One, a church professional with a tight handle on theological sensibilities, dares question God and is given the mute button, struck down with an embarrassing affliction.
The other, a youthful girl, with nowhere near the training or ecclesiological acumen of her counterpart, also questions God and is promptly rewarded with one of the greatest things God has ever done for a single individual in the history of the world.
I suppose it follows if you’re going to question God you’d best know how to do it. You may not be dealt a physical disability, but you still don’t want to play fast and loose with the Sacred.
Far fewer times than you’d think I’ve been asked about my disability through the years, “have you ever questioned God?” If you know my story, it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that my response is always a resounding no, never.
In a very real sense you could even say I asked for it.
Philip Yancey said he read where Jesus had a question thrown at him 157 times in the Gospels, and 153 times he answered with his own question.
The answer, turns out, was always in the question.
The Bible is a God-book. Inarguably, it’s a book of answers to humankind’s dilemma. As sure as there ever was a reason to be sure about anything, and as knowable as our God is, still the Bible is also a book of many questions. It’s been researched out that the Bible has almost 3000 of them.
One of the champion question-lobbers is a guy named Job. Preachers have often pounded their pulpits and wrongly, if not overzealously, shouted: “Job never once questioned God!!!”
Pretty sure there were around 15-20 times he wanted to know “Why?” and until the closing chapters, God is not very motivated to answer him. But then, from the eye of a hurricane, God clears His throat and enters the conversation with – you guessed it: questions.
77 of them!
It’s HOW you ask the questions..
I’m not one of those who subscribes to the ‘it’s never right to question God’ school of thought. It really comes down to how you frame the ask.
Oh, absolutely many of our questions are rooted in selfishness and faithlessness, and, dare I say, sinful unbelief.
[Re: You owe me an explanation!]
Such whining brooks heavenly silence most of the time.
In the case of the why-ing of Job it can be argued – granted – that many of those times were borderline accusations, but you don’t really know until you’ve been there. Unscarred, untested, armchair critics best tread lightly with the man Job. I happen to think he was not attacking God so much as he was deeply hurt and yearned for an Advocate.
Is there no part of you, God – no tender place in You – that pities me?
There are times when our questions are the only worship we can offer.
In such times, to be met with silence – Lewis’ descriptive “go to Him when your need is desperate and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and the sound of bolting and double-bolting on the inside“1 – isn’t indicative of a God who is, in fact, aloof. Not by a long shot. Think of his silence as you would a dramatic pause: something profound is coming. Wait for it…
I like Chambers here:
“When you cannot hear God, you will find that He has trusted you in the most intimate way possible – with absolute silence. Not a silence of despair, but one of pleasure, because He saw that you could withstand an even bigger revelation.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost…
So back to the two people I alluded to in my opening. In short, they are Zechariah and Mary respectively, both having figured prominently in the incarnation of THE WORD (not the question)!
- One would father the ‘Pointer’ to Messiah, the other would mother the Answer who is Christ.
- Both their stories fit in the same chapter (Luke 1).
- Both questioned God.
“How can it be?”
But there the similarities end. One was rebuked, and the other was blessed. It’s all in ‘how’ they asked.
When Zechariah asked “how” (Luke 1:18) – as an old man married to an old woman – his motivation was more, “how can I trust God with such a thing?!”
When Mary asked “how?” (Luke 1:34), her question was framed more as “how can God trust ME with such a thing?!”
That’s the difference, friend. And while Zechariah’s mouth was shut, Mary’s womb was opened.
The question from the well-versed, professional steward of God’s ways (which hid a skeptic’s scorn) resulted in his speech faculties being graphically silenced, while the humble girl with nothing to lose burst into song (Luke 1:46-55)!
Come to think of it, Job’s epilogue takes a very similar turn.
Moral of the story? You can ask, so long as you follow it up with a song. God’ll listen to that all day long – and will even join in. No question about it.
1C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed