We may have heard that we should not question God because questioning may cause our faith to weaken. I have heard someone say we should never end a prayer with words something like, “If it be your will,” because those words imply we don’t believe we will get what we ask. As new believers what do we do with these kinds of ideas? Should we believe everything we hear? Should we question what we hear and read? Should we question what we hear and read about Jesus? Will questioning weaken our faith? Let me share what I have learned during a half century of being a Christian.
Questions and doubts are not all bad. The Bible gives many examples of people who questioned or doubted God. One person was even one of Jesus’ original disciples. Let’s look at a few other people too. In Acts chapter ten we read the story of Peter who questioned a voice in a trance about whether he should eat unclean animals. The meaning of the vision in the trance was that Peter should share the gospel with people who were not Jews. Through the vision in the trance and asking three times whether he should eat the unclean animals, Peter became convinced he should share the gospel with Cornelius, a Roman centurion and the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Gentiles. These concepts were new to Peter and I think in his case he was questioning to clarify what he heard. Since I am a Gentile, I am thankful for Peter’s questioning.
Apostle Paul faced a time of questioning. He believed a person was saved by faith and not by keeping the law. He was persecuted and challenged in every town he entered because of his teaching but he never wavered, writing most of the New Testament sharing how Jesus saves us through God’s grace and our faith in him. The result is that people in the thousands have been saved because of Paul’s letters. I am thankful for his letters because I know I never could have kept the law.
Even though I questioned I never stopped believing. Now I have faith to believe God can get me through anything.
The Corinthian church was a young church and had many questions on many topics so they sent Paul a letter. What we call 1st Corinthians is an attempt to answer some of their many questions. Because of their questions we better understand communion, marriage relationships, gifts of the spirit, and love. Were they wrong to question their faith? I do not think so.
These three examples are of people who questioned doctrinal or spiritual issues and they went to an authority to find the answer. Their answers changed history. What do we do when the question is an issue of personal faith? Many years ago I had an experience where I questioned God. I found myself underemployed and over obligated financially. Routine activities ceased—such as going to the post office to get the mail and answering phone calls—for fear of hearing from a bill collector. My credit score plummeted. I couldn’t even get credit to buy fuel for my furnace in the winter. My depression hit the ceiling. I barely had enough emotional strength to go from my bed to my couch and back to bed again.
For seven years I suffered, asking God why, what have I done? My house was in a town of about two hundred people, two houses to my east were a corn field and then country. I frequently went for walks in the country begging, praying, bargaining, and scolding God over my employment condition. God never told me the reason but after seven years I got a job. Looking back at that experience I realize God did not abandon me; we always had food and clothing and we made the house payment. Because of my deep, emotional soul searching and questioning whether God could or would provide for me I learned some important lessons. Even though I questioned I never stopped believing. Now I have faith to believe God can get me through anything. I do not worry about the economy because I know I am included in God’s economy.
My situation reminded me of 1 Kings 17:7 “Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land.” My savings were gone, my credit was ruined, my brook dried up because I had no employment. Eventually God restored the rain, refilled the brook, and took care of my problems. I questioned him but I grew. I left a legacy to my children that even when times are tough and we question God, he is still with us teaching us and helping us to grow.
Another important lesson I learned is when I reached my rock bottom, Jesus was my rock on the bottom. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NIV). “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6 NIV). I believe Jesus wants everyone to learn about him and will take us through whatever it takes for us to learn.
Questioning is a good way to learn any subject. When we find the answer we have a much better understanding of the subject. When our doubts concern God we need to be careful not to let the questions destroy our faith. During those seven years I continued to attend church, continued in my leadership roles in the church, and continued my regular financial support of the church. I grew into a much stronger believer than I ever could have become by reading or listening to a teacher. Like Job, I knew about God, but having gone through a time of testing, I believe I knew God.
Jesus taught by asking questions. Good teachers imitate him. Good learners question their teachers until they understand the material. As believers, we need to cling to the truth that Jesus alone can save us, and then we can question or doubt everything else until our understanding becomes a part of who we are. Once our questions are answered, we never forget them. When we find the answer we are seeking, the history of our lives is changed forever as we grow deeper in our faith. We may also find an answer for which we were not seeking.
I was seeking a job and never learned why it took so long to find one. I learned how much God cares because he never left us destitute. I know that no matter what may happen in my future I can trust, and will trust God. Despite having advanced degrees and many years as a Christian, those seven years taught me more than I ever learned at any other time.