Asking Why

man holding his head for article-asking-why

The sound was deafening. Although no one was near enough to hear it, ultimately it echoed around the world. None of the passengers in the DC-4 ever knew what happened—they died instantly. That was February 15, 1947, when the Avianca Airline flight bound for Quito, Ecuador, crashed into the 14,000-foot-high peak of El Tablazo not far from Bogota, then dropped—a flaming mass of metal—into a ravine far below.

One of the victims was a young New Yorker named Glenn Chambers, who had planned to begin a ministry with the “Voice of the Andes.”

Before leaving the Miami airport earlier that day, Chambers had written a note to his mother on a piece of paper he picked up in the terminal. The paper was a piece of an advertisement with the single word WHY? sprawled across the center. In a hurry and preoccupied, he scribbled his note around that word, folded it, and stuffed it into an envelope addressed to his mother.

The note arrived after the news of his death. When his mother received it, there, staring up at her, was that haunting question: WHY?

Of all questions, this is the most searching, the most tormenting. It accompanies every tragedy. It falls from the lips of the mother who delivers a stillborn . . . the wife who learns of her husband’s tragic death . . . the child who is told, “Daddy won’t be coming home any more” . . . the struggling father of five who loses his job . . . the close friend of one who commits suicide.

Why? Why me? Why now? Why this? Nothing can fully prepare us for such moments.  Few thoughts can steady us afterward . . .  perhaps only one.

Consider Job . . . imagine his feelings!

“You’ve lost your livestock, they’ve been stolen. Your sheep and camels were also destroyed. Your employees were murdered, Job. Oh, one more thing—your children were crushed in a freak windstorm . . . they are dead, my friend, all ten of them.”

That actually happened. Job got all this news in one brief period of panic. Shortly thereafter he broke out in boils—from head to toe. Grief-stricken. Stunned. Bankrupt. In excruciating pain, both in body and spirit. At a total loss to explain even one tragedy, to say nothing of five! It was naked, raw agony, and the heavens were mute. No explanation thundered across the celestial chasm. Not one reason . . . not a single one. And then his wife advised: “Curse God and die!”

Boldly Job snapped, “You sound like a fool, woman!” Wisely he stated, “Shall we accept only good from God and never adversity?”

Notice very carefully what Job claimed that day. Don’t miss the thing that carried him through. Unlike the stance of the stoic—“Grin and bear it . . . or at least grit your teeth and endure it”—Job grabbed one great principle and held on. It formed the knot at the end of his rope . . . it steadied his step . . . it kept him from cursing. No other single truth removes the need to ask “Why?” like this one:


That’s it! Job rested his case there.

It’s remarkable how believing that one profound statement erases the “Why?” from earth’s inequities.

It was the same knot a brokenhearted mother in New York tied in the winter of 1947. Mrs. Chambers stopped asking Why? when she saw the Who? behind the scene.

All other sounds are muffled when we claim His absolute sovereignty. Even the deafening sound of a crashing DC-4.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch: Becoming God’s Masterpiece (Dallas: Word, 1994), 170-71.

About the author


Pastor Chuck Swindoll

Pastor Chuck Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

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