Questions are of immense value in our lives. Questions spur thought. Questions cause us to dig deeper. Questions reveal the truth inside of us.
Michael Hyatt said this about questions:
Questions are powerful tools. They can ignite hope and lead to new insights. They can also destroy hope and keep us stuck in bad assumptions.
Meaning, there are both good types of questions and poor types of questions. They can move us along or keep us immobilized.
The Learning Cycle
One of the best tools to which I have been exposed that illustrates the value of questions is the Learning Cycle. In the teaching of the Learning Cycle , experiences we have in life can cause tensions, and tensions in our life then cause us to examine our life. And much of the examination process is asking questions. And through asking questions, our hope is to alleviate that tension going on and bring our life back into an equilibrium.
I think sometimes we are afraid to ask the hard questions of God when we experience some type of loss or difficulty, you know, the ones that make us feel like “should I really be having this question come into my head?”
Does God really care about me at all?
Is God even listening?
It seems as if everyone else has life going for them. Why is God messing with my life so much?
Why are those who outwardly don’t give a rip about God seem to be flourishing?
Why are things so unfair?
And the questions goes on.
Time to recalibrate
I recognize my dependency on God and the fact that it does not take much for me to drift off center. And that is why that I have to refuel each morning by getting into God’s Word, realizing that it is by Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) that I am going to get my mind and soul recalibrated for the day.
Recently, I have been going through the Psalms, jotting notes each day of what I am observing and the Spirit revealing. The Psalms are a wonderful place to camp if you want to peer into the mind of the writer and see at face value the struggles and hard thoughts that are on display for all to see. Read of questions that Asaph asks God.
Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion? Selah. (Psalm 77:7-9)
These are five challenging questions. These are the types of questions that for me would be followed by, “Did I really just ask that?” as if I was embarrassed that that type of question came to my mind.
Is God offended with my questions? Is God in heaven ranting at me with “I cannot believe you just asked that – haven’t I done enough to get your attention? Why don’t you get it? How dare you ask that?”
Before I answer this more fully, please do not think that I can come to God with any shoddy attitude and be presumptuous with God and point my finger at Him, as if He somehow owes me. What God does, He does because He is totally and absolutely self-sufficient and does as He pleases. John Piper issued a thought-provoking quote:
God is absolutely self-sufficient. He has no needs and so can’t be bribed. He has no flaws and so can’t be blackmailed. He has no weaknesses and so can’t be coerced or forced. In other words, he is absolutely free and does what he does because of his own good pleasure.
In a tough spot
When I read Asaph’s words in Psalm 77, I sense sadness, humility, and contrition. But what Asaph asks about is really questioning the character of God and who God manifests Himself to be.
Asaph is in a tough place. And from his perspective and from his vantage point, things look despairing. Ever been there? Ever travelled those roads before?
And I have to be honest, questions of those types creep into my mind. But here is what I also believe and it is this – that God is not rattled or dismayed by my questions, unshaken, or thrown into insecurity. Psalm 103:14 reminds me…
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
If God’s agenda for me is always that I look more like His son, Jesus, and if he ordains events and circumstances into my life, and if the whole point is that each experience is designed to address a need which then allows me to fulfill God’s purpose and make me more like Him, then God knows that I will have seasons of wrestling.
And as Jacob wrestled with the angel and came away knowing His God, we often wrestle with God. The wrestling process is to help us better see Him, and it is in the striving and asking questions that the question of “who is this God?” can get more settled within us and our roots begin to go deeper and deeper in our relationship with Jesus.
Asaph’s questions in Psalm 77 are intensely personal about how he views His God relating to him. But in looking ahead in this Psalm, Asaph ends up on the right side of the fence. In other words, He ends up with a more proper view of God.
How is that?
It starts with verse 8:
Then I said, ‘I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
And the methodology going on here reminds me a lot of of the process that we see in Romans 12:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The intentional renewing of the mind. And what does the testing accomplish? Helping us discern.
The pattern in Psalm 77 is not unusual to what we find in other Psalms. You can read any number of chapters in the Psalms and see the following “template”:
Concerns for present conditions, people, or circumstances.
Crying out to God for the above hardships.
Questioning God for allowing the above hardships.
Recounting what God is really like and who He really is, His deeds, and His actions.
Praise and thanksgiving to God.
Different mind, different heart, different perspective.
In the above sequence, the transformation of the thinking is often “hidden” in the text. In other words, the author does not provide a side narrative of what happened between the fall and the rise.
Jacob wrestles…and prevails
We see a similar situation in Genesis 32 where Jacob wrestles with an angel:
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ (Genesis 32:24-28)
This would have been a story worth seeing firsthand. Jacob was told “for you have striven with God…and prevailed.” He came away with ability and strength…in God.
It was the striving that made way for the prevailing.
So too with Asaph. It was in the striving that then came the prevailing. Asaph asked some very difficult questions of God, and somewhere between verses 9 and 10 something transformational occurred with Asaph. This is no flippant argument with God. Verse 6 says that his spirit made a diligent search.
And it was in this wresting with God that Asaph came to some very right conclusions.
“I will remember.” (verse 11)
“I will remember.”(verse 11)
“I will ponder.” (verse 12)
“I will meditate.” (verse 12)
You see, the wrestlings that we do, if done in a spirit of humility and dependency, are not easy, but they are profitable. To think that we are going to endure hardness in this life and never question God’s ways, character, or plans is unrealistic. As we encounter life, our faith is meant to be stretched and strengthened, but then God ordains different life circumstances that demand greater faith, and new and hard questions begin to churn within our mind.
The cycle continues once again. And I would say this – that in life, true and authentic learning does not happen by jumping from an experience to a conclusion. No, rather, there must be that encounter with tension and then a period of examination as we try to understand a new equilibrium. So too with spiritual learning in our life.
I do not write this post to give permission to come before God in pride with an arrogant spirit. Because we are told in Isaiah 66 that God takes special note of those who are humble, contrite, and quick to repent.
This type of spirit is of essential importance.
But I am saying this – do not be afraid of asking hard questions of God. He is not intimidated of them or threatened by them. They do not throw off His game plan. But He does command us to immerse ourselves in truth and speak truth to ourselves so that the Spirit of God reframes our thinking and hence, our actions. He desires a deep relationship with me and He desires a deep relationship with you. Dive in. Ask questions. Prevail with your heavenly Father.
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