From wartime survivor’s guilt to thanksgiving prayer before a table laden with food—or graced with just enough of it for the day’s demand—the question ‘Why me and not some other guy?’ rises to the mind and lips of the fortunate.
The answer is never obvious.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. (Acts 3:1–3 ESV)
What if Peter and John had gone up to temple prayers at a different hour? What if the poor man’s carriers had run a minute or two late?
One can often describe the occasion of heaven’s care. The strange coincidences of time, place, and last-minute decisions are the stuff of the stories that are the afterlife of the disturbing, saving, healing moment.
But this is not to answer the questions that remain:
At least insofar as the biblical witness cares to share its secrets, these questions elicit only the most shrouded of explanations, if that.
Rather, one’s heart is directed towards gratitude, indeed tuned to its frequency.
Why? becomes ‘If I had just taken the other path, boarded the other plane, failed to notice the stranger in that crowd …’
This explains nothing of the fate of others. It stops with sharpening my view of heaven’s goodness to me.
In doing so, it answers precisely the most persistent question that mercy awakens: Why me?