God Wants A Bunch Of God-Wrestlers
Many years ago, I was leading a study at my church entitled Experiencing God. There was a moment in the study when I invited the group to talk about times when they struggled to understand why God allowed suffering and pain.
Most of the members shared their own stories--seasons of their life when they had more questions for God than answers. But there was one couple who seemed perplexed by the exercise. Finally, the man spoke up. "We've never doubted God for a second," he said. His wife nodded in agreement. "We always just assume that God knows what he's doing," she added.
As we dug deeper, I soon realized that their dogged belief really stemmed from something that they had been taught when they were very young: Never. Question. God.
That sweet couple in my Bible study had a very simple image of God. In their belief system, God's wider view affords God wisdom we'll never attain. God is God, we are not. The sooner you accept this, the better off you'll be.
There's a great deal of truth embedded into this way of thinking about God, but it's an incomplete view of the Almighty.
The essential problem with this belief system, is that it isn't at all biblical. The Bible is full of stories of heroes of the faith who struggled with their doubts, cried out to God with questions, and contended with the Creator over issues of God's will, suffering and pain.
What we find in the Scriptures is a God, who doesn't condemn people from asking questions, far from it. Even the name Israel, which was given to God's people in the Hebrew Scriptures, means "God-wrestler." As I wrote recently in a sermon on this very topic:
God honors our relationship with God by engaging and persisting in the struggle---just so we will know God is with us, truly with us.
I read something today from blogger/author Mark Manson that gave me some additional clarity about this issue. He wrote, "The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships."
In other words, crying out to God when we are in pain... asking questions when we are struggling to understand... confronting God about the injustice in the world... are all ways that we give pain and suffering meaning when we are willing to be honest with God about how we feel.
Jesus exhorted his followers to engage in an honest, active and engaging relationship with God. "Ask and it will be given to you," Jesus taught. "Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you." (Mat 7:7)
Beloved, don't ever be afraid of your questions for God. What God desires is for you to struggle with God, to wrestle with God's will, to ask your questions, cry out in prayer, and to know in the struggle that God is near.
May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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