I’m getting a double whammy this week–two Bible study groups; one studying Daniel and the other Job. Some of you will groan just reading the first sentence. Along with the book of Revelations, these are two of the most difficult and misunderstood books in the Bible. And for good reason. The book of Daniel doesn’t just contain the favorite stories of Daniel in the Lions’ Den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, it also contains prophetic visions that seem to foreshadow two distinct sets of events– one set that happened in the time between Daniel’s life and the birth of Christ, and another set of events yet to come.
The book of Job is puzzling– there are no good clues as to when it took place, or exactly where, or even if it is real or a parable. There is a curious interchange between God and Satan that is unlike any other passage in scripture. Finally, it is filled with difficult dialogues from Job and his friends, as they try to make sense of his suffering as God stays silent. When God finally speaks, He doesn’t directly answer Job’s questions or his friends’ misleading statements.
What happens when I don’t understand what God is doing (or seemingly NOT doing) in my life or the lives of others? What happens when the world doesn’t make sense, and the Bible doesn’t seem to shed any light? What happens when I pray, but God seems silent?
I think the answer has a lot to do with where I am in my relationship with Christ:
- I can panic, lose faith, or become angry and insolent. If I don’t know God or don’t trust him; if I doubt his goodness or wisdom or power, I may run from his word and his presence.
- I can lean on my own understanding. I can substitute my own limited wisdom for God’s, and try to “explain away” all the things I don’t quite understand. I may ignore the Bible passages I don’t understand, in favor of doubling down on the ones I think I know. I can insist on my own interpretations of difficult or disturbing passages, even if someone points out inconsistencies in my logic, or context clues that disagree with my view.
- I can lean on someone else’s understanding, listening to their views without question or without reading and praying through it myself. If someone else has an answer, shouldn’t that be enough? Even if I still don’t fully understand, at least I have an answer…
- I can ignore the question–after all, do I really need to know about God? Isn’t it enough that He exists and He is good? If I say it loud enough and often enough, won’t that make the questions go away?
It seems that there is a better way– God never promises us easy answers or complete answers to all the questions in this life. We can be angry or grateful for that truth, but most of all we must accept it. God will answer many of our questions–maybe not in the time and manner we expect. And some of them we won’t understand this side of heaven. But the Bible is clear in calling us to pursue answers, and be honest when we don’t understand. God may not give us a simple answer, but He promises to give us wisdom– wisdom to seek, and wisdom to wait; wisdom to trust, and wisdom to keep knocking.
Ask, Seek, Knock, Wrestle, Search, Pray, Plead, Study, and Learn.