Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 36; 147:12-20, Isaiah 45:5-17, Ephesians 5:15-33, Mark 4:21-34
Human beings like answers. It was true thousands of years ago in the time of the prophet Isaiah, it’s true today, and (if we are still around) it will be true thousands of years from now. Uncertainty vexes us. Sometimes we are more content to grasp at false answers than to have no answers at all. Yet sometimes the answer is simply … there is no answer.
When the exiled nation of Israel cried out because it seemed God had abandoned them, Isaiah challenged their right to take God to task. He compared them to lumps of clay questioning the choices of the potter. The God of Israel declared he “made weal and created woe” as he saw fit, and human beings should not strive to comprehend why.
Like the ancient Israelites, we often want to know why God has allowed bad things to happen to us (and isn’t it funny how we are less likely to wonder why we are deserving of the good things?). Some people’s faith evaporates when it does not protect them from the bad things and the world stops making sense to them. “How can a loving God let evil things happen?” they wonder. That question can feel threatening to people of faith. An entire industry of apologetics, creationist “proofs,” and theological musings has evolved to address that question. In the end, most of them are overly pat and largely unsatisfying. But “we’ll never know” doesn’t exactly sell books and videos.
Questioning is healthy, but some questions will remain unanswerable. Isaiah, Job, Proverbs: these scriptures and others advise us energy spent on unanswerable questions could be put to better use. If we can accept the paradox that God is good and bad things still happen, we can move on to address questions of a faith lived in the world as it really is: Whom shall we serve? How shall we love? Where is God leading us?
Folk wisdom tells us the journey matters more than the destination. If an answer is a destination, perhaps finding the right questions to ask matters more than getting there.
Comfort: Asking the right questions makes all the difference.
Challenge: We must learn to live with the reality that we’ll never have all the answers.
Prayer: God of mystery, may your love be answer enough. Amen.
Discussion: Do any unanswered questions really bug you?
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