What Should Christians Do with Unanswered Questions?
When my third daughter, Ryah, turned 1, I took her to the doctor for a round of shots. (Veronica had taken the first two girls on her own, and now decided it was my turn.) The nurse asked me to hold my little girl on my lap as she stuck the needle in her tiny leg—three times. Each time, my daughter let out a scream that could have woken the dead. What was worse, though, was how frantically she looked around the room searching for help. When her eyes found mine, it was clear she expected me to do something to stop this cruel nurse. But there I sat—not only not stopping the nurse but helping her! I know she couldn’t understand why one of the two people she thought loved her most was not helping her. Her tiny mind couldn’t perceive that I was doing what I was doing because I loved her, not in spite of the fact that I did. She only felt abandoned and betrayed.
Many people—even Christians—who are struggling with some difficult circumstance in their lives often look to God and feel the same way my daughter did. They wonder, “When will this end? Why is this happening to me? Why would a good God allow this bad thing to happen to someone he loves?”
The world often doesn’t seem like it’s being ruled by a loving, all-wise, all-powerful God, and so we cry, why don’t you do something, God?
We Aren’t the First to Ask
The prophet Habakkuk asked a similar question: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?” (Habakkuk 1:1-3 ESV)
Philosophers call this the “problem of evil,” and they trace this question all the way back to a 5th century B.C. Greek philosopher named Epicurus, who basically said that if God really is all powerful, he could stop all the evil. And if he was really loving, he would want to stop it. So, the fact that pain, suffering, and injustice run rampant on the earth means, then, that God is not all-powerful or good.
Here’s my shortened version of that: If he’s good, he would. If he could, he should. Since he doesn’t, that means he isn’t.
This is an age-old problem, and Habakkuk framed it long before Epicurus did. That brings me comfort, because it means we’re not asking new questions. People of faith have struggled with unanswered questions from the beginning.
It’s also encouraging to me that God gave Habakkuk a clear, prompt answer that is still relevant for us today.
1. God always has a bigger plan than we realize.
Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”
For Habakkuk, the “work you would not believe” was an imminent invasion from the Babylonians. Not exactly good news. And yet, even in the coming invasion of the Babylonians, God was setting up a situation that would ultimately and more clearly display the rescuing work of his Son. It was beyond anything Habakkuk could understand at that moment, to the point he wouldn’t have believed it, even if God told him.
2. God wants us to walk by faith.
Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The righteous shall live by his faith.” If we are going to walk with God in the world, it will have to be by faith, which means we must acknowledge that there are a number of things we won’t be able to fully see.
God doesn’t do this to torment us but because we simply can’t see like he sees. Think of my daughter and her shots. At 12 months of age, she wasn’t going to understand the importance of vaccines. I couldn’t sit her down and reason with her until she calmed down. She simply had to trust me. And we are far more like infants than we are like God.
3. God desires a lot more people to come to salvation.
I said a moment ago that God was setting up a bigger situation with the Babylonian invasion. The bigger thing that God was doing was covering the earth with the knowledge of his glory: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Habakkuk wanted to know why God seemed to be so harsh to his people; God wanted Habakkuk to know that he intended for many more people to be saved.
What would change in your life if you considered your unanswered questions in light of God’s will to use you in the lives of others?
4. God is still on his throne, and we can trust him with unanswered questions.
Habakkuk knew that God was on his throne because God gave him a vision of it: “The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20).
God may not give us a vision like he did Habakkuk, but he is doing the same work in our lives today. And just as those painful shots produced a healthier life for my daughter, God can use the circumstances in our lives that are difficult and painful to yield a greater and happier eternity for his children.
You might say, “I can’t see any good coming out of this!” But just because you can’t see God working doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Faith trusts that God is on his throne, that his plan is better than ours, and that his character is more compassionate than ours could ever be. When we walk by faith and trust our unanswered questions to his good purposes, we are given enough grace to press on through our circumstances to eternity.