The first congregation I served was one in which seven families had all experienced the death of a young son. Just a few years before I arrived, the pastor’s son had been hiking with his best friend in the backcountry and accidentally fell to his death from a cliff. Not long after, the friend was in a motorcycle accident and was in a coma for more than a year before he died. The boy’s mother once told me that during much of that time, she was haunted by the question, “Why me?” She could follow that question down many paths: how could something so devastating happen in a family that had been so close and so loving? What sense does it make for a promising young life to be cut short because of a slight misjudgment on a curve in the highway?
The sense of life’s unfairness compounded the pain of her grief and intensified the sense of isolation. Then one day she was alone and in prayer, and new words came to her: “Why not me?” The slight change in the phrase transformed the way she understood her suffering. She began realizing how many people have lost loved ones for reasons that make little sense. It didn’t solve the riddle of life’s tragedies, but it did release her from her isolation. Now she felt a bond with countless people.
I’ve thought about her epiphany many times over the last 35 years, and in countless situations. If you find yourself asking “Why me?” consider adding an extra word: “Why not me?”