Tuesday, April 11, 2017

On Questioning

I'd like to discuss the idea of questioning God. I know this is a controversial topic, but I'm not sure that it should be. During Julia's and my long journey with her cancer, questions inevitably were raised about how God is working. We weren't actively looking to discredit God, and we still 100% believed He was working; but it was the nature of our situation that brought a confusion about how God was working and does work in general. I'm sure many of you can relate to this confusion brought about by life circumstances. 

The problem is that many Christians I've encountered in my life see questioning as a weakness, or a lapse in faith. I don't think this is Biblical. I believe these people confuse questioning, or asking questions of HOW God works, with doubting, or not believing that God CAN work. Of course, we all go through doubting at some point or another as well, but I don't believe it is healthy for a Christian to go through long periods of doubting. I DO believe it is healthy and Biblical to question God, even for long periods of time, as long as you're believing God can provide an answer, and you're putting in the work to find answers. 

In the Bible we see that questioning God is encouraged. One of Jesus' main methods of teaching during his ministry years was answering questions from various people, mainly disciples and Jewish leaders but others as well (Mark 10 is a good example). Questioning/testing is encouraged by Paul when it comes to examining different doctrines (1 Thess. 5:20-22). The Old Testament is full of laments of Godly people crying out to God and questioning how He works. Jesus even questioned God on the cross, with a question we all ask in hard times, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46).

Image result for thinking man statue
Image: https://significantlystatistical.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/statistical-thinking/
Doubting, however, is not encouraged in the Bible. A good example of doubt is when Peter was walking on water and he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink (Matt. 14:31). When we are questioning we are keeping our eyes on Jesus, looking to Him for answers, but when we doubt, we're taking our eyes off Jesus, looking somewhere else, or to ourselves, for answers. The other well-known Biblical example of doubt is Thomas (John 20:24-30). I believe Jesus rebuked him not because he was skeptical of whether Jesus was resurrected - it makes sense to be skeptical, or need evidence, for such extraordinary claims. Jesus rebuked Thomas because he had plenty of evidence (first-hand accounts from many other disciples) but he still doubted that God COULD raise Jesus from the dead after seeing His Lord be killed unexpectedly. In the end, Jesus was gracious and gave him the evidence he needed, as He so often does when we doubt.

If you believe that we shouldn't question God at all, you are asking us to put away the brains that God gave us, and to reduce our beliefs to a blind faith that whatever we've been taught must be true. I don't believe this is what God asks us to do in His word when He says through Paul, "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" (1 Thess. 5:21). I believe questioning is not a lack of faith but actually a sign of faith and confidence that God can and will answer your questions in due time. It may look like confidence to never question God, but this is a fake confidence - we all need to be open and admit we have questions, but we need to also believe that God can provide answers. 

I'll leave you with some of the questions that have been most prominent for myself in this journey of my wife's cancer and recent passing. I would like answers to them, but I also am not demanding immediate answers from God. I believe God is big enough to handle these questions, and that He will answer them in His perfect timing.

  • Why did an all-powerful God have to create a world with suffering in order to accomplish His purposes?
  • How do we reconcile that prayer is effective (James 5) and God gives us whatever we ask for if we believe (Matt. 21:22), but we don’t always get what we pray for?
  • Why does God allow faithful followers of His to endure suffering and death while evil tyrants live a long, prosperous life?
  • How can suffering be the result of sin if much of suffering is random (cancer with no risk factors, being born in Africa vs. North America, etc)?
  • If God desires families to be formed and used for His glory why are there so many barriers to strong families (infertility, infant/prenatal mortality, disease, spousal/parental death, etc)? 



Postscript Update:
I'm working on the new "Cancer Caregiver/Spouse Resource" site I talked about. Other things, including a trip to the US for my brother's wedding (yay!) and going back to work, have slowed the process but it will be live fairly shortly I hope. I struggled to find a good, available domain, but I finally found a good one I think: www.myspousehascancer.com.

5 comments:

  1. Andy, thanks so much for writing. Appreciate your honesty.

    As you are working on your website there is a great resource in the Ottawa area, the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation runs workshops for Caregivers as well as one on one coaching. Its all free. I received coaching as a cancer patient and it was very helpful. They may even know of other resources that are helpful for your website.

    http://www.ottawacancer.ca/

    All the best to you! You're in my prayers.

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  2. Thank you for sharing Andy. I've always felt the first sin that Adam and Eve committed allowed sin into the world, and though it's not what God wanted, it is what He allows and everyone on earth feels the effects of that sin, but the good news is that one day, life will be how He DID intend it to be, and so we will never again question if His way really is better.

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  3. how have you been?

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  4. Thank you so much for your post Andy. Though we don't know each other, I've been a Forestview-er for many years and was praying for you and Julia and continue to pray for you, your family and friends. This is such an important topic. I think so often as Christians that we see questioning as bad or having a lack of faith. However this post reminded me that questioning God is an opportunity. God wants to be in relationship with us- asking Him questions is another way to grow closer to Him and grow in our trust of Him. What a gift! This post has reminded me that God is plenty big enough for my questions and it has also encouraged me to "boldly approach the throne of grace" with my questions. God bless.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this Andy. I love your honesty about what you've been wrestling with and feeling. I was a caregiver for my dad when he was diagnosed with cancer, and have had a similar period of doubt and questioning. Honestly, I'm still in it. I don't know if this is encouraging for you, but on one of my own prayer runs/yelling sessions with God, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Lazarus' death. When Mary came to him with her questions and anger, crying at his feet and asking "Why Lord? Why didn't you come? Why didn't you heal him?" And Jesus' response was to weep alongside her. And I think maybe God reminded me of this story because He wanted me to see that He was weeping alongside me too. I still don't understand why terrible things happen, but I do know that we have a God who cries with us when they do. Your encouragement to not be afraid to question is such important advice - God is bigger than our questions, He is not distant from our pain, and He holds space for our doubt within His enormous love. Thanks for your words. Praying for you.

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