questions and answers

There are some questions in life that simply must be asked, but they don’t necessarily need to be answered.

I was watching TV recently as a well known presidential candidate was being interviewed. You've seen it; one of those split-screen political numbers, where one man is extremely positive and plastic and the other’s holding a stare and comb-over combination serious enough to hold down both his hair and the network ratings. And so after some light conversation between the two, the interviewer begins grilling the politician with these yes or no, black or white questions about where he stands on all the hot-button, divisive issues of the day and what his opponents have said about his record.

So I’m at the edge of my seat thinking how he’s option-less and absolutely screwed w
hen, all-in-a-sudden, the politician begins this brilliant rebuttal where he essentially turns the questions on end and questions instead what his opponents were doing when he was accomplishing the greatest feats of his political life. Anyone watching witnessed a proverbial jumping roundhouse kick- a real piece of political kung-fu magic.

In the book of Job we meet one of the toughest questions in the human experience- the question why.
In Job we enter the story of a sort of cosmic conversation between God and the deceiver where God allows Satan to test the loyalty of Job by taking from him his material possessions, his family, and then his health. So Job takes this awful plunge from adornment to agony like an E! True Hollywood Story where our once so enviable hero falls from the heights of fortune to utter despair. Early in the action, Job endures an almost domino like progression where he keeps getting messages from servants saying, “All the flocks and herdsmen have been lost and only I have survived to tell you.” Or “All the houses of all your children have collapsed and only I have survived to tell you.”

And piece-by-piece everything in his life falls apart.

So afterward, Job sits with his friends in silence for seven days before he finally opens his mouth and enters into a full-length self-deprecating complaint with God, where he curses the day he was born and questions the purpose of a life destined to and intentioned for pain and suffering.

It’s like his soul has been absolutely exhausted. He even says at one point, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.”

Have you been there? Maybe these are your words.

And so Job finds himself surrounded by differing explanations for his condition. On one side, three friends say he’s being punished for wrong-doing and must identify what law he’s broken and rid himself of the sin.
But on the other side is a younger friend, Elihu, who disagrees but says that Job’s grievances have been misguided and ill advised. “Do we accept only the good from God and not the bad?” he asks.

And it’s here, at the end of Elihu’s monologue, where God speaks and puts an end to Job’s complaints, questions and all the commentary.

God says, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
And He goes on and on and on, for like 4 pages (depending on the size of your Biblio), continually humbling Job and anyone hearing or reading the story and flipping questions and complaints on end.

Many times when we ask questions of God we unknowingly err. We don’t do wrong in simply asking, but we fault in questioning the character of God. Our questions often have less to do with a “why” and more to do with a “what”- “What are you doing?” we ask. “Do you know what you’re doing to me? What are you God, good?”
And attitudes can creep into our inquiries that presuppose that God owes us an answer- as though his absolute goodness were not answer enough. You see, if questions are good- and I think they are- it’s because of the humility and modesty found in them when we admit, expose, and become aware of our own limitations.

Maybe we’re all too easily impressed by our questions. Maybe our questions are far outweighed when seen alongside God’s questions for us like, “What is the way to the abode of light? And where does the darkness reside? Can you take them to their places? Do you know the path to their dwelling? Surely you already know, for you were already born!”

Have your questions become dangerous fallacious statements; statements that suggest that, “Possibly God isn’t in control; it could be He’s capable of mistakes and misjudgments; maybe God isn’t good after all?”
Maybe something terrible and senseless has happened to you and you need to take comfort when Elihu reminds us, “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong.”

What are your questions? Are they a sincere expression of humble deference, or statments moonlighting as questions, doubting that God in fact is what He says He is- Love.

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