Both my grandsons are three years old. It is that stage of life when asking questions is paramount in their development. Sometimes the questions are easy: “Papa, what makes the car go?” Sometimes not as easy: “Why is the moon white?”
To be sure, these queries are little more than attempts at meaningful conversation and I revel in those opportunities. But their questions got me thinking about some bigger ones. Not long ago, I was asked by a newer member, “Pastor Lemon, if God knew Judas would betray Jesus and Jesus needed a betrayer to become our sacrifice, why are we so hard on Judas? He was just doing what he was put on this earth to do.” Variations of that question hark back to centuries-long-standing discussions among theologians regarding God’s foreknowledge as over/against human freedom.
I will not satisfactorily answer the dilemma in this brief article. Let me hasten to say, however, that it is not wrong to ask questions. And it is not wrong to ask the question “why?” That question is implicit in Job’s conversation with his friends and his concern for what he assumed was God’s poor treatment of him. It is hidden in the dialogue of Martha and then Mary with Jesus at the death of their brother Lazarus. It is explicit from the parched lips of Jesus as He struggles with His last breath on the cross. None of them are scolded for their question. But none of them have their question answered either.
Jesus gave a prior answer to His disciples regarding the concern of Mary and Martha—but not to the sisters. Likewise, Job’s question was not answered. When you get to God’s intervention at the end of the book, His summarized response to Job is in effect “I’m in charge; trust me.” And Job does. And Jesus’ rasping dying cry, “My God why have you forsaken me?” was met with isolating and apparently cold silence.
All these periscopes from Scripture put this question in the mouths of faithful people. God considered Job to be of exemplary character. The family from Bethany consisted of loyal believers. And clearly Jesus was not only sinless; He was completely filled with righteousness. Holy and perfect.
All these remained faithful even in the silence of their suffering.
And that is the point I want to emphasize. No, it is not wrong to ask the questions; that is how we learn. But what do we do when the questions are not answered? Let me encourage you to remain faithful in the times of silence. If Job had given up, if Martha and her sister had become cynical and bitter, and if Jesus had said, “I don’t need this anymore; I will come down from the cross,” those stories would have disappeared in the dust of history and in the case of Jesus, our salvation would have been lost. I rejoice in their faithfulness, their persistence, even when they did not understand.
As we consider the world we live in now, I am convinced that the questions will persist and perhaps deepen for some of us as our own troubles may become life-threatening; when our prayers are not answered the way we pray them; when the answers we get don’t match the questions we ask. When those things happen, let me encourage you with the long view. As the Psalmist, also not answering the question, says, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”
The Adventist worldview, which includes the great controversy theme with its double helix of sin and degradation brought about by Satan and his minions in constant but ultimately temporary warfare with the Son and His angels, is helpful for us. It tells us that, while we may never understand why, Good will indeed triumph spectacularly over evil.
Please join me in a commitment to faithfulness though the heavens fall. Remember, Jesus is coming back again. Victory is not far off.