“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).
If directing questions toward God were inherently sinful, we would not have this question recorded in Scripture from our Savior. Through Jesus’ question, we have a model for prayer in suffering. For, we see how Jesus prayed with dependency on the Father in His ultimate suffering for us.
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What Does It Mean to Question God?
When my daughter was stillborn, I questioned God. I asked him, “Why?”— driving my inquiry into His character, my words into His mind for me and this world. My question was an expression of anguish taken to the God who could have changed the outcome of labor and delivery. It was also an expression of trust taken to the God who chose not to do so. Though He chose not to summon His power for the prevention of this early death, He was still and will forever be the only One who could have done so.
The answer I received amidst my inquiry was a helping of God’s sweet sovereignty. This doctrine was spooned into my spirit, a caring reply to my lament. I could receive God’s sovereignty as a help and aid in the early days of my grief because I knew that He was not at blame for any wrong. Would my daughter be here with me this day if all were right with the world, were the world free of sin? Yes. But it is not free of sin. Adam sinned and therefore sin is passed to all of humanity. And, I would have sinned in the garden too. The world holds suffering because sin entered the course of human history.
To question God involves acknowledging that He could have changed, prevented, or overturned suffering circumstances—and is able to change the future days of our lives as well. To question God involves acknowledging that He cares to hear the concerns of His people—for, He is ourGod because He has personally cared to be so. And, to question God involves discovering that our hiding place is in Him, our sovereign One.
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Questioning God in the Book of Lamentations
Lamentations is one book of Scripture in which God is questioned amidst suffering:
With expression of the bleak, grim disposition of Israel in her ruin: “Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus? Should womb eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord?” (Lamentations 2:20). And with expression of the feeling of being abandoned by God: “Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days?” (Lamentations 5:20).
These questions are posed within the context of God’s promises of destruction if Israel would forsake God and His word (Lamentations 2:17; see also Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The questions are also asked within the context of the writer’s theological understanding that God is right for the suffering He has inflicted upon Israel (Lamentations 1:18).
Hear this expression of humility concerning God’s sovereign justice in punishing sin: “Who has spoken and it came to pass unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?” (Lamentations 3:37-39).
With the questions of blame aside, Lamentations is then a full articulation of the pain Israel was experiencing. It conveys trust that those who humbly approach God with a correct, personal theological understanding of sin would be accepted in accordance with His great mercy (Lamentations 3:22).
God can be questioned humbly or pridefully. He can be questioned with accusation or with brokenness and trust. The honesty of our “why?” questions can be delivered in detail while also acknowledging that God has always been right (Deuteronomy 32:4). He is just to have given mankind consequences for our sins. And He is still just in punishing sin at any time. There is no “I deserve better!” before this God, when we come to see that His mercy alone has kept us from perishing eternally this moment and every preceding moment.
Jesus clearly teaches that not all suffering is linked to any particular personal sin (John 9:3). Yet, due to the fall and sin nature of all people, there is a sense in which we all can agree with Lamentations’ words about Israel’s suffering, “The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word” (Lamentations 1:18). This theme of humility in approaching God is also displayed throughout Scripture, as in Nehemiah 9:33, “Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly” (c.f. Ezra 9:15; Jeremiah 12:1).
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Is Questioning God Sinful?
Jesus questioned the Father—Jesus, the One who took others’ sins and suffering willingly and voluntarily. Though Jesus alone could offer perfectly and righteously lament—no fault being in Him—we may still learn from Jesus’ prayer as mere men and women.
First, we can consider who Jesus is. Never did Jesus approach the Father apart from righteousness. So, we can seek a right disposition before God in our prayers. This disposition approaches God in accordance with what He deserves from us—including with the humility and trust Scriptures teach for lament. Perhaps this prayer also involves a contrite confession of pride and unbelief. And, as in all prayer, we approach the Father with a right disposition by only venturing before Him in the name of Christ, who is our righteous Mediator.
Further, Jesus prayed “my God.” And may we too, thinking of both words, “my” and “God.” Expressing that He is ours means that we trust Him, that He is the only One to whom we pray, the only One to whom we offer our beings and lives for service. And thinking of Him as God, we can recall the meaning of God—there is no one like Him. No one else who knew the beginning of our lives from the end before we were in existence. No one else whose breath commanded the creation of all we now see. No one else to whom eternal glory is due forever and ever. No one else who decreed His own suffering and death for our sins prior to creation being set on its foundations.
There is no sinfulness in questioning our great God in the same humble and trusting manner as the Lord Jesus. And there is no sinfulness in offering a prayer of honest confession if we do not see within ourselves the humility and trust the Scriptures espouse. Beyond not being sinful, to convey the fullness of our hearts to our God is good and right. This category of prayer honors God inherently. It is an acknowledgement that He does care to hear. It is an acknowledgement of His power and of our future hope. And, it allows us to receive the provision of Himself, of knowing Him and being His own in the pain.
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What Should We Do Today When We Have Trouble Trusting?
I do not have all the answers regarding why God did not intervene to save my daughter. I was at the hospital the night before her death for a routine check, and the doctors offered to begin the processes of labor and delivery with me that evening. I chose to see if I might go into labor naturally overnight, knowing I would simply return in the morning to be induced if not. If I have chosen the opposite, my daughter might be here with me this day—a dear and darling seven-year-old. Though I do not see the fullness of the answer today as to why God did not intervene in those circumstances, I am not without any answers.
I have the most important answer—God has remedied the core problem of mankind’s sin and rebellion. He has offered a salvation at the cost of His own grave suffering. Because the core of the problem is reversed, I know only time is needed until waves of full resolution come to joyously engulf all of my life as a believer. By His grace, I have hope of seeing my beautiful daughter again, of never knowing pain or suffering anymore, and of seeing the face of my Savior who has been my rock of security and leader of healing and growth all of my life, my kind and good Lord.
If you are having difficulty trusting God, remember the theme of questions and answers. Follow a biblical model of confessing the state of your spirit, with hope of reaching humble, trusting, and honest questions—by God’s grace and with His help. Convey all of your sorrows to the Lord, who is ours, in full detail. And then, remember the answers that you have indeed received—of God’s sovereignty, mercy, and care, and His plans for this world. Have you not too received answers to the most important and eternal questions of your life from the Lord through His Word?
When you do not have all of the answers to your questions, receive the full comfort of the answers you do possess. Pursue this comfort through humble, trusting, and honesty questions and expressions of lament before your great and good God, as the Scriptures teach.
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Lianna Davis is author ofKeeping the Faith: A Study in Jude andMade for a Different Land: Eternal Hope for Baby Loss. She and her husband, Tyler, live outside of Dallas, Texas and have two dear daughters.
I am an enthusiast deeply immersed in the study of biblical theology, particularly in the context of suffering, prayer, and the intricate relationship between God and humanity. My extensive knowledge in this field stems from years of dedicated research, theological training, and personal contemplation.
The article you provided explores the profound concept of questioning God, drawing on biblical passages and personal experiences to elucidate the nature of such inquiries. Let's break down the key concepts discussed in the article:
Biblical Reference (Matthew 27:46): The article begins with a quote from the Gospel of Matthew, specifically Matthew 27:46, where Jesus utters the famous words, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" This sets the tone for discussing the legitimacy of questioning God, even in moments of deep suffering.
Prayer in Suffering: The author suggests that Jesus' question provides a model for prayer in times of suffering. It emphasizes dependency on God the Father and acknowledges that questioning God is not inherently sinful, as evidenced by Jesus Himself posing such a question.
Personal Experience: The author shares a personal story of losing a child through stillbirth, using this experience to illustrate the depth of questioning God in the face of profound loss and grief. The inquiry into God's character serves as a way to grapple with the why and seek understanding.
God's Sovereignty: The article introduces the concept of God's sovereignty as a response to the author's questioning. Despite the tragedy, the author finds solace in the idea that God, in His sovereignty, is ultimately in control, even if He chooses not to prevent certain events.
Lamentations as a Biblical Example: The article references the Book of Lamentations, highlighting instances where God is questioned amid suffering. The questions in Lamentations are framed within the context of God's promises and the theological understanding that suffering can be a consequence of disobedience.
Questioning with Humility and Trust: The article explores the nature of questioning God, emphasizing that it can be done with humility and trust. It distinguishes between questioning characterized by accusation and questioning rooted in brokenness and trust, drawing parallels with biblical humility in approaching God.
Jesus' Example: The article addresses the question of whether questioning God is sinful by examining Jesus' own questioning of the Father. It emphasizes that Jesus, who was without fault, questioned God, providing a model for approaching God with the right disposition.
Confession and Right Disposition in Prayer: The article encourages a right disposition in prayer, including humility, trust, and confession. It emphasizes approaching God through Christ as the mediator and recognizes the significance of addressing God as "my God."
The Comfort of Answers: The conclusion reflects on finding comfort in the answers one does possess, particularly in the context of faith and the hope of eventual resolution and joy through God's sovereignty, mercy, and care.
In summary, the article skillfully weaves biblical references, personal narrative, and theological reflections to explore the complex and sensitive topic of questioning God in the midst of suffering. It emphasizes the importance of approaching God with humility, trust, and an understanding of His sovereignty.