The first time I can remember my son, Jordan, wanting to know “why” about anything was when he was about 3 years of age. He had jumped off the first landing of stairs inside our home several times. Each time was well calculated with me standing and waiting to safely catch him. He usually jumped from the bottom 3 or 4 steps, and our plan worked every time. But on this particular day, I was telling him to not jump. He could not understand why this time was different than any other time. We had always done it. Convinced that I was confused, Jordan decided to jump from the 8th step into thin air completely confident that I would do as I had always done before and catch him, even though I was now holding about 4 bags of groceries. He jumped. I dropped the groceries. We collided and crumbled to the floor. He cried. I looked up at Shirley who had both arms outstretched asking the obvious question, “Why.” There was no answer. She knew it. Wives always know it. I cried with Jordan.
Growing up with the “why” questions of our lives involves many different circumstances, but we never let go of our need-to-know attitude. Why do I have to go to school? Why do I have to make my bed? Why do I have to go to Church? Why do I have to do the laundry? Why do you not want to go out with me? Why did you laugh at me? Why is there no milk? Why is the Internet so slow? Eventually though, and at a time that is unique to our own individual journey, the “why” moves from issues that are strictly selfish to now dealing with circumstances that are much bigger. Why do people go hungry? Why is there war? Why are people so mean? Why should I worry about the future?
The early years of our “why” life was typically filled with much assurance and encouragement from our friends and families. They were there when the scrapes and bruises accompanied the “why.” But the older “why” is much more painful. Why did my father do this? Why does my sister have this disease? Why are my parents divorcing? Why am I alone? Why do I just want to hide? Why does the author of love allow this much pain?
In many ways, youth leaders are just like the parents who help that little kid up after he has jumped off the 8th step. We hold them, encouraging them to move on, recognize what they have learned, and give them time to grow. We actually have become good encouragers to countless thousands of students dealing with those early year why’s around the bottom of the steps. However, today’s world doesn’t stay at the bottom of the steps very long. Now, we find ourselves having to answer “why” in a hospital room, an empty house, in a detention center, or at a graveside. So, how do we answer? First we readily admit that there are no easy answers, for we will not find any “just-add-water” logic for many of today’s circumstances in the lives of our kids. Secondly, take off the Mr. Fix-it hat. There are some questions that have no answers on earth. Only our deep seeded faith can see beyond today. Third, in the midst of someone’s life that feels consumed by hopeless circumstances, you must be someone who remains constant and relevant. Sometimes, it means just listening. And sometimes it means adjusting our own routine to so can have a better understanding of their routine. Fourth, stay in the Word. God will not let His word return void. He is obligated to validate the power of His word wherever it is planted. Fifth, sometimes the best thing to do when someone is asking “why,” is to remind them of the Father at the bottom of the stairs. It will take immense faith to trust, but He is not preoccupied. He is there. He will always be there.
Youth leaders, the world is full of “why” people. May God help us live among them with compassion and walk with them in truth.