The Christian Broadcasting Network
Related Links

Send us your prayer request

Order your copy of Prayers for When You're Mad, Sad, or Just Totally Confused

More Prayer on the Spiritual Life Channel


Prayers for When Life Doesn't Make Sense

By Brittany Waggoner
Guest Columnist – Employees went to work, students went to school, and children went out to play on September 11, 2001. America was comfortable, but September 11 was not a regular day. None of us could have known the terrible events that would unfold.

On that seemingly ordinary morning, members of al-Qaida, a terrorist group led by Muslim extremist Osama bin Laden, struck America with a series of violent attacks. American Airlines Flight 11, en route from Boston to Los Angeles, was hijacked and flown into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City at 8:45 A.M. Eighteen minutes later, United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower. Thousands of people were still trying to escape as the burning towers collapsed onto the streets.

The terror was not focused solely on Manhattan. Less than an hour after the first tower was hit, American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, causing nearly two hundred deaths and many more casualties. The final blow came when a second United Airlines flight went down in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, apparently piloted into the ground by passengers determined to stop the hijackers from using the plane as a weapon of mass destruction.

Countless lives were touched by this act of war waged against the United States. The country was gripped by fear and sorrow as we watched the towers fall and the Pentagon burn. None of us had thought that something of this magnitude could take place on our soil with our planes.

Yet life doesn't always make sense, and God doesn't always give us the answers. It is during these times of total uncertainty that we can be most tempted to mistrust God. After these terrorist attacks, there was one question on many people's minds: "Why would God allow this to happen?"

"Why, God, Why?"

In the wake of 9-11, church pews around the world overflowed with churchgoers. George Barna, director of Barna Research, said, "after the attack, millions of nominally churched or generally irreligious Americans were desperately seeking something that would restore stability and a sense of meaning to life."1 While conducting research on church attendance after 9-11, Barna found that church attendance initially exploded, only to dwindle away in the weeks and months following the national crisis. Why did this occur? Barna suggests that the local churches failed to properly meet the needs of the new crowds. "Our assessment is that churches succeeded at putting on a friendly face but failed at motivating the vast majority of spiritual explorers to connect with Christ in a more intimate or intense manner."2

I believe Barna's assessment to be true, but I also believe there was a bigger reason why people left the churches. I think people went to church looking for reasons for the tragedy and answers to their questions about it, not looking for God. When Christian leaders could not produce exact reasons for what happened or solutions for their pain, people went away, discouraged and disillusioned. This seems tragic to me, because although God sometimes lets us in on some of his reasons for allowing things or doing things, most of the time he doesn't. "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'" (Is 55:8-9).

We must realize that we are the created beings and God is the Creator. How could we understand his reasoning? Dr. James Dobson shares, in Life on the Edge: "Clearly Scripture tells us we lack the capacity to grasp God's infinite mind or the way He intervenes in our lives. How arrogant of us to think otherwise. Trying to analyze His omnipotence is like an amoeba attempting to comprehend the behavior of man."3

When disasters strike, we feel like children at God's feet, tugging at his coat with the question, "Why?" It is human nature for us to want to understand each significant event in our lives. When my grandmother died, I wanted to know why. When a car hit my neighbor's dog, she wanted to know why. We feel that if we could just grab hold of a reason for each painful event then we could make it through to the other side. This pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality has one major flaw: If we always have a reason for things, we will be tempted to rely on ourselves during our pain rather than turning to God. We are not meant to understand; we are meant to trust.

God's reasons are beyond our created minds. He does not promise us any explanations on earth, but one day in heaven we will understand our pain. "Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Cor 13:12).

How to Respond When Life Doesn't Make Sense

As with every disappointment, we have a decision to make when trouble or disaster strikes. How will we respond? The first part of responding correctly when life doesn't make sense is keeping our focus on God.

One morning, on what I thought to be a typical Sunday, I woke up, got dressed, grabbed my Sunday school lesson, and rushed out the door. As I charged out of the heavy outer doors to my dorm, I noticed that four inches of snow had fallen the night before. No big deal. The state of Ohio always keeps the roads clear, and I saw several other cars braving the weather as other drivers made their way to church.

I started my car and backed out of the parking space with a slight slide of my wheels. Nonetheless, I turned onto the main road with confidence. As I came upon a curve in the road, I noticed a car had just gone into a ditch. As I slowed down so as not to hit the various people and cars, I hit the same slick spot the other car had. I found my little North Carolina self behind the wheel of an out-of-control SUV on Ohio snow and ice.

The brakes were of no use. I was totally helpless. I soon realized that I was sliding quickly toward the other car. I had to do something. I somehow managed to steer my car away from the people and cars, into a large green road sign. (I think my guardian angel was pushing my car from the back.) My car did suffer some damage, but not nearly as much as it would have if I had crashed anywhere else. (The road sign wasn't as lucky.)

At some point in our lives, we will all spin out of control. We won't know how and we won't know why. How we attempt to steer our out-of-control lives, however, is up to us. We can choose to focus on exactly why God has allowed this situation and how it came about, or we can focus on trusting God for the next step.

In addition to keeping our focus on God, it is important to remember his infinite love for us. The presence of pain and disappointment in our lives does not mean that he does not love us. It actually means that he loves us all the more.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:6-7).

He loves us more than we could ever comprehend, and because he loves us, he knows the people and things that are precious to us. Michelle McKinney Hammond describes his care for our concerns:

Just as single women can believe in God for everything except a mate and mothers can believe God for everything except their children, the same principle prevails here. We have trouble releasing our most precious things into the care of God. For some reason, we do not believe that what we view as precious is even more precious to God and that He is well able to keep those things we hold dear. How it wrenches our hearts when we have done everything we can think of, yet to no avail, and we are forced to release our dreams, our mates, and our children into the hands of God, stand still, and see His salvation.4

If God loves us as much as he promises in his Word (see Jn 3:16), then he also is capable of taking care of those things we hold dear. When life doesn't make sense we should focus on God, remember his love, and finally take the next step in our growth.

There are lessons that we must learn through painful circumstances that we could learn only by going through them. Remember the story of Job? He lost his family, his wealth, his health, and his friends but grew closer to God. Ultimately, for Job's faithfulness the Lord blessed him with a larger family and more wealth than he'd had before. We must look for the lessons that God has in store for us during our trying times. It is all part of growing.

Michelle McKinney Hammond explains in Prayer Guide for the Brokenhearted: "Yes, he leads us. Sometimes forward, sometimes back. Forward to new pastures. Changing our diet from the familiar 'comfort food' to richer bread, heartier meat. Nourishment to make the blood thicker, to add marrow to the bones and flesh to the body."5

A Sovereign Bullet

Jim and Veronica "Roni" Bowers had committed their lives to mission work. While on the mission field in Peru in April 2001, their small plane was mistaken for a drug-running aircraft and shot down by a Peruvian air force fighter. Their small Cessna floatplane crashed into the Amazon River, but Roni and the Bowers' seven-month-old daughter, Charity, were already dead--killed by bullets that had struck the small craft. Jim, his six-year-old son, and the pilot survived and were rescued in canoes.

Pastor Bill Rudd of Calvary Church in Fruitport, Michigan -- home church for the Bowers family -- spoke at Cedarville University earlier this year. Pastor Rudd talked with us about Jim Bowers' extraordinary forgiveness of the Peruvian pilots, saying that at the funeral for his wife and daughter, Jim Bowers spoke publicly about his forgiveness and also told the crowd that he believed that the bullet that killed his wife and daughter was a "sovereign bullet."

That phrase stuck out to me as I realized the extreme faith of this missionary. He recognized that God had allowed that bullet to take his wife's and daughter's lives. He knew that God is in control of this universe, period. Jim Bowers did not question why this tragedy wasn't miraculously prevented; he simply focused on God, remembered his love, and took the next step in his growth, which for him was to forgive the pilots.

Trust Is "A Must"

As children of God, it is crucial for us to trust God and all his ways. If we don't want to be driven crazy by the question of "Why?" we must realize that sometimes there are no answers. Dr. James Dobson shares from his book, When God Doesn't Make Sense: "If we truly understood the majesty of the Lord and the depth of His love for us, we would certainly accept those times when He defies human logic and sensibilities. Indeed, that is what we must do."6

Though this kind of trust is against our nature and contrary to our logic, it is our only choice if we are to truly rest in God.

Prayer Starters

Why is it difficult for you to trust God when life doesn't make sense?

How does it make you feel to not understand the pain you are going through?

What are some lessons that God might be teaching you in your pain?

Scripture Assignment

Isaiah 41:10

A Prayer for When Life Doesn't Make Sense

Dear all-knowing, all-loving Father,

I am facing one of the hardest battles of my faith. You don't make sense to me right now, Father. I don't understand why things happen that you could prevent. My mind and my heart cry out for reasons and answers, yet I know that may not be for me to know right now. Everyone around me thinks I am crazy to remain faithful to you, but I know that it is my only choice. Either you are God in control of the universe or you are not God at all. I believe that you love me and want what is best for me, even when it doesn't feel that way. Give me strength and grace to fight this battle. Help me to focus on you, remember your love, and take the next step.

In your almighty name,


E-mail your comments to Brittany

Send us your prayer request

Order your copy of Prayers for When You're Mad, Sad, or Just Totally Confused

More Prayer on the Spiritual Life Channel

Brittany Waggoner is a student at Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, majoring in Broadcasting. She enjoys public speaking and has hosted shows on both radio and TV. E-E-mail your comments to Brittany


Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?

A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.