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Questioning God?

7/16/00

Some people tell me they never question God; others say that they can't help but question God. Who's right?

To those of you who can't help but question God I say, How dare you! The Book of Job is filled with Job questioning God. What have I done wrong? Why won't you hear my prayers? When will you give me my day in court to plead my case before you? And how does God describe the questions of Job? "Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: 'Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?'"

How dare you question God! You think you're smarter than God because you can ask questions that God can't answer. What a fatal error in logic you've made. Any nonsensical question is unanswerable. A child doesn't look smarter than his parent when he asks, "How many hours in a mile?" Or, "Is yellow square or round?" Children don't look smart when they ask nonsensical questions; they look childish.

Besides, who are you to be questioning God anyway? Should the finite question the Infinite, the creature the Creator, the powerless the All-powerful, the pot the Potter? In Romans you can almost hear St. Paul shouting when he says, "Who do you think you are to talk back to God like that? Can an object that was made say to its Maker, "Why did you make me like this?"

Our questions treat God as if He were simple-minded, as if His plans must be simple 2+2 equations that work out in the next step. Is that how great authors are? Aren't great authors infinitely subtle and resourceful in writing their novels? You can't tell the end or even guess it from the beginning. They don't write 2+2=4 but 2+2x4-3x24+3-2x5=. Writers aren't heavy-handed and obvious in working out their plots, and neither is God in working out life. But we think we know where God is going from the beginning, so when a plus or minus enters the plot that we aren't expecting we question if God can really get us to where He's going with our life. But the truth of the matter is we were wrong about where He was going to begin with.

How dare you question God! A question implies that God must answer you. But God doesn't owe us answers. Christ gave no other reason for the gospel being hidden from the wise and revealed to babes except this: "So it pleased the Father." God explains why He loved Jacob and hated Esau by saying, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."

That bugs you, doesn't it? You think God should have to explain Himself to you, but that means you think there is another god above God - because if you can find a cause or reason for His will, you have found another God. Cause and reason are behind everything created things do, but there is no cause or reason for what the Creator does unless you set up another God over Him. God by definition must be the One whose will has no cause or reason because nothing can be superior or even equal to Him.

But this doesn't stop some of you from questioning the cause or reason behind God's will. To you I can only say be very careful with your questions because you might not like the answers God gives you. Look at the answer Jesus gave the apostles when they asked, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Jesus replied, "Why are you such cowards?" and "Do you still have no faith?"

I suppose I've made those of you who never question God smug, but I'm not through. To you who can't help but question God I say, "How dare you!" But to those who never question God I say, "How dare you not!" And it's to you that I ask the frightening question, "Where is your faith?"

Don't you believe what St. Paul says in the epistle lesson from 2 Corinthians?" Don't you believe that God reconciled Himself to the entire sinful world? Don't you believe that He did this by not counting men's sins against them? Don't you believe that instead of counting our sins against us He counted them against Christ? Don't you believe that God made Christ who never sinned to be sin by covering Him with all of our sins? Don't you believe that in Christ you now have all the righteousness of God, so there is not one single sin of yours visible in the eyes of God?

Since this is true, God can't be angry with us. We have no sins which deserve His anger. He views us as His dearest sons and daughters for whom He would gladly do anything. He is no different than an earthly father: He only wants to give good gifts to His beloved children. If you believe this to be the case, how come you don't have questions popping up in your heart? Would you give your son or daughter cancer? Would you allow even a pet of their's to die suddenly? What loving parent would allow a child to be murdered, raped robbed, or even scared if they could help it? Then why does our heavenly Father do or allow these things?

Don't you see that this is what pressed the apostles in the boat to ask, "You care don't you, that we're perishing?" They knew Jesus' heart went out to lepers in their illness. He had compassion on those mourning for their dead. He even was concerned for people who were just hungry for their lunch. Surely He must care for them in this deadly situation. Surely Jesus loved them enough to save them. And surely He had the power to do it. Remember at least 4 of the men in the boat made their living on the sea; they had weathered many storms over the years. Yet when this storm came up, they didn't rely on their seamanship but they went straight to Jesus. They had seen Jesus muzzle demons, rebuke fevers, and raise the dead. Surely He could handle this!

We know the love and power of our Jesus too. How dare we not question the God we know is able to silence storms when storms approach! How dare we not question the God we know shut up the sea behind doors when troubled seas comes flooding into our homes! How dare we not question the God we know has the power of life, health, and happiness in His loving hands when we are faced with death, disease, and despair?

Where is your faith in the great love of God if you're heart doesn't question the lovelessness of His actions? Where is your faith in the great power of God if you're heart does not question His helplessness in the face of suffering and dying? Are you finding refuge in fate along with so many others? This just had to happen. How dare you say that! There is no "have tos" with God. He didn't have to call home your loved one when He did. Fate didn't degree to God almighty that this sickness must befall you. God doesn't consult the stars to determine what is going to happen each day.

Job questioned God because of what He saw happening: the death of 10 children, the loss of all of his livestock, the disgusting disease that befell his body. These didn't square with what Job knew about God's love and power. David questioned God when He saw how the wicked prospered; it didn't make sense in light of what he knew about God's grace and might. And even Jesus Himself questioned the Father in Gethsemane and on Calvary. His torturous suffering didn't agree with Him being the Almighty Father's only beloved Son.

Now many of you are confused. Am I or am I not to question God? The Law says absolutely not. Who are you to question God. But the Gospel of grace, mercy, and peace pulls questions out of our heart not in rage, not in defiance, but in child-like trust, "How come Daddy? I know you love me more than your only Son; I know there is nothing that you cannot do. You love me enough and are powerful enough to spare me any suffering? How come you don't Daddy?"

Children of God end up at this point, and they are very vulnerable when they do. They may have friends, like Job's, who will try to answer their questions based on the hidden God. These friends will search through God's unsearchable power, wisdom, and majesty. They will speculate on how, on why, for what purpose did this or that happen. Some of it, like in the Book of Job, sounds very Biblical and godly. But we are to look nowhere else but to the revealed God for answers to our questions. God in the storm didn't answer Job's or the apostles' questions; in each case God had to clearly speak to reveal Himself.

Where does God reveal Himself today? That's the question that plaques many. They end up looking to their feelings and beliefs or to what is happening around them to answer it. But the only place to look is where God told you He would be; there God reveals His intentions towards you.

Don't look in the storms of life. Don't look for God's purposes in the violent rainstorms that pelt your life. Don't deduce what God wills for your life from the thunderstorms that bear down on your home. Don't try to figure out His intentions towards you from the flood waters advancing on your home. The only water that God reveals Himself in is the waters of Baptism. There's no threat in them; there's only forgiveness, deliverance from the devil, and salvation. There is no danger in the waters of Baptism; they're safe enough for our babies to wade in, but deep enough to wash away even an adult's sins.

And don't look for God in the deafening silences of life. You know the ones. Where the doctor says, "I don't know what to say." When the police say, "I'm sorry but.." Silences like these all but drove Job crazy. All he wanted was for God to explain Himself. But there was nothing but his grief, his suffering, his sickness and silence from God. This is how it is for us too, and there is no comfort in silence. Go, therefore, to where God speaks. God has put His Word in the mouth of a sinful being like you. He has told this man to speak His Word of reconciliation, and forgiveness to you.

Don't listen for God in the silences of life where the doubts, the fears, the anger can overwhelm you. Listen for God where He has told you He would speak. Listen to the absolution where your pastor forgives your sins, where he sends them away from you as far as east is from west. Stop speculating about what God might be saying to you in the silences of death, disease, or despair. Hear what He is plainly saying to you by the mouth of your pastor: "I forgive you. Your sins, regardless of what they may be, are not being paid for by the problems you are now having. I finished all My bill collecting on the cross."

Dear friends go to where the hidden God has concealed Himself for you. God wraps Himself in all sorts of scary, deadly, depressing things. This is not where He wants you to meet Him. Here at this altar He wraps Himself in plain bread and wine. Whose afraid of that? Here in, with and under bread and wine, God comes to you in safe, ordinary things so that you might not be afraid of Him!

When all around you God seems to lurk behind death, behind suffering, behind sickness, you look to the Holy Communion and say, "There is where my God has promised to communicate with me. Here He gives me His very body and blood so that I might know every bit of Him is on my side. Though everywhere else I look it may seem questionable if God is on my side: right here at this altar there can be no doubts. He is all here for me and my salvation.

The pagan Nietzsche said, "He who knows the why can bear with any how." This is not what the Christian says. Job never did find out the why, but when God revealed Himself out of the storm he did find out the who. In Baptism, absolution, and in especially Communion you find out the who. And the one who knows the who can bear with any how even if He doesn't know the why. Amen