In one of the early posts in this series about Adventist identity, I talked about the three great questions: the question of history — why am I here?; the question of identity — who am I?; and the question of destiny — where am I going?

One of the reasons I am a Seventh-day Adventist, and would choose to be one if I were 25 years old today, is that Adventism answers these existential questions in a way that comes closest to approximating reality is I understand it.

In this post, I’m going to begin the examination of the first question: why am I here? Now, when we addressed this question, there are two basic components, and several subtopics. The two basic approaches boiled down to this: why am I here? And why am I here?

The first focuses on me, the second focuses on here. And as I talk about here, I mean this broken world we live in. This world where innocent children are starved or tortured or contract terrible diseases; this world where those who do good may die painful deaths, and whose memories die with them, while villains enrich themselves on plunder of the innocent, and enjoy wealth and fame.

You see, we all have this simple notion: that someone who does good should be rewarded, and someone who does evil should be punished. But that is not what we see. We see the opposite often taking place. And we want to know why. Why is the world upside down? Why does the world not really make sense?

Even atheists, perhaps especially atheists, recognize this basic problem. If God is good and all-powerful, why is there so much suffering? In his popular satire, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams — and the text makes clear he does not believe in God – has his protagonist, Arthur Dent, find the answer to “life, the universe, and everything.” The answer, he discovers, is 42. Puzzled by that, he then searches for the question. And he discovers that the question is, “what is 6×9.”

When he discovers this, here is Arthur’s response: Six by nine? Forty-two? You know, I’ve always felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Universe.

Something fundamentally wrong with the Universe. It’s odd, in a way, because this is the only universe any of us know. And yet we all have this basic sense that something isn’t right. As C. S. Lewis would’ve told us, “perhaps the reason we feel something is wrong with the universe, is because we were not created for this universe as it is.

When we talk about why someone would want to be a Seventh-day Adventist today, we need to talk about real problems, real questions. Rather than discouraging them, we should encourage them. And this is one of the most basic.

What do we say to the parent whose toddler has been diagnosed with some dreaded disease? What do we say when a clean living saint suffers health problems? What do we say when virtue is rewarded with scorn, persecution, and suffering? We need answers.

And answering these heartrending questions is not mere abstraction for me. I have talked about these things with parents whose child had a virulent form of cancer. In this very blog space, I shared about losing a grandnephew not yet three years of age. And recently, my own grandson was diagnosed, also just short of his third birthday, with type I diabetes.

None of these families deserve this. The parents did nothing to bring this on, and certainly the children did not. Despite this, there are always eager saints ready to explain to the parents what they did to bring this on. That these parents remained Christians despite such saintly assistance is little short of miraculous.

For those answers, I look to a unique Adventist perspective. But when I present this to young adults, I do not name the doctrine at first. This is not because I want to deceive them, but because we all have certain preconceptions about certain words, phrases, or titles. And I have had this experience more than once. When I say I’m going to explain “Doctrine Alpha,” people automatically think they know what I am going to say, and they began mentally formulating a reply. As a result, they don’t hear what I’m actually saying. And I have a good example of taking such an approach.

Jesus rarely claimed to be the Messiah. The reason is simple: everybody in Judaism in the first century knew what the Messiah was going to do. The Pharisees knew, the Sadducees knew, the common people knew, even the woman at the well, a Samaritan, knew. Unfortunately, much of what they knew was mistaken.

Had Jesus declared himself to be the Messiah, many would not heard much else that he said. They would’ve been certain they knew, and when his subsequent actions did not match their expectations, they would’ve come to disbelieve in him. Rather than fight through all of these false expectations, he most commonly referred to himself as “Son of Man.” That ambiguous Old Testament term allowed him to define his own mission. So rather than name the teaching, I’m going to explore it. And we will begin in one of the most unusual books of the Bible.

Read other posts from this series on Adventist Identity.