This is a slightly edited version of part of a sermon I delivered in April encouraging the congregants to feel comfortable questioning God, asking what they might think are tough questions of God.
I would like to encourage you, during this strange time of virus concern especially, by assuring you that it is OK to ask hard questions of God. It is even OK to ask questions of God that state or seem to imply some disappointment in God or confusion about what God is doing.
“What’s up with that, God?”
We are human. God knows this. God knows we become disappointed and confused. He knows us better than we know ourselves and loves us, regardless. God knows our actual thoughts and feelings. We cannot hide those from God.
God loves us. God does not just love the person we would like to present to God, or the person that we pretend to be to some people, or the person we are working on and hope to become. God loves “us”—the person that we actually are, right now, today. That is the person God knows and loves. So, it is OK to be that person with God.
Go ahead, ask God. Don’t be shy.
Don’t Let James 1:5-8 Stop You From Asking Hard Questions of God
Some people hesitate to ask tough questions of God because of James 1:5-8: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do”
When I ask God, I must not doubt? No doubt? At all? None?!
And no doubt about what? God? That God will answer? That God will give me what I ask? That God can do what I ask?
Unstable in all that I do? Everything?!
We Are All Out to Sea
I think James’s “you must believe and not doubt” when you ask God something is an encouragement towards increasing our faith and lowering or eliminating our doubt about God’s ability to deliver. Not a requirement of no doubt. But encouraging us to work towards increasing our faith and lessening our doubts.
I do not think it is a rule regarding when God will and will not answer — “Oh, you did not hit 0% on the doubt scale, so nothing for you from God!”
That is, James explains that the reason you “must” believe and not doubt is that, otherwise, you will be “like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”
Fair enough, James. That I am one who both believes and doubts puts me in danger of being blown about by the wind. I hear you. Aren’t we all on this sea, though?
I suppose that if I believe and have a little doubt, I met get blown about just a little. And if I believe a little and have a lot of doubt, then I am in danger of being blown all over the place. Fair enough.
It’s the Expectations
I suppose, too, that it is contradictory to both doubt that I will receive something and also expect to receive something, so maybe I, as James says, “should not expect to receive anything.”
But, yet, as I am one who both believes and doubts, even if I “should” not expect something, as James says, I still do expect something from God — the belief part of me expects to receive an answer from God.
So, I am a one who both believes and doubts. I think a lot of us Christians are that. And I am also one who expects to receive something from God.
So, I think that James explaining that “[s]uch a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do” refers to a person who doubts and does “not expect to receive anything.”
Or maybe I am “unstable in all that I do.” That, too, is possible. If that is true, would I know?! Anyway, I think I have a lot of company if that is true.
But Then I Realize: Let James 1:5-8 Encourage You to Ask Questions of God
But then I realize what James said in the first place: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
Whether I am unstable or not, whether I am blowing around on the sea like a sailboat in a hurricane, or whether I have a little doubt or a lot, God is not finding fault with me and is giving generously, per James.
So, ask away and expect to receive answers generously.
It’s Only Natural
In asking questions of God like the ones described below, you are not rejecting an expectation of receiving. Indeed, just by asking God, no matter how skeptical you might be in the moment, you are expressing some expectation of an answer.
It is only natural for us to wonder why is this taking place and to ask where is God in this? And to ask other questions of God.
Do not beat yourself up or be disappointed in yourself if you have questions for or about God. Ask the questions, especially the hard ones.
The Bible Gives Us Examples of Asking Questions of God
Be encouraged that the Bible gives examples of asking God such questions:
- “Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)
- “How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1)
- “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:2)
- “Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24)
- “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2)
- “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” (Habakkuk 1:3)
- “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Habakkuk 1:13)
- Jesus even asks of God “Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Notice all the assumptions and accusations in these questions—- that God is hiding Godself in times of trouble, that God has forgotten them, that God is sleeping and has rejected us, that God has forgotten our misery and oppression, that God isn’t listening, ….
Compare your questions with those! Those are ones in the Bible.
So, ask away. Ask God your questions.
You might ask God, “Why, LORD, do you stand so far off when people here are suffering from worry and anxiety about themselves and others regarding this virus? Why do hide yourself in this time of virus? Why don’t you help more?”
You might ask God “How long, Lord? Will you forget me and others as we struggle with this virus? How long will you hide your face from us while people suffer and worry? How long will you seem to be uninvolved with helping us?”
Ask your questions
Asking the Same Questions of Ourselves
When I ask questions of God, I try to ask those questions of myself, too.
This is doing, in part, what the Apostle Paul challenges us to do in 2 Corinthians 2:5-6: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? ….”
When I ask myself the same questions I have of God, I try to examine myself and how I answer those questions in the faith.
I try to put my trust in Jesus as I challenge myself with the same question.
So, for example, if you ask the questions I mentioned above to God, I encourage you to also ask yourself things like “Why do I – [insert your name here] – stand so far off when people here are suffering from worry … ?” Why don’t I help more? How long, [insert your name here]? Will I forget others as they struggle? How long will I remain uninvolved in helping them?”
Ask your own questions, though.
Asking and Listening
Sometimes God gives me answers to my questions of God when I ask such questions of myself. I know my answers are not the same as God’s answers, but some important things are often revealed in this process.
I realize I might be standing far off when I could comfort a friend, by being with them, for example. I discover how I could do more to help others. If I think about it, there is something I can do. And so on.
Sometimes I discover what actions I — myself — should be taking to reflect Christ.
So ask and listen.
So, first identifying the questions I have for God, and then asking these questions of God and myself, and engaging in prayer and Bible study and engagement over them with others and with God wherever I can, gives me knowledge and wisdom that helps me. And it gives me action I should take.
All that, just by asking some tough questions of God.
Sources & Notes
All scripture from the NIV unless specifically mentioned otherwise.
Picture is from Pixel2013 on pixabay.