My oldest daughters favourite question is ‘Why?’
Why is it called that?
Why is it going to take 3 hours to get there?
Why can’t I have more chocolate?
Why do we have to go for a walk?
We often have answers to these questions and when we don’t, google is our friend and can usually give us any factual answers that we need.
The problem we have is that although we know the answer, sometimes it is just beyond my daughter’s comprehension because of her learning difficulties.
On a recent car journey she asked how far it was to go and when we told her she asked why. We explained that it was just how long it was going to take and then told her how many miles it was and when that didn’t work we tried the old well it’s taken us this long to get here and so it will take us this long to get there answer.
My daughter just couldn’t understand why it was going to take 3 hours to travel somewhere. In that moment it was beyond her comprehension.
There was a man called Job who complained to God. Job was having a terrible time in life, he had lost all of his livestock, his children had all died when the house they were in collapsed in a storm and he was suffering with a painful skin disease.
Job considered himself to be a good person and so his complaint to God was simple as he asked God why. Job complained to God, outlining his goodness and the ways that he could have sinned but that he didn’t and then he asked God to bring an accusation against him (Job 31).
Job’s life philosophy was that if you were good then you would be blessed and you wouldn’t suffer. He knew that he had lived as God wanted and so he couldn’t understand why he was suffering so much. He invited God to accuse him because he was confident that he was blameless.
God’s reply is surprising, rather than saying ‘It doesn’t work that way Job, as he seems to say ‘do you know who I am?’ (Job 38-41). Here are some quotes from God’s reply:
‘Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?’
‘Have you ever commanded the morning to appear?’
‘Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?’
God talks about who he is and what he has done. He describes, his power, might and understanding. He doesn’t at any point answer Job’s question and yet Job is satisfied (we’ll come on to that in a minute).
I used to be frustrated with God’s answer to Job, but my relationship with my daughter has helped me to understand more about why God responds in the way that he does.
Underlying all of God’s answers is the simple concept that God is the almighty, all powerful and all-knowing God. Things may happen that are beyond our understanding, but God knows everything.
If I ask God to explain why a circumstance or a series of events happened, I am like my daughter saying how far is it to go?
If she questions why it will take 3 hours to arrive, she is questioning me, my integrity, knowledge, understanding and judgement. She is saying that she doesn’t trust my answer.
Sometimes she questions me in a way that I know that she can’t understand the answers to and so I cannot explain why.
God says to Job:
‘Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?’
Job realizes that he doesn’t have the answers and he seems satisfied by what God says and he withdraws his compliant (Job 42). Job says to God:
2 “I know that you can do anything,
and no one can stop you.
3 You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
things far too wonderful for me.
4 You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.’
5 I had only heard about you before,
but now I have seen you with my own eyes.
6 I take back everything I said,
and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
Job sees more clearly who God is and as a consequence, he understands and is satisfied.
He grasped that God is all powerful and that he can do anything.
He grasped that god is good and he loves us.
He grasped that God’s ways of working are beyond our comprehension.
As Job grasped more of who God is, he didn’t feel the need to accuse God anymore.
There is nothing wrong with asking God why (as long as we know that God may not show us and if he does that we may not understand the answer). We can ask why, but when we ask in an accusing way we show a disrespect for who God is and we also show that we don’t understand who he is.
You see, we are not here on this earth to be God’s special advisors, we need to realize that he is God and we are his creations.
The next time I’m tempted to accuse God, my prayer is that I will remember who God is and as I see him more clearly that my accusation would become irrelevant.
I’m realizing that it’s not about knowing why but that it’s about understanding who God is and knowing him for ourselves.