Questions about God
Many years ago, Margaret Hopper Taylor, who had served many years as a Presbyterian missionary to Japan, struggled through a painful and fatal illness. She wrote a piece of prose entitled “Lament” which begins with her complaints and questions:
O Ruler of the universe, there drops before me a dark curtain shutting out the light of years ahead I had hoped to spend on Your beautiful earth. The physicians say my body houses a killer disease. They have no cures. Earth’s healers cannot heal. Their treatment is painful and debilitates. This frame that has carried me where I wished to go for 60 years now totters and weakens. Physical pain and lethargy I can bear, but am I never to see the ethereal glory of the cherry trees across the sea unwrap their heavenly beauty again? Will the emerald isles of the Inland Sea not rise once more before my eyes? Is the handclasp of friends soon to be no more? How can I say goodbye to the sons of my womb and their children? Heaviest of all is the thought of the final closing of my eyes on the loved face of my life’s partner, who cares for me in my illness as gently as a father does his little child. Is this Your will, O God?
When despair sets in, when life disappoints us, when our backs are up against the wall, questions gush out of our soul: Is this Your will, O God? Where are You? Do You care about me? Are You real? Can I trust You?
Is it permissible for us to question God or to voice our doubts?
Well, Abram, one of the first great heroes in the Bible expressed such doubts and raised such questions. After journeying to a land God had promised to give to him and waiting for many years for children to inherit the land, Abram’s frustration spurts out of his soul. In verse 2 he asks, “O Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” In verse 3 he adds to his complaint, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” In verse 8 he does it again: “O Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”
How does God respond to Abram’s expression of doubt?
Notice first what God doesn’t do: God doesn’t strike Abram dead or injured for doubting; and God doesn’t throw Abram away; and God doesn’t even scold him. God always responds well to genuine prayers—even when those prayers are an expression of our doubt.
What God does may seem surprising to us. God tells Abram to bring some animals.
Abram understands the meaning of this. He knows that this has to do with cutting a covenant, wherein two parties walk through the blood of severed animals, proclaiming, “This covenant is now sealed with blood. May it be done to me, as it has been done to these creatures, if I should ever break the covenant we have established between us. And may it be done to you, as it has been done to these animals, if you should ever break the covenant we have established between us. If you or I should ever break this covenant, may the one who breaks the covenant pay for it with his life!”
As it turns out, though, only God walks through the blood. God takes the full weight of the demands of the covenant upon Himself.
What kind of God is this who walks through the blood of severed animals rather than demanding that of us? What kind of God is this who swears upon Himself the loss of His own life if the covenant should be broken?
This is the kind of God whom Abram can trust to keep His promise. This is the kind of God whom we can trust even in the darkest and most troublesome times of our lives. This is the kind of God who will stop at nothing in His commitment to us!