“Truth fears no questions.” - Anonymous
Asking God questions like why God, when God, or what now, God, is not wrong. If we’re honest, it probably forms the basis of much of our prayer life!
Amazingly enough, God actually invites our questions when we are seeking direction, consolation and encouragement. After all, God is big enough to handle our questions. And He’s not surprised, offended or frustrated by them. And He certainly is not stumped by them either.
In fact, it’s ultimately worse for our relationship with God if we were to just sweep things like confusion, pain, and worry under our “emotional rug;” adopting clichéd, religious blanket answers is not healthy, productive, or satisfying. He wants us to hear Him and be led by Him. However, it’s important to remember we must ask the right questions.
A Lesson from the Prophet Habakkuk
"’Come now, let us argue this out,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 1:18a).
The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk took Him up on His offer. He truly was a prophet: a person who had a genuine relationship with God, heard what He said, and could speak that Word to others with authority. However, Habakkuk was deeply distressed by the corruption of his nation. He wrote his prophetic book around 600 B.C., when Judah had experienced a deep slide into idolatry and unrepentant sin. Habakkuk cried out to God in anguish over their spiritual shallowness, and was transparent with his frustration regarding God’s seeming inaction to do anything about the situation.
“The burden which the prophet Habakkuk saw.
“O Lord, how long shall I cry, And You will not hear? Even cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ and You will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me; there is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (Habakkuk 1:1-4).
Can you relate? Do you watch the nightly news and have the same concerns, and questions for God?
God… how do such wicked people continue to prosper and become gazillionaires? Why do innocent people languish in jail and the guilty skate by without punishment? Why are unethical, mismanaged corporations and organizations deemed “too big to fail” and are rescued by taxpayers, but millions of “mom and pop” shops are allowed to be shuttered? How can churches be closed in lockdown, but liquor stores allowed to stay open?!
God…where’s justice in our courts? Only perverse judgments proceed!
God…all I see is trouble! Corporate plundering the little guys! Scandal, hypocrisy, strife and violence!
Habakkuk’s situation was surprisingly similar. In the next few verses Habakkuk records God surprising response which said, in essence… Listen, I am going to do something. It’s going to be amazing, awesome even! It’s something you’d never think up on your own. I’m gonna bring in the Babylonians to take Judah captive!
Habakkuk’s chin must have hit the floor. “You’re going to do what?!” The Babylonian army was powerful, vicious, and a stark reminder that sometimes things get worse before they get better.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).
When what we’re hoping for gets deferred (pushed off into the future, delayed), or our dreams get detoured by unexpected circumstances, it doesn’t mean they won’t happen; but it might mean they won’t happen yet.
The problem is we don’t always understand the intermediary steps God needs for us to take to get us from step A to step B. And even if we are certain we understand God’s will, we are often clueless regarding God’s timing. And if our situation actually gets worse, it can cause us to feel that our prayers have been ignored or denied.
Regardless of the situation, when we have a genuine relationship with God and know His heart, we can stand in faith even if it seems impossible. We can trust that He is always working for us, interceding and intervening, because He love us and has a perfect plan. And in the end, when the desired outcome does finally come, it’ll be a tree of life!
It’s Under Control
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
God, in His infinite wisdom and power, really does have everything concerning us under control. He is the Alpha and the Omega, meaning, He knows the end of it all, even from the very beginning! He created everything there is and everyone as well, and placed them all at the right place and time for His plans to succeed.
And in the end, His plans for us will bring shalom, which in Hebrew describes far more than peaceful serenity or quietness; it is a word of blessing, wholeness, provision, and protection. That means the next time it appears things are getting worse before they get better, remember – God must be at work! And He’s bringing shalom: He’s delivering hope and securing your future.
In Habakkuk’s case, God informed him that He planned to use Babylonian captivity to effect Judah’s return to worshipping God. The prophet was stunned by this revelation – the Lord’s shocking next step was to use the dreaded Babylonians as part of His plan. The question Habakkuk posed is one that God still has to field from His people today: Why should we play by the rules? If nice guys finish last, why be a nice guy?
“Are You not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, and hold Your tongue when the wicked devours a person more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:12-13).
Habakkuk was just being transparent with God. He was able to have this kind of honest dialogue with God because he really knew Him; he had cultivated a genuine relationship with God and asked the right questions. We should follow his example to gain his perspective and understanding.
Set Yourself in a Place to Hear from God
“I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me, and what I will answer when I am corrected” (Habakkuk 2:1).
For some people, the prospect of actually hearing God’s voice is a bit flaky. They may have had some bad experience in the past with someone claiming supernatural revelation that just did not pass the sniff test.
But regardless, the truth is God is our Father and wants to talk with us. He wants to lead and guide us, fill us with wisdom, and encouragement so that we can go on.
Ultimately, He wants to get us to that place of shalom: blessing, peace and a hope-filled future. The prophet said: “I’ll stand… I’ll set myself… I’ll watch… I’ll listen…” You must set yourself in a position to hear from God and expect to hear Him.
God Speaks to Us
Clearly, we should read the Bible every day, and do so with expectancy that we’re not just reading an ancient text, history book or fables. Unlike any other manuscript in the world – this book is alive! Jesus Himself quoted the Old Testament when He said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
This is nourishment… even soul food.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
So set yourself in a quiet place with your Bible, eliminate distractions, turn off the cell phone, and like Habakkuk, watch to see what He will say.
In the same way we should come to the house of God with an expectancy that we’re not just attending a religious service – we’re not just meeting our weekly religious obligation – we’re coming to hear from God.
“Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil” (Ecclesiastes 5:1).
Set yourself in a place to hear from God, then start journaling.
“Then the Lord answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it’” (Habakkuk 2:2).
If you’ve asked God, how do I go on, why are the wicked prospering, where is there justice, or any other hard question, open the Word, set yourself in a place to hear God’s response, and write it down. Write your thoughts, your prayers and feelings. Write out what you believe God is saying to you.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3).
Get a Vision and Hang on to It
This kind of vision is not a dreamlike, cloudy, ecstatic supernatural experience – it’s an overarching sense of direction. Vision is something that brings focus to our lives and prevents us from being a jack-of-all-trades, yet master of none.
Vision is God’s revealed purpose that helps us pursue our strengths and do life according to our God-given gifts, talents and abilities. The Bible tells us why this kind of vision is so important:
“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18a).
So if we will ask God questions, position ourselves to hear, and write down what we hear, God will speak and give us a vision, a concept, an idea or direction. It’s the process required to receive His answer to any hard questions we need to ask to help us through difficult times.
“For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it seems to be delayed, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not be late. Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:3-4).
In a sense, God was saying to Habakkuk (and to us), Shalom, I know the condition of everyone’s heart. I know what’s going on in the soul of the proud. They may succeed for a season and get ahead temporarily. They may even appear to be winning. But the finish line is not on this side of eternity. My plans will work out, even when things seem to get worse before they get better. I will have My way, but most importantly, remember: the real prize to be desired is not power or earthly success, but eternal. And it goes to those who are Mine and play by My rules!
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/turk_stock_photographer
Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.