My last blog dealt with the hard truth about God’s occasional silence and apparent disengagement in some of the darkest times of life. While many replied with their appreciation for letting them know they were not alone in their frustration in some vain attempt to discern the mysterious ways in which God operates, some voiced concerns that I had lost my religion or was turning from the faith. This is one of the problems I have with the modern evangelical approach, the raised-brow responses because some don’t walk around humming Oceans all day long.
If you are a serious student of the Bible, digging deeper than just jotting down notes from the weekend sermon, you should be able to name a few men we consider Biblical heroes who, at some time in their journey, questioned God. For those who get their religion from television, let me name them for you. You will see that when I ask God questions to which I know I will not receive answers, I am in good company.
We all know about Job, described as the most holy man on earth in his time. Job never neglected God and offered sacrifices for his family so that God would favor and forgive them. And yet God allowed every one of his children to perish as a test of faith. Job had questions in the midst of his trials. His ultimate response to God, “It would have been better if I had not been born“. I don’t hear him singing Good Good Father in that moment.
David, described as a man after God’s own heart, was forced to flee for his life and live in desert caves. He had been told he was the anointed one to succeed Saul, but wondered if he would live long enough to see it come to pass. His response, “Why have you abandoned me? Why have you hidden your face from me?” Of course God was with him, but David didn’t sense it-he could only respond to the reality of the eminent danger he was facing at the moment. No Relentless Love playing in the background of this scene.
Jonah ran from God because he didn’t want to be the prophet to tell Nineveh they were going to die for their wicked ways. After coming to his senses and being regurgitated onto a beach along with the entire stomach contents he had lived in for three days, he obeyed and prophesied to Nineveh, only to see God have compassion and change his mind. Jonah felt he had been tricked and used and that his credibility as a prophet was now tarnished. His response, “I’m so angry I wish I were dead“.
Elijah was chased into the desert by Jezebel who wanted him dead. Elijah, who would live to see God do amazing things through him ended up in the desert under a tree, wondering why he was being so severely tested after he had been nothing but obedient. His response, “I’ve had enough-I give up God, just take my life.” I don’t think he was sensing the double portion in the desert.
Joseph, my namesake, was sold into slavery by his own brothers. He ended up a servant in Potiphar’s estate. When Potiphar’s adulterous wife threw herself at Joseph and begged him to give it to her good, Joseph literally fled the devil and ran from temptation only to be falsely accused of rape and ended up in prison. A prisoner for 13 years when he had done nothing wrong. I’m sure Chain Breaker was not the first song on his lips.
And then there is Jesus, God’s only Son, perfect and blameless, sent to fulfill a mission no one else would ever be qualified to fulfill. And yet, He sweat drops of blood in Gethsemane asking God to relieve him from his duties. His ultimate response, hanging from the cross, our Lord and Savior, our eternal hope, our namesake, asked his Father, “Where are you? Why have you forgotten about me and left me alone?”
Like I stated, I am in good company!
While it’s true that believers should be role models for faithful living, the life of living from mountaintop to mountaintop that is portrayed by several leaders, with anything less being a sign of something in our spiritual lives that has gone awry, is quite simply a mischaracterization and gross misinterpretation of the Christian life. In many ways being and remaining Christian is a much tougher road than that of a nonbeliever. We are promised that if we want God’s best, we will have troubles, we will be sorely tested and challenged, we will be refined by fire itself and some will have their lives turned upside down. Who in their sanity would ever truly welcome that kind of a life? The beloved 23rd Psalm states that we will walk through, not over and not around, the valley of shadows and death. It also makes no mention of how many times we will find ourselves there or how long we will be forced to journey through it each time. If someone in their raw transparency asks the tough questions of God when they are in their own valley, they should not be looked down upon as being weak-they should not have people sending them the latest videos of salvation sermons du jour or be added to the local prayer chains over their backslidden status.
God designed us all as free moral agents so that we would choose to love and worship him. That comes with the compulsion to ask God questions we want answered, even knowing we may never ever see the purpose or the good that results from being allowed to face difficult life-changing situations. Sometimes when we look back we can connect the dots, sometimes their is no clear connection or pattern and we just have to carry on. That doesn’t make us bad or weak or even ineffective-it makes us wholly real! I have already resigned myself to the fact that I won’t know the answers to my questions until the day comes when the answers will no longer be important. Until then, I hope to let people know it’s okay to have serious questions. And yes, lest someone beat me to it, all the examples of men I cited above eventually came to their spiritual senses and were restored, but not before their words and doubts were recorded for us. Now if they were all such bold men, why do you think the scribes of the Bible were inspired to include their times of questioning? Something to ponder.