We know faith is the most important thing when it comes to a strong, healthy, and loving relationship with the Lord. But sometimes we have questions: Why does a loving God “allow” bad things to happen? Why does God sometimes feel so far away? And even, does God truly care about me?
When such thoughts arise, sometimes our first instinct is to stomp them into cinders like the embers of a campfire, so they don’t get out of control and create harm. But is that necessary?
Is it OK to question God? Will I anger Him with my questions, and is it considered to be disrespectful?
Questioning God means, quite simply, asking questions of God about things we do not understand. Asking these questions honestly, with an aim to understand, is absolutely permissible. As humans, we do not have the mind of God. As Scripture reminds us in Isaiah 55:89, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” And in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
Given that, there are things about the spiritual realm, about the world in general, that we simply do not understand simply because we are not God. God made us human, a mixture of emotion and reason. Sometimes, intellectually attempting to understand something helps us know it better in our soul, or vice versa. Questioning God means to ask Him the meaning of something so we understand it better. It helps us wrap both our hearts and minds around the matter.
This does not mean to question God’s authority or attack Him or His character in a disrespectful way. It means bringing to Him the things we don’t understand and genuinely asking why or what it means.
A number of Godly men and women throughout Scripture question God. For example, in Genesis, Abraham—beloved of God—seems utterly shocked when God says Abraham and Sarah will have a son though they are both old and past childbearing years.
As we see in Genesis 17:17, “Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’”
God’s answer? Yes—and, indeed, Abraham and Sarah did have a child.
Abraham also questions God’s plan to destroy Sodom and all the people in it, even those who might be good people. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham asks God in Genesis 18:25. Abraham wants to understand God’s plan, why He is doing such a thing, if God is indeed a good, fair, just, loving God, and more.
God’s answers reassure Abraham.
In Exodus when God calls Moses to service, Moses peppers God with a number of questions: Why me? Why can’t you pick someone else? How will I do this? What will I say? God reassures Moses repeatedly (Exodus 3:11-4:17).
Job, too, has questions, as do Jeremiah and Habakkuk. Why? How long? In fact, the entirety of the Book of Habakkuk appears to stem from the prophet’s deep, soul-searching questions of his Creator: “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds” (Habakkuk 1:2-3).
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God typically answers the questions we ask—sometimes in dreams, sometimes through angels as messengers, and sometimes with direct answers in reply.
Jesus—that is, God become flesh and born as a man (John 1:14)—seemed fond of questions, mostly as a mechanism to help people think through deep philosophies and understand how they truly feel about a topic, what their fears might be, what their prejudices are or, perhaps, the root of their own logical reasoning.
For example, in Luke 10:25-26, an expert asks Jesus what we must do to have eternal life. Jesus provided His answer by leading the man to analyze within himself, to explore what he already knows in the truth that is God’s Word. “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Jesus asks right back, indicating the answer is already given.
Looking at God’s reaction to the questions asked of Him throughout Scripture, we see time and again His response is that of a patient, firm, but loving parent as He calmly answers. Just as a child today might ask her mother or father why the sky is blue or why she must take a nap, and her earthly parent firmly but lovingly replies, God, too, answers with grace and mercy. He knows our weakness as humans, the finite capacity of our minds—after all, God created us. God knows we do not understand all things because we cannot.
Also, it helps to know God can handle our questions—all of them. As the Creator of the universe, and the all-knowing, He’s the only true source of answers.
Asking God questions does not mean we are weak. In fact, it signifies a strong relationship—and trust. When we trust God, we know He’s not some abusive, terrifying parent who will beat us into submission for opening our mouths. Rather, He loves and is patient with us. He has mercy and compassion, and He understands our innate desire to know and to understand. God made us. As Psalm 139:13-14 praises of God, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Going to God when we have questions is a good thing.
Jesus, though God, was fully a man when He paid the price of our sins and died on the cross so that we may have eternal life with Him. In one perspective, Jesus knew God’s plan and purpose for Him because God had told Him and because of His divine oneness with the Father. And yet in Matthew 27:46, Jesus asks, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
God knew Jesus’s heart when Jesus asked this—God knew Jesus wasn’t asking with a rebellious or unfaithful spirit, that Jesus wasn’t taunting God or attacking God’s character. That would have been sin, and Jesus knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When Jesus did this, it not only showed his humanity but also showed us we, too, are allowed to approach the throne of the Lord in real relationship and pour out our hearts and fears—and questions—to God.
In James 1:5-6, the apostle urges, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
And in Hebrews 4:16, we’re told, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Ask God. Approach God.
He loves us, and He wants to be in relationship with us. He can answer our questions and calm our fears now and forever.
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Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional, too. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.