The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares. ~ Henri Nouwen
Six simple sentence starters: who, what, when, where, how and why. They’re great if you’re writing a news report, doing research or initiating a police investigation. The 5 W’s (and one H) are considered the gold standard for information-gathering.
The problem begins when we apply interrogation techniques to our interpersonal interactions. These fact-finding questions are well suited for a courtroom or a lab or a room with a two-way window, but they don’t give us a glimpse of the interior of someone’s pain.
Of all the words listed above, we would be particularly wise to erase
Why from the list altogether. It’s almost impossible to divorce Why from the realm of accusation.
Why did you?
Why didn’t you?
Why don’t you?
It’s rare ask someone to tell you why (in terms of their behavior/attitude – not the mechanics of a clock) and not raise their defenses. We’re insecure souls by nature and weary of justifying our choices.
I wonder if it’s so different with God? When we persist in asking Why? – isn’t it often an accusation or complaint or an expression of our disagreement, couched as a question?
God, unlike us, isn’t the least bit insecure and certainly wants our whole hearts poured out before Him. I do wonder though, if He, too, doesn’t get a little weary of why (Job 38-42)?
If we have any hope of truly sharing and carrying the load together, we’re better served by would questions. Would you like to talk, to be alone; would you like me to stay with you, to pray with you; would you like some space, some coffee?
To be a friend who cares beyond curiosity (because that really is often why we ask, isn’t it?), we have to practice tolerating not knowing, not healing, not curing…
And with God, real rest comes before the question, being confident that if it were necessary to know, we would, and finding contentment in the not knowing.