Why is there evil? Why am I suffering? Why am I watching my loved ones suffer? Why does the Bible address homosexuality, gender, and political authority in a way that feels so contrary to what the world says?
Asking hard questions – or questions at all – doesn’t make you a bad Christian. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1), but that doesn’t mean it’s blind. Scripture offers several examples of Christians closely examining what they’ve been told. When the Jews in Berea heard Paul’s testimony, they “received it with all eagerness” – and then “examined the Scriptures to see whether it was so” (Acts 17:10-11). Asking questions means you’re working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13) and testing everything in order to hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
Ignoring those questions or keeping them to yourself, though, will breed resentment and doubt. Even though it can be intimidating, it is far healthier to seek answers than to try to ignore them.
But how can you do that?
- Spend some time wrestling with your questions. If you’re the journaling type, write about it. If not, go for a walk and think about it or talk through it out loud. Do whatever you do when you need to process something big and messy and important. Before you take any other action, it’s important to understand what you’re asking. It’s most important, though, to ask yourself if you really want answers, because only then is your wrestling going to produce fruit. If we don’t want answers, we are testing God, which God’s people are told explicitly not to do (Deuteronomy 6:16; see also Matthew 4:7).
- Read the Bible. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). This can be difficult, especially when you don’t know where to start — which is why it’s important to talk to other Christians as well who can point you to passages that address your questions (see below). Other Christians, though, are fallible; God’s Word is infallible. When the two clash, trust His Word.
- Talk to a strong Christian that you trust. Admit what you don’t understand or can’t accept, and say, “What does the Bible say about this?” Ask that person to recommend books or sermons that they’ve found particularly helpful. Then, once you’ve spoken with that person, speak with someone else – and then another someone else. Ask strong Christians in all walks of life. Each one will have a different take on the question and will be able to point you to different resources. And once you’ve talked to them, actually follow up on what they tell you: read the Bible passage, find the book, and watch the YouTube video.
- Ask God your questions. It’s very easy to skip over this out of fear, but you don’t have to have it all together to pray. You can come to God honestly: “I really don’t get this aspect of your character. I don’t know why this horrible thing is happening to my best friends. I don’t understand why your Word says this.” You won’t be the first of God’s people to do so. In fact, the book of Habakkuk is entirely about Habakkuk questioning God: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?” (Habakkuk 1:2) And after God answers his first complaint, Habakkuk asks God another question — which He also answers! Job questioned God; so did Jonah (Jonah 4); so did Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). To be sure, not all of them received nice answers. Sometimes God responds with a not-so-subtle display of glory; other times, He patiently reveals Himself. Either way, He is our Father, and Jesus tells us time and time again to come to him in prayer (Matthew 6:6, Matthew 7:7, Luke 18:1).
- What if I don’t find answers? Read Job 38-42. One of my own enduring questions is “Why?” Why do bad things happen to good people? Why can’t I escape these sins that cling so closely? Job had much more right to ask these questions than I did, and yet God thundered back at him, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:2-3 ESV). There are some answers we just won’t know until we come face-to-face with God. Now, we see in a mirror dimly. Then, we shall know fully, even as we have been fully known.
If you have questions, you are not alone – and you are not a bad Christian. God wants the active participation of our minds as well as our hearts in our relationship with Him (2 Corinthians 13:5), and he asks us to be prepared to make a gentle and respectful defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).
Faith doesn’t prohibit us from questioning what we’re told, but it always acknowledges the supremacy of God and His Word (1 Corinthians 2:5). Some things we will never understand, and in those moments we’re called to rest in God’s absolute righteousness, wisdom, and goodness. We may not know what He is doing, but He does.