15 September, 2006

Questioning God

Have you ever had the occasion where you questioned God? Okay, dumb question. We all have. Maybe some of us won’t admit to it, but we have all not only questioned God, but even questioned if He knew what he was doing. I can see people reading this right now saying, “Not me, I would never question God like that.”

Well, let me be the first to just say it, “I have.”

Growing up with the knowledge that my parents, who had given their lives to the ministry, both died by the time I was six… well, that left some questions in my mind about God.
When my brother died in his sleep at the age of 22… it left some questions in my mind.
Event after event after event in my life left me with questions about God and if he really knew what he was doing. I grew up a very angry young man; and my anger was directed toward God, but I was always taught that you never questioned God, so the anger built silently inside of me.

When I was 22 years old, I found myself lying in a hospital bed at Menard Penitentiary in southern Illinois. The anger in me was burning, as I felt like life (God) had dealt me some unfair blows, and I did not “get” God at all. I mean, I was ticked. I was ready to throw the whole God/church thing out the window and go back to the drugs, because there I found escape.

Then I had one of those “set up” moments that come our way.

I was in that hospital bed, in isolation and had not spoken a word other than to the doctor or an occasional nurse that happened into my room for three days. There was a big picture window in my room where the staff could observe me, and I could observe them… but no one came into that room to talk with me. In those three days, my anger grew and my questions became more intense. All of a sudden, this little old priest appears in the window. He waves at me and smiles and begins to walk away. I yelled for him to come back, but he began to move on. I threw the only thing I could reach at that window; which happened to be the Bible that my pastor had given to me on the occasion of my preaching my first sermon. When the priest saw what I had done, he got the guard to open my door and he came into my room.

As he entered the room, he picked up the Bible and began to look at all the signatures and things written in it by the people of my home church. He didn’t say anything at all for a couple of minutes. When he finally did speak, a very soft voice said, “You are a very angry young man, aren’t you?” I just glared at him, and before I could speak he said, “You’ve got a lot of questions that you’d like to ask God, don’t you?” I told him that I did, but that I was taught that it was wrong to question God. He then uttered the first of two things that he would say that would change my life forever. He said, “Don’t you think the God who created you, who created this world and all is in it; who created the moon and the stars; don’t you think this God is big enough to handle the questions of someone such as you or I?”
I was dumbfounded. No one had ever told me that it was ok to question God before! Then he said the second thing that would impact my life. He said, “I see by looking at this book that you have known God before, but I wonder, have you really known Him, or have you known about Him?" He said, "I dare you young man to forget everything you have ever heard about God. Forget everything you think you know about Him, and open this book and read it, asking the Holy Spirit to show you who He really is. I dare you to do that. Do you have the guts?”
I simply nodded at him and he placed the Bible on my chest and turned and walked out of the room.

I’ve never seen that man again, but he changed my life.

I lay in that bed for hours thinking about what he had said. All of a sudden, it came out of me. I began to throw every question, every accusation and all of my anger at God. The nurses and the prison guards stared at me through that window like I was a mad man as I screamed at God and let out all the years of questions and resentment. When I was finally done, I just collapsed onto that bed and cried like I had never cried before.
I felt the Holy Spirit sweep into that room and it felt as if I were sitting in the lap of God and I heard him whisper into my heart, “It’s alright… give it all to me.”

After some time, I picked up that Bible, and I found myself reading in the book of Job. As I read, I began to find myself thinking, “See, here’s another guy getting the short end of the stick!” And then I read chapter 38… and my heart began to change.

Let me share a couple of these verses from The Message translation:

Job 38:1-4 MSG

1) And now, finally, GOD answered Job from the eye of a violent storm. He said: "Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you're talking about? Pull yourself together, Job! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers.Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!

As I read these words, and the remainder of that chapter, and the next couple of chapters, I found myself beginning to realize how selfishly and one-sided I had been looking at everything. As I started reading chapter 40, I began to hear and feel the firm, yet gentle correction of God on my soul.

In the beginning of that chapter, God says: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?”
Then God begins to question Job, which concludes with Job speaking in chapter 42, saying: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted….
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know…. My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

Got some questions for God? Go ahead and ask. He is big enough to handle your questions. But then stay tuned, because God is going to answer you, and He is going to teach you a thing or two!


Amy said...

wow !! you have told me this story a while back and it still hits me the same now!!! I do question God about alot thats happened in my life and about my future, but i know now that he wants to answer us and that he cares so much about me and how i am feeling and i am actually having that intamate relationship and conversation between us and its not all onesided . God is so Amazing!!

J. Stephen Conn said...

Fabulous story. It took me many years to realize that it was okay to question God. Your story needs to be shared with lots of people I know who say they have faith but are afraid to question it.

Deborha's Palm Tree said...

Pastor ...

Thank you for sharing. We do serve a wonderful God. He does prove HIS love over and over again, doesn't HE?

Sean McKee said...

That priest's words to you are to all of us.
To much we rely on "second-hand" information about God. We rely on our pastor, some author, musician, or TV preacher to read us a few verses and tell us what they think mean. This has it's place but we need to get with Him (God) and His Word so that the Holy Spirit can talk with us and tell us what God wants us to hear.

That takes time and commitment. But then again, most things worth anything do.

Do you want God's blessing on your life or not?

Roughrider said...

I've spent a few hours raving at God, too. I find it's better than raving at my wife, my son, or my church. If I direct my questions at them, it usually makes them angry and I'm no closer to an answer than when I began.
But when I've gotten alone and poured out my disappointment, and in some cases rage at God, when I've spent myself and crawl out of that cleft in the rock, His quiet voice is there.
I guess God is hard to shock.
Good thing.