I cannot imagine any of my three children having grown up without asking us parents many times “Why?” The questions came in various situations—“Why can’t I/we?” “Why did you?” “Why won’t you?” etc.
Neither can I imagine being a child of God and not asking “Our Father in Heaven” the same kinds of questions. Learning not to be afraid to ask what we think and feel whether we admit it or not is part of the maturing process. Being able to question is part of a trusting parent-child relationships even when the specific question shows some distrust in the parent’s immediate actions.
In my previous blog, I noted some examples of the freedom biblical writers showed in asking God “How long” God is going to put up with the social and personal injustices that fill our world?
Here are a few examples of the freedom of God’s children to ask “Why?” Again, as in Job’s case, some flow from current personal suffering. Habakkuk’s why’s are more focused on social injustices while Jeremiah’s flow from both social and personal pain.
Job 21:7-10 (7-34)—“Why do the wicked live, reach old age, and grow mighty in power?
Their offspring are established in their presence, and their descendants before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, and no rod of God is upon them.”
Job continues on noting that even when a major catastrophe occurs in the culture, it is usually the wealthy and powerful who survive pretty much unscathed as the poor suffer even more. Even though Job’s response is directed at his “comforter” friend, it is clearly a “Why” directed to God. Note that when God finally responds directly to all of Job’s questioning and brings some correction, God is still far more pleased with Job than with Job’s comforters who are telling him to quit questioning God.
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 13—“Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.
So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted . . . . You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”
Habakkuk is disgusted with what is going on in his nation and wants to know “why” God isn’t doing something about it. Then, when God reveals that God is about to do something about it, Habakkuk is overwhelmed with the thought that God might bring judgment upon the sins of the nation at the hands of a nation that Habakkuk thought was even worse than we are. Why would God allow that?
Jeremiah 12:1-2—“Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? You plant them, and they take root; they grow and produce fruit; you are near in their mouth and far from their heart.”
Jeremiah complains because people who talk religious talk act in ways that destroy others. He also complains because his world does not look like the world Psalm 1 says should result when people put God first as Jeremiah is attempting to do.
A few other examples of poignant “why” questions appear in Ps 10:1; 22:1; 43:2; 44:23-24; 74:1, 11; 88:1; and Isaiah 63:17.
But perhaps the one that gets explained away most often, but should comfort those of us with “why” questions the most, appears in Mark 15:34—“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Clearly this “Son of God” did not hesitate to ask “Why?”
It is true that sometimes we children of God do not like God’s answers to our “Why?” questions any better than we liked our parents’ answers to ours. And, as our parents tried to tell us, sometimes we cannot understand why until we mature a lot more or arrive at a different place in life; meanwhile, we just need to trust God. But we need not fear admitting we have the questions, nor do we need to fear openly asking them of God. They are part of the maturing relationship.