Saturday, January 23, 2010

Not "Why", but "How"

Hong Teck taught me quite a lot of stuff this week. =D One thing that he shared with me struck me a lot, 'cos I think his impartation is part of God's answer to my prayers (and questions).

Hong Teck told me, it's not about asking "Why?" as in "why is this happening to me?" when we encounter problems and failures. But we should be asking "How?" as in "How do we get moving on?"

"Why?" may lead to passive living and excuse-making.
But "How?" helps lead us towards pressing on and growing.

I remember reading last time about a heart-transplant survivor sharing that his heart failure had taught him to ask "Why?" It may seem like a total contradiction of what Hong Teck said, but the survivor explained why he said that "Why?" is one of the most important questions you can ask in a time of suffering. His "Why?" is not a self-pitying "Why is this happening to me?" but rather, "What is this suffering teaching me?"

Haha. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that "Why?" can come from 2 very different motives: the self-pitying, suck-your-thumb motive, and the looking-forward, no-looking-back motive. Passive versus active.

So back to Hong Teck's version of "Why?" The heart behind asking "Why?" in a way demands an answer, an explanation, for the pain, suffering and obstacles that we go through. It's like Job asking God WHY do bad things happen to good people. And the Bible tells us that though God had His good reasons, He did not tell Job the reason for his suffering - not even to the last day of his life. But He blessed Job with His presence and Job died a happy and peaceful man.

The truth is, there are things in life that we will never be able to have the answer - not this side of eternity. And we HAVE to accept this fact, no matter how painful it is.

But Hong Teck shared with me that at this point, we should ask "How now?" What do we do now? And when we move on, and fight on and grow... and eventually reach the mountaintop from our existental valley of Why, we will finally see the reason for our suffering. We, from the mountaintop of joy, can look down, and see just how all our sufferings and pains actually form part of the Promised Land. And so we will be able to share with those who are still in the shadows of the valleys, what the Lord has done for us.
Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"
In a sense, we New Testament believers have it SO much better than the Old Testament believers. Because we have the benefit of hindsight - not only the Cross but also the empty grave.

To end with a story, there was this young monk many years ago, who was given the task of weaving a tapestry. As he wove day in and day out, he grew more and more tired of what he was doing. He complained to an older monk, "I don't get it! You tell me to put in the threads here and there... and from where I am, it makes totally no sense! There isn't even any picture to see... it's only a tangled web of colours! Disgusting!"

The older monk smiled, and stepped over to the other side of the tapestry.

"Come over here," he beckoned.

The young monk reluctantly went over... and he saw what the older monk was pointing to. He saw the entire beauty of the tapestry in full colour, a majestic epic tale spanning a hundred years. And he whispered in awe: "Now I understand."

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