It is the “why” questions that make us lose faith, right? Why is God not answering? Why is God allowing this? Why is this happening to me? These turbulent and troubled thoughts weigh us down and cause us to doubt God’s goodness as we wander through the wilderness.
The idea we want to explore on this Mindful Monday as we make our way through the wilderness is simple: Is it okay to ask God our why questions? And if so, how do we ask those questions?
THE PLACE OF QUESTIONING: IS IT WRONG TO QUESTION GOD?
Whether we admit it or not, we want to know. When God takes us on a wilderness experience, we wonder, we guess, we surmise.
Did I do something wrong?
Is God punishing me?
Do I lack faith?
Then we panic. Panic turns to desperation which leads us down a scary path of shaking our fists at God and demanding answers like Job.
Maybe you have been there. Maybe you’re on your way. Maybe you are too ashamed to admit that you are in that place right now.
I’m here to reassure you that asking questions is okay.
IT IS HUMAN TO ASK WHY DID GOD LET THIS HAPPEN
If you as a parent, grandparent, relative, or teacher have been around preschoolers lately, it does not take long to figure out that a child’s favorite question at that young age is why…followed by several more! A simple conversation can go something like this:
Child: Why do I have to go to the store?
Parent: Because we need to buy food to eat.
Child: But why?
Parent: Because our bodies need food to live.
Child: But why?
Parent: Because God designed them that way.
Child: But why?
Parent: Because he is God and can do what he wants.
Okay, so maybe if you have more patience than I do, your conversation looks a little different, but it is innate in all of us (from the time we learn to talk) to ask why. Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the garden with a why question and people have been inquiring of God ever since that time.
So it is normal and natural to ask why. Questioning and reasoning are part of the human experience.
But asking why when we are wandering in the wilderness is a little different.
THE WHY’S OF THE WILDERNESS
The why’s of the wilderness are much more powerful and poignant because we are desperate and distraught. In our broken and weary condition, Satan likes to take advantage of us with questions that make us doubt God’s presence and faithfulness.
Why doesn’t God provide for my needs?
Why doesn’t God recognize or reward me for what I have done?
Why doesn’t God rescue me from this pain?
These are common questions as we wander in the barren desert searching for an oasis to give us hope. King David, who was no stranger to wilderness experiences, pours out his heart to God in many of the Psalms with the very same questions. We can learn so much from his example of how to ask the why questions which torment us.
DAVID ASKS THE WHY QUESTIONS
In Psalm 13 we find David in one of the deepest, darkest pits of his life. Completely alone and hiding in a cave from a madman named Saul who wants to take his life, David feels abandoned by God. At least that is how he describes his desperate condition at the beginning of his lament:
1 O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
with sorrow in my heart every day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
I don’t know about you, but I can relate to these questions! They resonate so strongly that I feel them deep in my soul.
No matter where you are in your faith journey…whether you have been walking with God for years or have just reconnected with him…it is possible to reach such a low point that we can no longer feel God’s presence. While we may not be cowering in a cave fearing for our lives like David, we can encounter similar difficulties. Here are some examples of how wilderness experiences can look different for each of us throughout our lives.
- A wilderness experience can begin with an illness or surgery that interrupts our plans and makes the future uncertain.
- A wilderness experience may start with an unexpected job loss and the stress from increasing financial needs.
- A wilderness experience can occur with the onset of depression or anxiety where relief is scarce, and people misunderstand.
- A wilderness experience may involve marriage and family difficulties where relationships are strained, and expectations are unmet.
So, if asking why is not the problem, what is? If David ended his Psalm there, he would spiral down to the miry pit and stay stuck. But thankfully, David does not do this. Yes, he is real and raw in asking God the hard why questions. He does not hide his feelings of abandonment and hopelessness. He doubts God’s provision, God’s plan, and God’s presence, but then…
DAVID CRIES OUT TO GOD
David does something few of us think to do when we feel so utterly lost and alone: He looks up and cries out:
3 Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.
He pleads with God. “Look at me, please! Answer me, please! Restore me, please” Even at one of his darkest moments, David knows God is the only one to whom He can turn. Have you come to that realization in your wilderness? Have you cried out to God? It is the perfect place for us to start when we have questions. Why? Because only God has the answers we seek.
DAVID RENEWS HIS TRUST IN GOD
We cannot gloss over the last two verses of this Psalm because the ending is the best part. David asks his questions, pleads with God to respond, and then lifts his head. And in that movement, God assures David of his presence and power in such a real way that David can sing.
Questions turn to praises. Doubting to singing. Sadness to joy.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love.
I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
6 I will sing to the Lord
because he is good to me.
When David ends this psalm, we assume he is still hiding in the wilderness, so how does David get from “Lord, you’ve abandoned me” to “Lord, you are good to me” despite his unchanged circumstances?
He starts with a question…several questions in fact. Real, raw, and heartfelt questions. But David doesn’t stop there. And neither should we. We need to follow the process by moving from questioning to praising. That is the way of the wilderness.
Still think you need some help getting there on this Mindful Monday? For my email subscribers, I will be sending out another FREE JOURNAL REFLECTION page that will help guide you through the questions that may be troubling you in the wilderness.
Until then, I am praying for you as we make our way through the wilderness together.
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