Some people think that one should never ask God “Why?” about anything. Others seem to be very interested in asking God “Why?” about all kinds of things.
Asking God “Why?” is not necessarily doubting His goodness or His love. It depends on why you are asking “Why?” and on what you are asking. Sometimes, asking God “Why?” is actually declaring that you believe that God has a good reason for what He is doing: that He is in control, that He is wise, that He is loving. Sometimes, you may ask God, “Why do you allow me to sin?” – because you hate your sin and want to be delivered from it, you know this desire comes from God, and you know He has a reason – which you would like to know. When you ask God this, or why He allows others to defile the reputation of His Name, either by their blasphemous words or by their blasphemous actions, you are not doubting that God is good, that He is holy, that He is in control, or that He has a reason for all that He does – and all that He does not do. Rather, you are expressing your confidence that all these things are true. Sometimes, you may even ask God why He gives you so many pleasant things that you can enjoy, like water, or why He made something wonderful. You can also ask God why He allows terrible things or horrible suffering without doubting His sovereignty, His goodness, or His love: you would not be asking Him if you doubted His sovereignty, for He were not sovereign, what sense would there be in asking Him why He allows these things or makes the world so? You ask Him “Why?” because you know that He is good and loving, and so you know that He must have a reason for allowing these things: He must hate them as much as you do, in fact, infinitely more! So, He must have a good reason.
In your personal life, when something affects you very closely, you may ask because you want to know His will for you: you want to know what it is in you that He wants to show forth or change. You may want to know how He wants you to pray, or to pray for those around you, who are either suffering more than yourself, or with you, or causing your suffering (or all three). You may not know what you want, or why you are asking “Why, God?” but that does not mean that you are asking “Why?” because you doubt Him in any way. As long as God has not told you not to ask “Why?” – as long as you do not know that your asking is sinful – I believe it is quite acceptable. God may want to reveal His reason to you, and He may want to do it through your asking for it. At times, it may even be sinful not to ask God “Why?” However, sometimes He may want you not to ask Him, or you may be asking nonsense or a question to which you should not or cannot know the answer. We should always obey God.
On the other side of things, I shudder when people say, “Don’t be afraid to ask God! He can take your anger and your doubt.” In fact, I cringe even having written that. God is infinite Love and He is patient beyond measure: but we must never try Him: His love is Holy love. Do not, I implore you, ever give that advice to anyone: how do you know that he or she will not die for testing the Living God, as the Israelites fell in the desert? It is a sin to doubt God’s goodness or love (though it may not be a sin to suspect that something you have been taught about God is not true and is evil: certainly if what you have been taught – or what you have understood or misunderstood – is not right). It is a sin to doubt God: it means you accuse Him of being unfaithful, of being like a man, a creature: it is a blasphemy.It is a sin to be angry with God. It means that you accuse God of sin: it means that you blaspheme. Nor does the fact that God knows how you feel mean that it is all right to accuse Him, to tell Him, not with shame, trembling, trusting in the blood of Jesus and praying to God to change you, in confession of sin, but with boldness. If you tell that to someone, you are leading them to damnation: for God is holy, and in the end He will judge all who hate Him, and all who are angry with Him will be put to shame. If you tell that to someone, you are dissuading them from repentance, from turning to God: you are attacking the conviction of sin, the shame at sin and the shame in the presence of God, which sinners rightly experience and is actually a gift, meant to lead to Jesus.
On a slightly different note, I am amazed at the questions people ask and at the ways people try to answer them. People ask why God allowed some Christian to be persecuted, or any other number of things. I cannot think of any “Why?” that can be more easily answered from the Bible than why God permits Christians to suffer for Christ. The verses answering this are numerous. Through such suffering, we are identified with Christ, we experience a special joy in our union with and blessing in Him, and we offer a witness to the world. To some extent, these purposes – identification with Christ, joy in our union with and blessings in Christ, and witness to the world – are fulfilled whenever Christians suffer and look to their Savior. This is all over the Bible. (These purposes, in some way, are fulfilled whenever Christians look to their Savior, but that is not a topic for this post. See One Body, Many Members or Together and Alone and All Things Are Yours: Knowing and Praising God in Pleasure and Pain)
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men insult you, and slander you, and speak all kinds of evil against you for My sake. Rejoice and be glad in that day, for great is your reward in heaven.” “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God, having obtained access by faith into this grace into which we stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Moreover, we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured His love into our hearts by His Spirit which He has given to us.” “Beloved, do not be surprised at this fiery trial which is among you, but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, that you may exult in His glory when He comes. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of God and of glory rests on you.” “Though they slander you, they will see your good conduct, and glorify God in that day when He comes.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of various sorts, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance have its work in you, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may comfort those who are afflicted with the same comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by Him. For just as our afflictions abound, so also our comfort through Christ abounds. If, then, we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation, and if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort, which is evident in the same patient endurance of the afflictions we ourselves suffer.” “We encountered such fierce opposition… we felt in our bodies the sentence of death, so that we despaired even of life. This was so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” “They went forth from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer for the sake of the Name.” This is what came to mind quickly.
On another note, we cannot expect to know why God does what He does, let alone all that He does. We can expect to often not understand: God is God, and we are creatures. His wisdom is infinite, and we are finite, so we will not always understand, though we can always understand that His love is behind all He ordains and all that He ordains to allow. If we cannot expect to understand why God acts in our own lives, we can expect to understand even less about why He acts in the lives of others.
Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale
2 thoughts on “Asking God “Why?” and Declaring His Goodness”
Thank you for this post, Raina. You made a great point when you wrote: “you would not be asking Him if you doubted His sovereignty, for He were not sovereign, what sense would there be in asking Him why He allows these things or makes the world so?” Precisely.
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I also thought of the prophet Habbakuk. He complained to God on the basis of God’s character. “You are too holy to look on sin, and You cannot approve the wicked.” The book also tells how God revealed His glory (which is His reason) to Habbakuk. I like to start with, “YHWH is in His holy temple: let all the earth be silent before Him… YHWH, I have heard the report about You and I fear. Revive Your work in the midst of years. In the midst of years make it known. In wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His radiance is like the sunlight, He has rays flashing from His hand. Before Him goes pestilence, after Him comes plague. And there is the hiding of His power. The ancient mountains were shaken; the age-old hills collapse. His ways are everlasting… At the news of these things my lips quiver, and in my place I tremble. Decay enters into all my bones… Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress, for the people to arise who will invade us. Yet, though there are no grapes on the vine and the fig does not yield its crop, though there are no flocks in the fields and no cattle in the stalls, I will rejoice in God, I will exult in God my Savior. YHWH God is my strength. He makes my feet like hinds’ feet and sets me upon mine high places.”
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