I used to teach a 5-day course at work, once or twice a year. The content was fairly technical and intense, and students who were still awake by Friday were to be commended. On Friday morning, I would traditionally bring in a couple dozen bagels (with cream cheese), and share with the class. Not only might this have reflected favorably on the student’s evaluation of me as a teacher, but students with mouths full of carbohydrates are also less able to ask difficult questions!
Throughout history, people have asked God a lot of questions. Some of them are relatively easy (from a human perspective), while others are much more difficult (and He is probably the only One who can answer them). Given the precedent and God’s reaction to questions, I think that we can safely say that asking him honest questions is OK.
Other times, though, we don’t ask Him questions. We instead think that we have the answers, and even get a little frustrated when God doesn’t seem to have the same point of view. Whether we are arrogant enough to think that we’re as smart as God, or just ignorant enough to think that we understand what God thinks (outside of specific elements of His will that have been made clear to us), we may start to tell God that – in our minds, at least – He is “doing the wrong thing”.
When this happens, though, we (like food critic Anton Ego in the Pixar movie, Ratatouille) need a bit of perspective. Long before the silver screen was invented, a guy named Agur wrote the following, recorded in the book of Proverbs:
Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know!
Proverbs 30:4 NASB
Agur understood that the Creator of the universe has knowledge and wisdom far exceeding his own. This does not preclude human searching, science, or study; however, it reminds us that we can never reach God’s level of insight and understanding. While we always seek to learn more about the universe around us (both near and far), we must acknowledge that there will always be much that we do not yet know. In this case, we must humbly admit that we don’t know everything!1
Compare this with Job, when he realized – and admitted – that he had spoken out of turn.
Then Job answered the Lord and said,
“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
Job 42:1-3 NASB
In Job’s case, God clearly had a plan, and there was much going on that Job (and his friends) could not see. Not only was their view limited to the corporeal world, but it was probably limited to their own point of history (that is, none of them knew you and I, nor the lessons that we could learn from their experiences, millennia later). Furthermore, their belief that suffering was directly – and locally – correlated to personal sin was simply incorrect. (Suffering in general is a consequence of humankind’s sin, but there’s so much of the latter, that sometimes bad things spill out onto people who don’t seem to deserve it.)
Don’t be afraid to ask God anything, of course. I’m only suggesting that we not accuse Him of not knowing what He is doing. Of course, we’ve probably all done that occasionally, and God is forgiving. At some point, though, His actions have made it perfectly clear that He is both omniscient and holy. He knows what he’s doing, even when we don’t. We can take the evidence that He gives us, and trust Him for the rest; or, we can ignore that evidence and limit ourselves to, well, ourselves. May we be like Job, as the passage above continues:
‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:4-6 NASB
- If you don’t believe me, just look at people from a few decades ago – or even centuries ago – who thought that they were reaching the point where we’d know all there is to know! For us to think the same is a little arrogant, and inconsistent with what we do observe. ↩