I live in a world of questions. Mostly unanswered—or unanswerable, this side of Heaven—questions. I’m betting you do, too.
Young moms I dearly love are asking tough ones. Why did my 13-year-old have to die? Why does one young family have so many children with major medical problems and special needs?
Why does a pregnant mom with three young children have cancer? Big questions are circling around my neighborhood, too, as one of our own—an incredibly resilient, positive, fun-loving friend who has struggled gracefully with unimaginable challenges for years—now grapples with yet another seemingly insurmountable battle. To name only a few recent questions. Come to think of it, I have a lot of my own right now, too.
The “Why?” questions often morph into “How?” questions. Or maybe even “How could you?” “Lord, how could you let an incredibly beautiful (inside and out) young mother of four be widowed at such a young age?” “Lord, how could you allow that terrible accident to occur?” “How could you send one more challenge into an already ‘over the top’ situation like that?” If you run out of “How . . . ?” questions, just check your news feed. Or, maybe—don’t.
For those of us with faith, we sometimes wonder if these kinds of questions are even “OK.” Are we crossing a line with God? Or going places we shouldn’t be going? I’d like to suggest we are in good company. The Bible is full of questions poured out to God from men and women who walked very closely with Him. Consider the Psalmists. And Job. And even Jesus’ cousin John the Baptizer who had questions just before he was about to put his head on the block (literally) for Jesus. It seems God allows our questions.
As Philip Yancey observes in writing about Job:
“One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment—he can absorb them all. . . . God can deal with any human response save one. He cannot abide the response I fall back on instinctively: an attempt to ignore him or treat him as if he doesn’t exist.”
(Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God)
Not only are questions “OK” with God. I believe they are actually essential to real, true, deeply grounded faith. I love what Madeline L’Engle says:
“Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself.”
(Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water, paraphrasing Spanish philosopher Unamuno)
True faith involves honesty with God. It also involves living with a lot of unanswered questions. As Elisabeth Elliot observed,
“Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question . . .”
(Elisabeth Elliot quoted by Carol Kent, He Holds My Hand)
It also involves choosing to trust God even when we don’t have the answers.
“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.”
(Oswald Chambers, quoted by Carol Kent, He Holds My Hand)
Madeline L’Engle again, when asked by a young student: “Mrs. Franklin [L’Engle was married to Hugh Franklin], do you really and truly believe in God with no doubts at all?” L’Engle’s answer: “Oh, Una, I really and truly believe in God with all kinds of doubts. But I base my life on this belief.” Me, too, Ms. L’Engle. And maybe you, dear reader, as well.
Meanwhile, I make my list of questions for God, knowing He is a God who sees. And hears.
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart . . . ?” (Psalm 13:2)
“All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (Psalm 38:9)
And even as I write those questions in my mind and heart, imagining my bringing them before God one day, I am reminded of how the book of Job ends. When God meets with Job in the end, He doesn’t actually answer Job’s questions. Instead, He confronts Job with Himself. In the full Presence of the Living God, Job’s questions seem to fade away.
I love how C. S. Lewis’s novel about the quest for “answers” and “justice” before God, Till We Have Faces, ends. The narrator, who has been adamant about meeting with God, presenting her case and getting answers for her questions, says:
“I ended my first book with the words ‘no answer.’ I know now, Lord, why you offer no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?” (C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces)
Yes, what other answer? Someday. But in the meantime, keep on talking. And listening. To HIM.