What to Do When You Don’t Understand God
We’ve all had questions about God — some have been answered and some haven’t.
We’ve all had questions about God — some have been answered and some haven’t. The truth we learn from the Bible will help us find answers to many of our questions. For the answers we just don’t get or the questions that are left unanswered, let’s let them drive us to pursue God more.
The Bible’s Validity
It’s fairly safe to say that at some point in everyone’s life they’ll have questions about God. It could be that they are questioning God about something that happened, or if He exists. Not only do people question God, a lot of people question Christians about God, which is why we should know what we believe and why.
But, before we dive into the questions, we have to know what the source is for the truth we’re seeking. Is it a really smart person who lived hundreds of years ago, a particular belief system that has grown popular, or something that has emerged in the last century? For the follower of Jesus, our source for truth is the Bible.
The Bible, commonly referred to as God’s Word or Scripture, is our guidebook as and is a key component to help us walk closer with Jesus. While it doesn’t answer all of our questions, it does provide direction about who God is, how to be in relationship with others, how to live with purpose, and how to receive eternal life. The truth we find in God’s Word will help us navigate the questions that continue to plague many. But first, let’s talk about what it is.
The Bible is made up of…
- …66 different books…
- …written over a 1,500 year span…
- …in three languages…
- …by over 40 different writers…
- …living on three different continents…
- …all inspired by God.
Although these books were written independently, they speak of one theme throughout both the Old and New Testaments: the redemption of mankind through our Savior, Jesus Christ.
There are over 300 Old Testament prophecies that predict the life and work of Jesus and every one of them was fulfilled in his life. With all of these differences in how and when the Bible was written, there is no way that most of these prophecies could have just been predicted by the authors nor could they have conspired with each other.
If God is good and loving, why does so much evil exist in the world?
This is an age-old question that has been asked for centuries, and will probably continue to be asked. The answer seems to be beyond our mental reach. No matter how much we’re told or how much we learn, we’re just not satisfied with the answers we get — especially when new crises and evils appear daily.
Genesis 1 details the Creation story of the world. God made our world perfect, including creating mankind. God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and gave this instruction in Genesis 2:16–17: don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God gave a choice to obey Him or not. When we choose to disobey God, our choices bring about evil. God didn’t create evil — it’s the result of our sinful choices.
That still doesn’t seem to answer our question. Yes, we have freedom that allows us to choose, but why did our good and loving God allow it? Didn’t He know that some things we’d choose would have evil outcomes? Didn’t He know how much pain we’d endure because of someone else’s actions toward us? Yes. Because He’s all-knowing, He did know and does know. And that makes this whole situation come full circle to where we ask the questions again: “If God is good and loving, why does so much evil exist in the world?”
Evil does exist. But maybe we see and hear about so much evil because it’s what gets our attention. Sadly, whenever we watch or read the news, most of it’s bad. And often, at the end of the newscast, we hear an uplifting, encouraging news story that really does settle us a bit, doesn’t it? We find ourselves wanting more of that kind of news.
As long as imperfect, finite humans occupy our world, there will always be evil, so we may not get an answer that satisfies us. What if we turned our focus from the evil in the world and not only looked for the good, but did our part to usher in hope and restoration as followers of Jesus? What if we spent less time asking questions about why evil occurs and more time offering hope and help to those who are struggling in their own pain? What if instead of trying to understand an ungraspable thing like evil, we did our part to make a difference in people’s lives by serving them and sharing Jesus with them?
Looking for the good and seeking to do good in our world and to the people who reside in it is the part we’re called to play. What we’re looking for, we’ll find. So, let’s look for the good.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Probably the most common, recurring question people have about God is, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We tend to ask this question when a good person dies prematurely, or when an honest person is wrongly accused of a crime. It seems as if this question really stems from what’s fair and what’s unfair.
Bad things happen. Unfortunately, there’s never a day when something bad doesn’t happen to someone on this earth. One reason bad things happen is because there are around eight billion people currently living on earth, and each person can make their own choices. With each person comes a variety of viewpoints and belief systems that lead people to choose their own way. If the worldview isn’t a biblical one, then choices don’t line up with God’s standards and usually leads to sin. With each sin, comes consequences that can bring about so much destruction on our earth and in our lives.
Since we tend to only question God when bad things happen to good people, let’s consider the alternative. If God is the only good One in the world, not us, then let’s ask, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” Because we can all count the good things in our lives that are from God’s hand. Sure, we have difficult seasons in life, but we also have countless blessings. What if we recognized that every good thing in our life is a gift and not something we deserved? What if instead of having an entitled attitude that we should receive what we ask God for, as if He’s our own personal genie, but chose to walk in gratitude and recognize that God gives us far more blessings than He doesn’t?
Ultimately, God is sovereign, and He has a plan. We’re not on this earth for God to fulfill our plan, but for us to fulfill His. But, we confuse this when pain riddles our lives because we aren’t getting our desires. While God is always with us, near us, and for us, He didn’t create the world and His plan with just us in mind. For God so loved…the world. His plans and purposes go far beyond us.
There are going to be more what ifs and questions as you go through life than you’ll find answers for. But, as you press through one question to the next, you may not have all the answers, but you’ll know our great God more.
Why doesn’t God answer every prayer?
Billy Graham said, “prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God.” Because of that, we can come to God, our Creator, at any time in our day and know He’ll meet us right where we are. Isn’t it amazing that the God of the universe hears us?
But we don’t always grasp everything about prayer and often say, “God didn’t answer my prayer.” The truth is that God does indeed answer every prayer we pray. Sometimes He says, “Yes,” sometimes He says, “No,” and other times He says, “Wait.” When we receive “no” or “wait” as an answer to our prayers, we assume that “He didn’t answer our prayer.” Let’s dive in a little deeper to this.
When God Says Yes
The good news is that God says yes a lot! It’s true. When we pray and ask for salvation through Jesus, He saves us. When we confess our sins, He forgives us. When we ask for wisdom, He grants it. He also says yes to so many other requests that we make — like giving us peace when we’re nervous, bringing a loved one through a surgery, or providing for our needs when we have nothing left. God desires to give us good and perfect gifts. He wants the best for us and often gives us things we desire, too!
When God Says No
When people say God didn’t answer their prayer, what really happened is that God said “no.” We ask God for the job, the spouse, or the child, and He doesn’t grant it. That’s hard. Because we don’t understand why God wouldn’t say “yes” to a great job, an amazing spouse, or a precious child. It just doesn’t make sense, and quite frankly, it hurts. But His “no” often leads to a better option for us.
When God Says Wait
Hearing “wait” can sometimes be harder than hearing a “no.” And often we don’t really hear God audibly say “wait,” we just end up waiting and assume He’s delayed His response. Waiting isn’t fun, and we certainly don’t like it when we’re waiting for God to grant our petition. What we need to understand is that timing is everything, and God is never late. He knows exactly when to say “yes” to your appeal.
No matter the answer we receive to our prayer, we need to understand that every single prayer that we pray to God, He hears and answers. And as we grow in our faith and our relationship with Him grows deeper, we’ll begin to trust His “wait” and “no” answers because we know He has the best plans in the world. In addition to that, we’ll begin to ask questions that we know would line up with His truth and His will.
So, seek God above everything, allow Him to fill up your heart, mind, soul, and spirit, and ask Him to replace your desires with His best!
Finding Peace in the Tension
The words peace and tension feel like opposites, don’t they? It’s hard to experience peace when things are tense. As followers of Jesus, we can have peace even when things around us feel out of control, because His presence brings us peace…even when our questions don’t get answered.
Here’s a quick news flash: we’ll always have questions for God. He’s the all-knowing, all-powerful, and always present Creator of the universe. There will always be some mystery with our God. And isn’t that what we want? Do we really want to know, understand, and fully grasp Him and His ways? Don’t we want to follow a God who is bigger, smarter, wiser, and more intelligent than us or would we rather know everything He knows? The truth is that if we had all of the answers, we wouldn’t need Him.
If you think about it, questioning God shows a bit of arrogance on our part. For human beings to actually think we know what’s best or know more than the Creator of the universe seems a bit absurd. Granted, sometimes we’re just questioning Him because we’re hurting and because we thought our plan was pretty good. We desired our loved one to be healed, for disease to be eradicated, or for natural disasters to end. Those all make sense to us, so why wouldn’t they make sense to God?
There’s the tension. It’s almost palpable, isn’t it? Sometimes, it just won’t go away and we have to choose to experience the peace Jesus brings despite the fact that some of our questions will never get answered. This is the part of the Christian walk where our faith hits a crisis level. We either choose to press into God more and trust Him or we turn our backs on Him in anger and walk away from our faith. Walking away will bring a double portion of misery to us. Isn’t it better to experience God’s peace in the midst of your pain and questions than to still have questions without His peace?
Instead of questioning God, maybe we should question the world’s ways more? We’re often so quick to believe the doubts that we hear from others and even ourselves, and yet, the One who created the world is the one we question. Why can’t we question what people say or what our self-talk is instead of always questioning our God? What we listen to and believe makes us either question God or run to Him.
So, run to Him with your questions, fears, doubts, and concerns. He can handle it and as you do this, you’ll experience His peace as you simultaneously fight through your doubts and grow your trust in Him. At the end of the day, ask God to reveal Himself to you and allow His perfect peace to renew your mind in the midst of the tension of unanswered questions.