Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lessons from a Week, Questions for a Lifetime

I have long appreciated the nature of the question. I have studied it, asked questions of its essence, its purpose, its origin. I have asked them of other people who know more about them than I. I have asked them of my students who know less about them than I. I have gathered those same students together to help me count the number of questions there are in Scripture because I felt that some answers to my questions about questions would surface in that endeavor. So I now know that there are approximately 2,534 questions in Scripture. I know that Job has 262—the most of any book in the Bible. I know that Isaiah and Jeremiah come in behind with 168 and 169 respectively, followed in number by Psalms with 146, John with 145, and Luke with 135. The process of counting questions in Scripture caused me to love questions all the more. I had a hunch that questions played a vital role in the educations of the Hebrew nation, and I felt a bit of confirmation in the discovery of those 2,534 questions in Scripture.

This past week I greeted, stroked, and helped burry, I talked and cried with the parents and family of, I read to, gave gum to, and played with the siblings of a beautiful baby girl who was able to make more of an impact in the short time we got to see her than many have in their lifetime. Sweet Mary Genevieve raised so very many questions. Why? How? What if? What will we do? What should I do? One seems to question much when death visits a home. But one questions so much more when it is the death of a child. Why is this grief so different?

I have heard many propositions about questioning in the midst of difficult times of grief or trial. Many of those have taken the road of supposed least resistance and said that we should not question God and His purposes for our lives. But I have seen many who have taken that road crumble under the weight of guilt, go mad with the agony of loss, or work themselves into the grave trying to create a redemptive story from one of loss and pain when they themselves yet have no hope. Some of them end up ok. But they never move past the grief or trial to being more than just ok. Why is it not only fine to ask questions but good to ask questions at such times as these?

If in my search I had found one or two questions in Scripture—maybe even five—I would have questioned the importance of questions in human life. But knowing that there are at least 2,534 causes me to realize that God intended us to be a questioning people. But remembering that we as a questioning people are made in His image, we must also remember that He is a questioning God. The first recorded dialogue between God and man in Genesis 3 came at The Fall when God asked questions of both Adam and Eve. “Where are you?” “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” “What is this that you have done?” The first recorded dialogue between Jesus and man in Luke 2 came when Mary and Joseph were looking for Him during the Feast of Passover “Son, why have you treated us so?” To which Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” The first recorded encounter with the Holy Spirit and man in Acts 2 caused a flurry of questions. “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?” “What does this mean?”

Though God’s questions are often different than our own questions, He is our ultimate standard since we are made in His image, which means that we should seek in all things to be more like Him—even in the asking of questions. His questions are never selfishly motivated. His questions are never a complaint. His questions are never vindictive or accusatory. His questions are, on the other hand, always probing, expectant, revealing, sincere, intentional, and full of hope. The question should not be, “Is it right to question God?” but rather “Am I asking the right question of God?” Is my act of questioning born of a victim mentality or out of a longing to be changed and truly comforted?

Father, we know that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. But we are feeble, weary, and worn. What does it look like? This grief we are to bear? Teach us to grieve, even as you teach us to love and question you as we ought.