‘I’m just wondering why this is happening to us, what did we do wrong? Didn’t we pray enough?’ Those were the words of one of the members of our small church group after we were kicked out of a public park as we were having our picnic. I will tell you how that happened.
As part of our activities we decided as a group to go outdoors to have fun, discuss some topics and just bond. So we went for a picnic in one of the parks in Nairobi. It was a beautiful sunny day and we found ourselves a good shade to enjoy the day. As we relaxed and got comfortable after our lunch, a guard came by and he asked if we had paid for parking fees (one of us had a car). We showed him the receipt and he went his way.
Barely two minutes later he came back; asking if we had paid for the meeting. ‘Pay for a meeting in a public park?’ full of shock we all responded almost in unison. He tried explaining that the park charges for a meeting of more than five people but we could have none of it. A few of us had to accompany him to the sign where the charges were written. We argued with them that we were unaware about that as we entered the park. It turns out that we arrived in groups of less than five and that is why it wasn’t necessary to be informed of the charges. Our options were to pay three thousand shillings or vacate the park.
We had better use for three thousand shillings so we grudgingly left the park, and that’s when one of our members asked the question above; what had we done wrong? Does this sound like what most of us ask when trouble strikes?
As I pondered on this days later, I wondered if those questions ever get answered. Who are they directed to? Self, God or are they just there? Do we follow through to really find out why things happened the way they did? Can we ask God these and other questions? What does the bible teach us about questions? Are questions equal to doubt? Am I sinning by questioning my faith?
Right and wrong questions
Are there right and wrong questions? I would say a question is as right as it is sincere. If we are talking of Christianity then we believe in a God who knows the deepest thoughts of our hearts and thus he would know if a question posed is sincere or not. God encourages us not to be double minded, to be men and women of our words and to speak sincerely. He actually says that what we speak is what is in our hearts.
A wrong question then would be one that is malicious, that seeks to divide, that seeks to exalt self, or one that doesn’t really care for the answer.
If you interact with sincere Christians, most of them will tell you that they have faced doubt in their walk with Christ. You know that moment that you ask yourself if all this is for real, trying to wrap your small mind around promises like heaven and eternal life, when you just can’t seem to see it as others do; those may seem like scary times but they can be opportune moments to grow in your faith, depending on how you question.
You see, you can question a system within itself or you can question it from outside. This may seem like circular reasoning but in this case it is not. This is because the system allows for it and is governed by an entity that is transcended. If there is a particular issue in the bible that you are questioning, suffering for example, there are a number of things you can do. You can study different passages in the bible that address that issue, asking God to reveal them to you. You can ask for opinions of bible scholars, teachers or Christian apologists. You could also pose the question directly to God.
David and other writers of Psalms seem to apply the last option a lot in their psalms. In Psalms 73 the psalmist is wondering at the prosperity of the wicked; how they are proud, fat, violent, malicious, openly disregard God and yet they ‘make it’ in life, live good lives and even laugh at those who obey God. Sounds familiar…… In verse 16 the psalmist says that it was a wearisome task trying to understand this BUT when he went into the sanctuary of God, he discerned their end.
Basically the psalmist took his question to God and he got his answer which is that those wicked people were on slippery ground, falling into their ruin, and would be destroyed in a moment. Those who trust in God, though they may lack here on earth, are held continually by God, guiding them with his counsel and at the end He receives them to glory.
I believe these were sincere questions to God and he revealed himself as they kept calling unto Him. Please read the entire chapter of this amazing psalm.
We are in a relationship based religion and we believe the Holy Spirit works in us; to teach us, direct us and reveal the heart of God to us. I believe with all my heart that the word of God has answers to our questions.
Another good advice I got recently; please deal with one question at a time. If suffering is top on your list, deal with it alone then probably move on to predestination or whatever else is on your list.
The mistake many people make is that they come up with a long list of questions and somehow expect instant answers on all of them. When none of them is forthcoming within their time frame, they go out there and listen to sceptic arguments and very quickly come to a conclusion that either God doesn’t exist or he doesn’t care.
When some churches and church leaders discourage questions, it really amazes me, because it seems like they don’t understand how much our faith and questions have in common. Let us consider a few examples.
In Mathew 22:37, where Jesus gave the greatest commandment (love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as you love yourself), he was responding to a question from a lawyer. To put it more bluntly, we got this amazing truth because someone asked a question. Of course Jesus could have found another way to communicate this if he wasn’t asked the question but it clearly shows us the place of questions in Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus almost always answered questions, even the clearly insincere ones; he answered all of them with the responses they deserved. Jesus came to reveal the true nature of our God. That means we are free to take our questions to him. In fact he urges us to come and reason together with him (Isaiah 1:18).
The heroes of our faith asked questions. David asked way too many in psalms, Job questioned his suffering and God took time off to give him a four chapter answer. Moses questioned God’s motives, why he had sent him, why he had let people suffer, why he was not delivering them and God answered. Abraham interestingly goes back and forth with God in regards to the destruction of Sodom. He asks God to spare the city if there are fifty righteous people; they debate the number down to ten. Sodom and Gomorrah ended up being destroyed because even the ten could not be found.
The list in endless; time and time again we see people questioning God and Him responding to them appropriately. Yes, appropriately because not all questions are made equal.
How to question
Of course it matters how we ask. That lesson sunk in proper when I got married. And yes, there is a better way to question God. As mentioned up there I think sincerity is of most importance; just being true to ourselves and open about what is actually bothering us.
I really think that you can talk to God like you talk to your best friend. You know when things are going bad and you just need someone to tell all that you feel and ask all the questions (those questions that you don’t really expect answers to).
Why me? Why is it that nothing seems to work for me? Why is everyone ‘making it’ but me? You may vent out in anger, cry your heart out, lie prostate on the ground, hit a wall and I believe God will be close by to listen and comfort you. He will just be the wonderful counsellor He is.
C.S. Lewis is the one who said that crying is all right in its way while it lasts, but you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what you will do. After all the emotional questioning, you have to sober up and ask the real questions. Lord, what is your will concerning this issue? What is the lesson here? What are you teaching me? How do I proceed?
They say if you miss everything else, do not miss the lesson.
It is funny how we will always seek a person with the most experience and knowledge to answer our worldly questions and not apply the same logic to God. He is the one who made all of us and all that you see and hence in the best position to fix things and answer the questions.
However cliché it may seem, Christ is THE answer and I would rather take my questions to Him. Meanwhile I will learn to listen and obey.
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