Another pair of arms wrapped around me in sympathy. The same whispered words escaped from her lips that I’d already heard many times. “I know we aren’t supposed to question God, but . . . “ Her words faded off to a sigh.
Silence confirmed neither of us knew the answer to the unspoken question.
Why did God allow this to happen? No woman should ever have to bury both of her children and her husband on the same day.
But I did.
How could this be your will? Why did you leave me behind? What am I supposed to do now? Questions filled my mind. None of them had answers. And many people didn’t seem to think I could even ask the questions of the only One who knew the answers. Where did that leave me?
I always asked my Dad questions.
My Dad said I could always ask questions. And I was good at it. After all, I had a great teacher. I learned from watching him. He asked questions everywhere, of anybody.
“You got some peanut butter in that kitchen of yours? I’d like some on my BLT.” Then he watched the perplexed waitress. At first, she would think he was kidding, because his blue eyes sparkled with orneriness. But he wasn’t kidding. He liked peanut butter with his bacon. In most cases, he talked the waitress into getting it for him too. He succeeded in disarming her with his grin. Before you knew it, he asked some question about her family and she answered it.
Sometimes it was embarrassing.
Like the evening he pulled up beside a parked car on the country road near our home. “Need some help?” he asked.
The young man with his arm around the girl beside him stammered, “No sir.” I hid behind the headrest in the backseat of our car.
“They probably didn’t need help Dad,” I sighed.
“Well, they might’ve,” he said. I knew he was making sure everyone in that car was safe. He kept a close eye on things around him – including me. Asking a question gave him the chance to check on things.
So, what would Dad say now, if he were still here? Would he tell me to ask questions?
Without a doubt.
I realize that not everyone had a good, kind father on earth. But I did. So, I know that good, kind fathers welcome their little girls’ questions. If that’s the case, then it’s ok to ask our Heavenly Father questions too. Because I believe He is a good, kind God.
So, I asked Him all the questions of my heart.
Questions helped me learn.
Questions come when we don’t understand something. That’s why we teach children to ask questions. In fact, teachers often say, “The only dumb question is the one that’s not asked.” Questions correct misunderstandings, give us new knowledge, clarify explanations, and give an instructor opportunity to explain the lesson in different ways for different types of learners.
God’s children come in all shapes and sizes, languages and cultures, skill levels and ages. He knows every single one and understands their thoughts and feelings. Nothing of their past is hidden from His sight, nothing in their future will surprise Him.
He uses lots of different teaching methods, but storytelling seems to be one of His favorites. Many of the stories in the Bible tell us about people who asked God questions.
When an angel told Mary, she would soon conceive and give birth to a baby boy, Mary asked, “How can this be?” It didn’t make sense to her. How can a virgin be found with child? She received her answer straight from an angel, without reprimand. God knew it was beyond her understanding, so He explained simply, but without detail, just like a parent explains a complexity to a small child. (Luke 1:26-38)
Abraham questioned God’s ability to keep His promise. Years had gone by since God promised Abraham and Sarah a son. In fact, He promised so many descendants that no one would be able to count them. But nothing happened for years. So, when God came to Abraham again, promising to be his great reward, a frustrated Abraham responded with “What can you give me since I remain childless?” Here, too, God responded without anger. He reaffirmed the promise though, encouraging him to believe when he did not understand. (Genesis 15:1-6)
God patiently answered Abraham’s and Mary’s questions because He knew they didn’t understand. He told them enough to help them continue to trust Him. Their faith was well placed. God kept His promises.
Stories like these assured me God would not get angry with my frustrated questions. It gave me the courage to ask God why He allowed such tragedy to happen to me. God told me enough to help me continue to trust Him.
Does God ever get annoyed with my questions like Dad did?
My Dad sometimes tuned me out because I talked a little too much. I must admit I did that with my children too. Just the other day, I tried to watch a movie with a four-year-old on my lap. It didn’t work very well. She asked incessant questions about the movie which I couldn’t answer because I couldn’t hear the television over her. Guess what I did?
I sent her to her father – who knew the movie from watching it many times. He quietly answered her questions at her level. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t hear the movie because he knew exactly what to expect.
God knows our story well. He knows the answers to our questions. He listens to his children each time we talk. He is not distracted by trying to watch something else. In fact, He is able to listen to all of His children at once without missing a single word from any of them, even if they all talk nonstop.
As I chose to trust God, His presence became more real to me. I discovered there’s no question too big, and no question too small for God. He helped me make basic, everyday decisions, and He patiently listened to my repetitive why questions.
Arguing with my Dad was a bad idea.
My dad was kind and good. He kept his promises and he told the truth. But he got angry with me when I backtalked him. Dad’s decisions were final. There was no point in arguing unless I wanted to be in trouble. I could ask a disappointed “Why?” but not a belligerent one.
God doesn’t like for us to argue either, but He is patiently persistent. The story of Jonah illustrates this concept. (Jonah 1-4 tells the whole story.) God told Jonah to go to Nineveh to preach to the people. They were in danger of being destroyed for their violent disobedience to God. Jonah didn’t want to go, so he didn’t. He got on a ship, but he headed the wrong direction. Maybe he thought God wouldn’t notice.
A big storm came up. The sailors thought the gods were angry. Jonah finally spoke up. He told them it was his God who was angry, and they should throw him in the sea to make Him happy.
Seriously? Did God want to kill Jonah? No. Quite the contrary.
But Jonah was hoping to die so he didn’t have to obey God.
In His great love for Jonah, God rescued him from the depths of the sea. He caused a whale to swallow Jonah whole. That wasn’t quite what Jonah expected.
After a few days, the whale upchucked ‘ole Jonah on the beach. While he was laying there in the sand, seaweed and vomit, God repeated his instructions. “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:1)
God is even more persistent than my Dad.
So, Jonah obeyed. He preached to the citizens of Nineveh and they responded! They chose to believe in God, admitted their sin, and changed their lives. This was truly miraculous. The Ninevites were known for their vicious and unrelenting war tactics. No one expected change. The neighboring countries wanted them to be destroyed. That’s why Jonah didn’t want to go preach to them. In fact, Jonah fumed against God for His mercy toward the Ninevites. “. . . Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3)
Even at this point, Jonah would rather die than be a part of the rescue of Nineveh.
God explained his point with questions.
“Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4) “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people. . .?” (Jonah 4:11)
God corrected Jonah for his disobedience, and his attitude, but with His magnificent love, He protected him and set him back on the right path. He will do the same for us. Just like my dad did for me. But our Heavenly Father has an advantage over our earthly dads – He can see us wherever we hide, even if we try to run away.
I argued with God about His assignment for me many times. It took several years of wrestling before I embraced God’s idea to leave me on earth. He gently and persistently tugged on my heart until I surrendered to His plan. Now I long to help others find life and hope through faith in God, and His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, ask our loving God life's hard questions.
God hears our heart’s questions. He knows the answers to each one, but he also knows what we are capable of understanding. He will explain what He can, when He can, like any good father. His patience and love are unending for us. He is good and kind, and He will not punish us for honest questions. He loves to hear from His children.
Trust Him with the questions of your heart.
That’s what I did.