Many times in my life, I have heard Christians “encourage” others toward greater “faithfulness” with some form of the admonition: “We must not question God!” This is usually presented as an obvious standard of a strong biblical faith. I find this to be ironic on a biblical level and very non-helpful on a personal level.
First the personal. As a person who cannot help asking questions, I have never found such “encouragement” to be very encouraging. In fact, most of my spiritual growth as a follower of Jesus has come by moving through my questioning into more trust. But my personal experience can certainly be challenged as perhaps less than mature, less than faithful, weak, or idiosyncratic. I suppose it has been each of those at various times.
What should never be ignored by those of us wishing to encourage others toward a more mature biblical faithfulness is how often biblical writers expressed confrontive questions to God. In fact, they seem to see this as expressions of their trust in their relationship with God. In this blog, let’s look at one question often asked of God—“How Long?”
“How long?” was not a question hoping for an answer like “Three more years and six months.” It was a passionate “Come on God, do something, stop this mess!” Here are a few examples.
“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2—a plea for God to do something to straighten out the decline of the nation.)
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God!” (Psalm 13:1-2—a prayer of a trusting, but hurting, individual.)
“How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who live in it the animals and the birds are swept away, and because people said, ‘He (God) is blind to our ways.’” (Jeremiah 12:4—complaining that people are destroying the society and the environment with no thought that God cares or will ever act.)
“They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” (Revelation 6:10—faithful martyrs frustrated that God is taking so long to move history forward into God’s future kingdom of justice and righteousness.)
You could also check out Psalm 6:3; 35:17; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 89:46; 94:3 for other examples of the prayerful, trusting, but confrontive question to God—“How long?”
Perhaps some of us who have questions are not a completely lost cause?