathic,” sometimes things happen in our lives that arise from an unknown cause. Or in the words of Dr. Lewis, from “just a sh*#ty piece of bad luck.” And when that happens, we have a choice. We can choose to spend our time and energy demanding answers, or we can trust the only One whose ability to heal us surpasses all our human knowledge.
There might come a time in our story when God asks us to give up on asking why and to get on with the next steps toward healing. To have faith that He is causing all the pieces to fall into place. That He is at work in our circumstances, even when we are completely perplexed over how those circumstances came to be.
Taylor has been symptom-free for nearly a year, and we are hopeful that his ITP was a one-time flare and not a chronic condition. We can’t be sure. But we are sure of this: We don’t have to know WHY before asking God to show us what’s next. We can trust that He is at work – protecting, guiding, and moving us forward– even while we wait for answers. Even if answers don’t come.
Are there any unanswered questions of WHY in your life that you would like to let go? What next steps toward healing – without having all the answers – might God be inviting you into?
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7