Why questions? A number of answers jump to mind.
With questions we probe the unknowns of life.
A scientist uses questions to break new ground in a given field. The archaeologist literally breaks ground in asking, “What happened here in past years?” Questions help us find our way when we’re lost in an unfamiliar part of a city. Questions also knit the fabric of a growing relationship as we explore a friend’s thinking.
But questions are not always welcome. Picture a child with an unending litany of “how come” or “why” or “what” questions flooding a kitchen as a harried mother works on a meal. It’s all too easy to offer a stern, “Ask me later!” that when repeated too often can quell a child’s God-instilled enthusiasm to learn and grow.
Questions can be unwelcome, too, if they touch sensitive parts of the soul. What comes of a question about a man’s family when—without you knowing—he’s abandoned them for another man’s wife? Or ask someone you know casually about his or her finances. Or what your friends believe about abortion, or gay marriage, or God. Questions carry a relational risk so many bright folks prefer to stick with small talk.
Here, then, is my question about questions: how does God respond as we question him? Are inquiries irritants or are they welcomed?
Any answer must start with a sound view of God.
If we see him as distant and angry we are likely to avoid him. But if he is an engaging God with a kindly disposition towards us we’re much more likely to approach him.
The premise in evangelical Christian circles is positive: God is good and he loves us. But there’s still a hitch: our sin. Even a good friend will give up on us if we regularly lie, cheat, and steal from him. How, then, do we relate to a pure, holy, and blameless God when all of us have at least a few moral faults?
Here we have another evangelical axiom: we are fully forgiven in Christ. But that truth doesn’t always translate into a rich relationship. An abuser usually knows not to press into a damaged bond, especially if God is the victim.
With this moral dissonance in view—and taking it to be an obstacle to spiritual growth—let me suggest a proper pathway for our questions. Picture yourself as a driver whose car is stuck in a mudpit with spinning wheels. A good question is, “How do I get out of this mess?!”
It helps to realize that we drove into the mess ourselves.
We do well, then, to avoid a skeptical premise that God is unfair and uncaring. Eve, for instance, was drawn into the serpent’s deception with a skeptical question about God’s single restriction: “Did God really say?” Evil came with this brazen dismissal of God’s love. And even today any efforts to blame God for the fruit of our own spiritual carelessness won’t impress him.
Positively, we can be sure God wants us to be honest and practical with him. If we can’t overcome sin without God’s transforming work in us—for “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)—why not ask him questions about how to move out of our mud?
This may not apply to all of us, of course.
If any of us feel like we’re living up to a high moral standard apart from Jesus then he won’t seem very attractive to us. He said as much when he explained that he came to save sinners, not the righteous.
So for those of us who know we have some problems with God, we will do well to ask him to show us the way forward. Humble questions tend to be direct, honest, and faith-based. So, too, we’re free to be childlike—with a profusion of questions—because it is God who creates an instinct in us to grow spiritually once we have his Spirit within.
Once we trust him and begin to live within that trust a whole host of additional questions emerge. These faith-based queries allow us to explore the heart of a Triune God whose personality is unendingly creative and winsome as he shares his spreading goodness to us and through us.
Finally, be sure to listen.
Ask away and then read the Bible with a sense of adventure as he uses it to respond. You’ll love what—and who—you discover there!
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo.
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].