I believe that in the face of pain, without prejudice, people always want to know why. They need to know why. Questions like "why did this happen to my family?", "why doesn't she love me?", "why was he promoted over me?", "why did my friend betray my trust like that?", or simply "why me?" - these questions expose our need for understanding, our need to be able to build a mental model for our pain. We want to know that there was a reason for our pain, some greater plan, some greater purpose, for if there is no explanation, our faith goes out the door.
If there is no explanation for our pain, our faith goes out the door.
How often do we hear people say, "well, on his deathbed, his nurse was touched by his story, so maybe that was the reason it all happened". We need to be able to explain it to ourselves, to rationalize it, because if there is context, then the pain becomes bearable.
We all have the notion of the greater good, or a higher cause. We elect pain for that cause, for short term pain and long term gain. We have some noble sense within us that allows us to bear pain for the greater good. Parents for their children, loved ones, husbands for their wives - all these stories warm our hearts to hear. He loved her enough to endure that for her. They loved their children more than themselves.
The reason for pain, then, gives us that context. With it, we are able to understand that someone - be it a god, fate, destiny or whatever it is you believe in - made that tradeoff for us. Ultimately, that helps us cope with our pain, doesn't it?
In the fallout of the planes crashing into the two towers, our countries were urged to pray for those trapped in the buildings, for survivors, for the rescue workers. When we come to our wits end, the limit of our own personal abilities, it is then that we throw up our hands and look up for help, for meaning, for an explanation to help us cope.
But what if we don't find that explanation? What if we aren't given an answer that we like, or can understand? More next time :)