If you have kids and they are anything like mine, you’ve probably had to deal with one or two big questions. I’ve been asked; “if God has all the power, why doesn’t He stop bad things from happening?” and “why did God put that tree in the garden if He knew that Adam and Eve would eat the fruit?” Sometimes, these questions come out of the blue at the most inopportune times, leaving me flabbergasted. My kids are now fully aware that daddy doesn’t know everything because often my answer is: “daddy doesn’t know. You should ask Jesus that when you meet Him!”
Our God-given ability to ask questions is part of the human experience. However, frustration arises when we have to wrestle with some of life’s big questions without satisfactory answers, especially when there’s suffering. From our perspective, we simply can’t understand why God would let something happen or why He seems unconcerned with our plight. So, we desperately want to put God in the dock. I remember the late Ravi Zacharias addressing the question; “what will be the first thing you ask God when you get to heaven?” He told the questioner that its unlikely he would be able to say anything because he would be utterly awestruck. I think he’s right. Often, we forget that God is so otherworldly that the natural response in His presence is breath-taking awe. It’s unlikely that we’d remember our questions, let alone have the composure to ask them.
This is exactly what happened to Job. Having witnessed the death of all his children and a significant decline in wealth and health, he understandably had several questions for God. Job was blameless [Job 1:8], and he was certain he didn’t deserve his plight. Therefore, he wanted an explanation from God. Wouldn’t you? Yet, I’m reminded of a quote I once heard: “This is God’s universe and He does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.” This somewhat encapsulates what happens next. After thirty-five chapters of Job questioning God and defending himself against the accusations of friends who don’t believe he’s blameless, God makes an entrance.
“Who is this that obscures My plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me”, God says to Job [Job 38:2-3 NIV]. Then, God proceeds to ask Job over sixty questions of His own, leaving him completely dumbfounded. This must have been a startling experience. Think about it, when we talk to God, we usually don’t expect an audible response. But He did in this particular case and left us with His longest unbroken speech in the Bible. God’s questions to Job altered his perspective and reminded him about who was in charge. Something we often forget.
Two observations stand out for me from Job’s experience. Firstly, God didn’t answer any of Job’s big questions. The second is how Job responded when God showed up. Job said: “You (God) asked, ‘Who is this that obscures My plans without knowledge?’ Surely, I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You (God) said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” [Job 42:3-6 NIV]. This is astonishing. A desperate, dejected man who was questioning God because he had lost everything, repents of his questions when God responds, even though God doesn’t answer any of his questions!
Are you like me astonished by Job’s response? Job confessed: “…My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You”. Could this be what we’re missing? Is it possible that we’ve heard of God but we haven’t had a Job-like revelation of who He is? If, as the author of the letter to the Hebrews puts it, God made the universe and sustains all things by His powerful word, while sat on His throne [Hebrews 1:2-3], then He’s unlikely to be flustered by my questions or anything that happens in my life. David also tells us that all our days are written in His book before we live them [Psalm 139:16]. This essentially means that all my big questions aren’t a surprise to God. More important than answering my questions, God wants me to truly know Him. Because If I truly grasp who He is and understand the implications of being His child, maybe my big questions won’t matter as much.
Philip Yancey once made an interesting observation on the Bible. He pointed out that up to the Gospels, the Bible has several passages where God’s servants like Habakkuk, Elijah, Job, Jesus’ disciples, etc., ask God the why questions, especially during hard times. However, after the Gospels, despite some pretty harrowing experiences, there are no more Job-like complaints. Jesus’ disciples continued to encounter hardships but something had changed. Many like Paul would testify amid persecution and suffering, saying, “I know Whom I have believed” [2 Timothy 1:12]. It seems their revelation of who God is was now experiential and personal, not hearsay. Therefore, they could trust God’s methods irrespective of their present circumstance. Perhaps that dispelled the need to question God.
I believe God sometimes stays silent on our big questions, not to taunt us, but to point us to even greater truths. In this thin slice of time, some things just won’t make sense. Quite possibly, even if God tried to explain Himself, we still wouldn’t get it. So, I guess God uses the same approach I use with my kids when they’re unable to grasp what I’m explaining. I say: “just trust me, I know what I’m doing”. Could God be saying the same thing to you and me?