I’ve found this interesting trend among those who are “young” in the faith (no matter what age they are). I’ve witnessed it countless times: a fear of questioning God.
I think it usually starts with good intentions; the individual recognizes the fact that God is the Creator and he or she is just a creature… who are we to doubt God?
The thing is, even if it isn’t happening verbally or in prayer, I find that this doubt and these questions often seem to consume the thoughts of these individuals. The questions remain… even when they aren’t being asked. Who does this really benefit?
Satan. Satan is who benefits when we don’t bring our questions to God.
Think about it. Satan can’t “create” anything, so he has to take what is good and twist it just enough to make it damaging for us. By holding on to our questions, and not bringing them to God, a rift is created. We are keeping a part of ourselves — a very formidable part — at a distance from the Truth. Somehow, we convince ourselves that this honors God… or maybe that it keeps him in the dark about our doubts.
The truth is, it does neither of those things.
Biblical Saints who Questioned God
There are lots of people in the Bible who questioned God, and God’s responses to each one of them was all a little different. Some answers were pretty harsh, others were much more calm. A perfect example of both these types of responses can be seen at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel.
1. The Harsh Response (Luke 1:5-24): Zechariah, a Levite and Mary’s cousin-in-law, was High Priest that year. The lots chose him as the priest to enter the Holy of Holies (God’s sacred dwelling place within the Temple). Upon entering, an angel appeared and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” Zechariah replied with a question, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” God, through his angel, gets a little ticked off and responds,
“I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words….”
2. The Calm Response (Luke 1:26-38): Shortly after, this same angel appears to Mary, repeating a similar message which almost gives one a sense of deja vu: “Do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” Mary, like Zechariah, responds with a question, “How can this be, since I have no husband?” God, through his angel, is not upset by her question and responds,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
What’s the Difference?
The parallels of these two passages are hard to miss, especially since Luke includes them in the same chapter of his Gospel. Both the similarities and the differences are striking –even the details included in Scripture (that I did not include in this post) all match up almost exactly:
- Gabriel tells both “do not be afraid”
- He tells them they will conceive sons in what seem like impossible scenarios
- The names of both children are given to their parents before their conception
- Gabriel prophesies about the future of both children (details I did not elaborate on)
- The parent in each scenario asks “How…?”
- Zechariah is answered harshly; Mary is answered calmly
So what is the difference? What did Zechariah do wrong?
Based on what we can see, the only logical explanation seems to lie somewhere we cannot see, someplace only God can see…
…the intentions of Zechariah’s heart.
Mary’s question came from a humble heart. She was seeking understanding of her role. Zechariah’s question came from a place of pride and disbelief; he thought there was no way that it was actually possible for Elizabeth to conceive a child. His question, while it was legitimate, was also more of a challenge.
Still, it was good that Zechariah asked the question –even if he did it “wrong.”
Ask– Even if You’re Not Perfect in the Way You Ask
Like any good parent, God punished Zechariah. The Lord disciplines those whom he loves (Proverbs 3:12). Since Zechariah was not really listening, he made Zechariah unable to speak. God made it so that Zechariah had no choice but to listen.
It was during that time of discipline that Zechariah’s heart softened. God gave him time to ponder the situation. I bet he replayed that appearance of Gabriel over and over again in his mind… and I bet he had time to realize what he had done wrong.
We know that something changed over those 9 months, because when the baby was born, he used a tablet to write the boy’s name, insisting that his name had to be John– just as the angel had said it would be. It was then that Zechariah’s ability to speak was restored and he spouted a prophesy about his own child (which is now included in Morning Prayer and prayed by millions across the globe every day).
During his time of trial, Zechariah’s heart was changed. God uses our trials in the same way. He gives us the opportunity to grow in love and trust. Zechariah accepted that grace, but he could have just as easily rejected it.
The Bigger Issue
I have also found another common occurrence when it comes to questioning God. In Zechariah’s case, he simply did not believe that God could help Elizabeth to conceive. More often, in our day and age, I encounter more doubt in the belief that God will intervene.
I know this pain. I’ve lived it. I’ve watched (and am currently watching) people that I love dearly doubt that God is there…doubt that God listens to them specifically…doubt that God cares about them. He does not seem to answer their cries or their questions.
This breaks me in a way that almost nothing else in this world can. If you are one such individual, I’d like to lovingly reassure you that you are in the best of company… for Christ himself went through this same feeling on the cross. Among the last of his dying efforts was the cry, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
For those of you struggling to believe God cares about you, I beg you to pray this prayer. Pray it daily. Say it multiple times throughout the day if you have to…
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”
Whether you’re heart is like Mary’s or Zechariah’s, God is going to answer you! It may be immediate (like Mary), it may take 9 months (like Zechariah), it may take 12 years (like the woman with the hemorrhages), it may take longer (like the hundreds of years the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt). While the possible length of time to wait for an answer is a tough pill to swallow, I hope the results of these answered prayers bring you hope.
- Zechariah was restored
- The woman stopped bleeding
- The Israelites were freed and given great riches by the Egyptians (not to mention the Promised Land)
- Jesus came back to life
Don’t Stop Asking
Question God. Demand the answer. Bang on his hypothetical door until he answers. He will answer… maybe calmly, maybe harshly… but always with merciful intentions. He wants to restore you. He wants to heal your wounds. He wants to stop the bleeding. He wants to free you, and give you great things. He wants you to have an abundant, joy-filled life.
Just keep asking.