As a student, teachers often tell you that “there is no such things as a stupid question.” I often took that invitation as a challenge.
I consider myself an expert on asking stupid questions. Whether to get a laugh, to confuse the person I’m asking or to get a friend to blush, stupid questions were part of my younger self’s repertoire.
I one time heckled a rival high school’s basketball players by shouting questions such as “50, what’s your favorite color?” and “21, what did you have for breakfast?”
(For what it’s worth, our school won that game.)
That tendency to ask stupid questions gradually evolved into asking reasonable, albeit too many questions. If I’m getting to know you, expect to be asked about your family, hobbies, greatest fears, movie recommendations and everything in between. I ask questions I know the answer to, claiming it’s for “clarification” or “just to be safe” when I truly know I’m just second-guessing myself.
While I’ve never been afraid of asking stupid questions, I do try to steer clear of asking wrong questions. For me, that line is often very small and usually only visible after I have found myself on the wrong side of it (pun intended).
I find no better example in the bible of asking the wrong question than the friends in the book of Job. Job, a “blameless and upright” man who “feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1) has his possessions stolen, his animals slaughtered, his property destroyed and his children killed at the same time (1v13-19).
The man had to have had a few questions.
These calamities happen to Job after Satan challenges God and tells him that Job is only a righteous man because God blesses him; God, in turn, allows Satan command over the things Job has.
It’s common for Christians to explore the book of Job, looking for answers to the age-old questions of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “Why does God allow his people to suffer?”
These are, I think, the wrong questions.
We know suffering and pain in our lives is inevitable, a symptom of the fall of man experienced in the Garden of Eden and the sin that exists in our world. It’s not a matter of “if” but simply “when.”
It’s not inherently wrong to question why you are going through a particularly hard season or lament your experiences, and we see Job do this constantly. Job curses the day he was born (3v1), loathes his life (7v16) and pleads with God to tell him why he is suffering (chapter 10).
The core question of “Why does God allow suffering?” is, frankly, not answered in Job. Rather, we receive an understanding in God’s response to Job of the complexities of God’s justice in creation. In the grand scheme of things, we do not have God’s perspective when it comes to our suffering and the role it plays in our lives and world.
And honestly, with the responsibility that comes with that, I think we can be thankful we don’t know. Author and speaker Donald Miller expresses that what “little we do understand, that grain of sand our minds are capable of grasping, those ideas such as God is good, God feels, God loves, God knows all, are enough to keep our hearts dwelling on His majesty and otherness forever.” (1)
Reverend Timothy Keller touches on suffering in his book Jesus the King:
“And when you suffer, you may be completely in the dark about the reason for your own suffering. It may seem as senseless to you as Jesus’s suffering seemed to the disciples. But the cross tells you what the reason isn’t. It can’t be that God doesn’t love you; it can’t be that he has no plan for you. It can’t be that he has abandoned you. Jesus was abandoned, and paid for our sins, so that God the Father would never abandon you. The cross proves that he loves you and understands what it means to suffer. It also demonstrates that God can be working in your life even when it seems like there is no rhyme or reason to what is happening.”Timothy Keller, Jesus the King (2)
While we aren’t in a position to question God’s justice or the reason behind our suffering, we do have the privilege of trusting that everything that happens to us, especially hardships and trials we must endure, is in the hands of the Creator of the universe.
God invites us to remember the suffering Jesus endured on the cross and the beauty that came as a result of his death, burial and resurrection: reconciliation to the Father by his blood. With outstretched hands and a humble attitude, accepting the free gift of grace is made possible when we consider the suffering that led to salvation.
“In exchange for our humility and willingness to accept the charity of God, we are given a kingdom. And a beggar’s kingdom is better than a proud man’s delusion.” (3)
- Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003), pp. 202.
- Timothy Keller, Jesus the King (New York: Riverhead, 2011), pp. 228-229.
- Miller, Blue Like Jazz, p. 86.