The question, said Ramon Presson, came out of the blue to a friend of his who was leading a "proper women's Bible study" in the midst of the proper Nashville subdivision of Brentwood.
"When will my life not suck?"
The question, said the founder of LifeChange Counseling and the Marriage Center of Franklin, Tenn., stuck with him but was not unlike questions he received in his counseling practice.
Now, Presson has turned the question into a book. "When Will My Life Not Suck?" was released this month by New Growth Press.
The counselor and former pastor will talk about the book with students in a chapel service at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., on Wednesday. The 11 a.m. service is open to the public.
When people ask the question, Presson said, they're more accurately making a statement about their current condition or their reaction to one or two events.
"It's an overgeneralization, a little bit of a loss of perspective," he said.
However, Presson said, people may be frustrated with the men, women, friends, managers, leaders, pastors or others in their lives. Young people, specifically, are often jaded about institutions, corporations, government, marriage and the church, he said.
"They have severe doubts, [feel like they] can't rely on them," he said.
The problem with that, Presson said, "is that if everybody's completely unreliable, you've backed yourself into a corner. And then, who's left? You begin to wonder how faithful, how honest have you been with yourself. [You think], look who I'm stuck with. [You realize] you're not stuck with an all-star."
He said it's not unusual at that point for people to suggest "God's not doing his job," that "God's not fulfilling his expectations" or that God "needs to be put on probation because he's not acting right."
In response to such suggestions, Presson said, it's not helpful to say something sappy or cliché such as "God does not take something away without giving you something better," or to advise people simply to indulge in the power of positive thinking.
"It illustrates our difficulty in the faith community of trying to reconcile why bad things happen to good people," he said. "[People] continue to struggle to reconcile it within themselves and speak of it to someone else. It's the age-old question of why is this happening to me."
Ultimately, said Presson, people need to understand that the Why me? question must become a What now? question.
Pondering Why Me? can keep people "stuck in depression and bitterness," while moving on to What now? will allow people "eventually to be able to heal and to grow and move forward."
To do that, Presson said, people need to employ the gifts of God's word, his presence and his body of believers. God's presence when his children are hurting is crucial in getting them through the hardest places, he said. And, frankly, God doesn't expect his children to do it on their own, he said. They're hot-wired to need other people.
"He wouldn't want us to move forward without all three," he said.