"Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." (John 13:7)
The mature believer lives his or her Christian life on a "need to know basis."
I was reminded of this truth a few weeks ago by a man sitting in a wheel chair who, after living a busy, productive life, is now slowly succumbing to the ravages of ALS, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. One might easier understand these circumstances if the life being drained away was a threat to society or even merely useless to others. But in the case of a man loved by family and friends, who has served the Lord faithfully and fruitfully for many years, such treatment from His God might be considered ill-conceived at best, or unloving, at worst. But that is not the way this man chooses to see it. Key word here: choose. He has chosen not to wallow in self-pity or languish in limited usability. Instead, he chooses to be an encourager to those around him, and a witness to unsuspecting telemarketers who are forced to listen to his "pitch" for Jesus Christ in exchange for him listening to theirs. :)
I always think "Why?" is the least helpful of all inquiries. We might go to the scientist to ask, "How?" or to the prognosticator to inquire as to "When?" And the philosopher may take a stab at answering, "Who?"; but only God can be legitimately approached to answer the eternal, "Why?" And He, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen to limit the time and place of His answer. In the case of our text, Peter's wondering as to why in the world Jesus was stooping to wash his feet was partially answered in verse sixteen of the chapter, where Jesus let him know this was not about basins and water and feet; it was about humility. But it would take the rest of Peter's life to grasp to any degree the cost of true humility.
To spend a lifetime looking for answers to "why" questions, when God has seen fit to relegate them to the "hereafter" is to find oneself gradually sinking into frustration and bitterness. Why do some good Christians suffer the dregs of divorce, betrayal, or unrequited love, while others seem to blithely step into "happily ever after," without a hitch? We could try to find personality quirks that might account for either scenario, but it wouldn't really answer the question or relieve the pain.
Why do some grown children raised by godly parents turn out (seemingly) good, while others, with just as godly parents, drift into gross sin or "doctrines of devils?" We could raise the prospect of shortcomings in the group of parents; but we would have to admit to the same probability in the lives of the former group. The truth is, when all is said and done, personal choices have personal consequences. God never once laid the blame for Samson's philandering at the feet of his godly parents; and even while Samson was choosing his own unrestrained and ungodly lifestyle, God was accomplishing His own purposes (Judges 14:4).
I suppose it all goes back to the age-old question, "Why would a loving God allow good people to suffer?" Volumes have been written, by both scholars and philosophers, offering an answer, but none of them has ever satisfied me completely. We can beat ourselves up about these things, or view our questioning as a complete lack of faith and trust; but we should remember that at one awful point in His earthy life, the Man, Christ Jesus, in agony of soul, screamed, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt.27:46)
There are circumstances in this life that fall outside the realm of our personal understanding of Divine justice or love. But, I ask you, was the Father's complete forsaking of the Son on the Cross the last chapter in the story? No, because three days later, He raised Him from the grave. And when you and I, whether audible or not, cry to God, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" we can rest assured, there will be a resurrection, either of hope or in Heaven. Until then, we should live our lives before God on a need to know basis.
When we need to know, He'll tell us.