Daily Archives: August 31, 2010

Making Peace With The Unanswered Questions

“I think what’s best for you right now is to be quiet about the accusations,” I told the man. “If word about it spreads around the community, it might ruin your business.”

A very serious accusation had been leveled against an upstanding man in the small town where I served as the pastor. Because the man owned a local business in town, I knew that any negative gossip could drive him into bankruptcy.

Instead, the man called all of his friends and told them about the accusation and then claimed that I had threatened to drive him out of business.

Well, the town gossip train picked up steam which in turn drove him out of business. Then some of the people blamed me for what happened.

I won’t go into the details, but I found myself caught in the middle of a very divisive conflict. I was privy to some very sensitive information which I couldn’t disclose to the townspeople. Yet because they didn’t have all the information, they assumed I was to blame.

Seeing things from one perspective can lead us to faulty conclusions…unless we’ve made peace with the unanswered questions.

Please join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Job 37:1-39:30
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:10
Psalm 44:9-26
Proverbs 22:13

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Job 37:1-39:30. Elihu’s words set the stage for God to answer everyone’s questions. God answers out of a whirlwind, which was an old symbol of divine revelation. His response can be misunderstood as an angry defense, but the nuances in the text tell us that it isn’t. Although written as a poem, the book of Job is organized like a legal proceeding. So, the judge—God—finally answers.

Proverbs 22:13. “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!’ or, ‘I will be murdered in the streets!’” The point of this proverb is that lazy people manufacture excuses for laziness. Not that I’m advocating workaholism, but hard work and responsibility are definitely virtues of the Christian walk.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Job, his three friends, and Elihu have debated God’s role in Job’s suffering. Job has been accused of bringing judgment upon himself while the accused has claimed that he was beyond reproach. But really, Job wasn’t on trial, God was. The five characters in this court proceeding of sorts were really trying to explain God’s role in pain and suffering. They were attempting to answer the unanswered questions.

So God finally appears and answers them…by asking more questions.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” Job 38:4–5

As God rattles off a series of rapid-fire questions about animal life and the mystery of creation, it quickly becomes obvious that they can answer none of them. In the end, God never answers their questions. He only answers them with more questions (which continues into tomorrow’s reading).

Does that feel a little unsettling?

It does to me. Earlier in my life, this realization would have sent my world spinning. But I’m beginning to make peace with living with the unanswered questions: God is God and I am not. He understands the big picture of my life and where they fit into his eternal plans.

When I was on the inside of some very sensitive information at my former church, I knew it was in the best interests of everyone involved that I keep my mouth shut—even if it meant attracting further criticism. I can imagine that God encounters similar situations. Many of them.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ” Isaiah 55:8–9

Modernism taught us that we are entitled to an explanation for everything. We must understand the inner workings of the atom and demand proof for the existence of God. Yet in the process we have robbed ourselves of mystery. In fact, mystery plays a minimal role in our everyday lives. While some mysteries can be solved, God exists in a realm beyond our explanation.

Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians seem particularly apropos here:

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. ”2 Corinthians 4:17–18

If anything, our pain and suffering remind us that God has prepared a better place for us, which Paul explains in today’s reading.

The unanswered questions ultimately lead to the most important question: Do you trust him? When I reflect on the deep love God shows us by sending his only son to die for us, when I reflect on his invitation to enter into a relationship with him and join him in his work, I must answer, “Yes, I trust you.”

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. To what extent do you feel comfortable with mystery?
  3. What are some of the unanswered questions in your life? How do you handle them?
  4. Do you trust him? How? Why?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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