The question usually comes after we’ve been praying for some sort of breakthrough or when something has gone terribly wrong. It’s almost instinctive – the first thing that comes out of our mouths, even when we have a logical answer for it – the cancer was genetic, the driver was drunk, the advisor gave us poor advice. Still we ask it.
Some say you shouldn’t ask God ‘why’. God’s thoughts are higher than ours, so we can’t understand them (as in Isaiah 55:9). And therefore, our propensity to ask should be dismissed in place of a higher position of submission and silent trust.
But I can’t help but wonder. If God longs to be in close relationship with us and wants us to open our hearts to him, then wouldn’t it follow to ask him why he’s not answering? To seek understanding for why things haven’t gone the way we expected?
Maybe we won’t get an answer. Maybe there are things too great for us to comprehend or things that we’re not ready to hear.
Or maybe we are.
Maybe he’ll show us some of those things that are too great for us to know. Maybe we are ready to hear what he says.
I think of the Apostle Paul who prayed for God to remove the pain in his life, described as a ‘thorn in the flesh’ (2 Corinthians 12:7). Some speculate that Paul’s problem was an eye disease because of his reliance on scribes and the need to write ‘in large letters’ (Galatians 6:11). Or perhaps it was an emotional issue – like a difficult ex-wife (since members of the Sanhedrin were expected to be married). We don’t know what Paul’s thorn was. What we do know, is that it caused him untold agony and he pleaded repeatedly with God to remove it.
In the end Paul didn’t get release from his thorn. Instead He learnt that God’s grace was made perfect in his weakness and that his pain presented an opportunity to grow (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He began to understand the mysteries of the Holy Spirit and saw the ‘deep things of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:9,10). While he didn’t receive his healing, he got an answer for his why.
In another time in history, there was another group of God’s people who, like Paul, were going through a difficult time. But unlike Paul, they didn’t ‘enquire of the Lord’. They didn’t seek God out when their city was under siege and their homes were under threat. They didn’t ask why God seemed absent.
They don’t know me.
They don’t know what I am like.
They don’t seek me in the midst of their trial. (Jeremiah 2:5-8)
Personally, I think it’s perfectly okay to ask why. We were born for divine purpose and when the plan seems to go awry, we long for meaning in the midst of it. Denying those questions only turns them inward where they fester and eat away at our souls. Jesus himself cried out to the Father from the cross; Why have you forsaken me? even when he understood the answer more than any of us ever could (Matthew 27:46).
In the midst of trial, perhaps we will receive the answers to our whys. Perhaps we won’t. But asking God the hard questions of life is a form of intimacy. It’s borne of an understanding that he cares enough to listen; that he is close to the brokenhearted and he knows what it means to suffer. Ultimately crying out to him is a call to draw closer; the one thing he will always respond to.
Tania Harris is a pastor, speaker and founder of God Conversations, a ministry that equips people to recognise and respond to God’s voice. She is the producer and presenter of The Other Side of the Conversation and the author of The Easy Way to Hear God’s Voice. When not ministering, she is most likely to be found kayaking on Sydney Harbour or climbing a really high mountain and skiing down it! Hillsong is her church home in Sydney, Australia. For your free ebook, podcasts and resources that will help you recognise the voice of God, visit godconversations.com.