Suffering can reduce your prayers down to one agonizing word: why.

For months now, I have only been able to come before the Lord with questions like, “Why, God? Why did you take my son? Why are you putting my wife and I through such misery? Why didn’t you answer our prayers? Why are you still silent?”

Confusion, pain, and broken trust can bring supplication terribly close to interrogation. Our grieving hearts call out from the chaos to the One in control, doubting his presence, power, and plan.

You might assume that we are in no position to approach a holy God this way. Or that it represents a lack of faith – that if we truly believed in his goodness and sovereignty, we would never need to ask where he is or what he is doing. If we know that trials are certain, why question him when they come?

But the Scriptures consistently show us that those who walk closest with the Lord often cry out the loudest when they suffer. The list below is just a sample.

Why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
Why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face and consider me as your enemy?
Why are you sleeping?
Why do you forget us forever?
Why do you forsake us for so many days?

These cries are not the temper tantrums of unbelief. They are the honest wrestling of faithful men like Job, David, and Jesus himself. They show us that faith is not suppressing our sorrow but desperately calling out to the Lord as we try to reconcile our pain with his promises. When we suffer, God graciously permits us to punctuate our prayers with exclamation points and question marks. He turns his ear toward our unfiltered groaning – even as we doubt that he’s listening at all – and welcomes us to cry out, “Why?”