We’ve all been there. Maybe it was a painful trial, a devastating tragedy, a long-lasting struggle, or just human doubt, but for one reason or another, we have all questioned God.
Where are you, God? Can you hear me? Are you listening? Do you even exist?
As a child, I was told at church that questioning God was not only a sign of disrespect, but also a lack of faith. Terrified by this idea, I just stopped reading the parts of the Bible that made my doubts deeper, I refused to engage in conversations that made my faith shakier, and I ignored those questions that continued to plague my thoughts.
And after a few years of this safer, more timid faith practice, I noticed that I just stopped reading the Bible entirely, talking about God at all, and even acknowledging the divine throughout the course of my day. I got frustrated and disappointed in a God who couldn’t handle or didn’t want to handle my questions, no matter how human they were. There were times when my questions became so complex and even troubling that I wanted to give up and stop asking them at all. But I had already gone that far, so I continued to push through the fear and started to do the unthinkable.
I asked questions I knew might never get answered.
I voiced doubts I knew might never be assured.
I hurled accusations I knew might never be defended.
I prayed prayers I knew might never be heard.
And then I waited.
It’s funny, because throughout this dark period of my life, I genuinely thought I was being unfaithful and even un-Christian… until I met some kindred spirits in the most unexpected places. Nestled in the pages of Scripture, I found spiritual stalwarts like Job, Moses, David, and even Jesus, who actively challenged God and then recorded their defiance for all to see. But perhaps the bravest among these inquirers was the prophet Habakkuk. He asked the questions we all carry in our hearts. He illuminated the injustices we all know exist. And he got God to listen.
But here’s the best part… in the midst of all his doubts, fears, and frustrations, Habakkuk sang. He sang of God’s renown, glory, power and might. He sang praises about God’s promises, the salvation awaiting the righteous, and even the justice that he never even saw in his lifetime. The prophet sang a hymn.
Two millennia later, I hope we can do the same. As we engage in the holy practice of laying our questions before the Lord, I hope we can still worship God’s graciousness, providence, and might. I hope we can still give thanks for all that God has done for us and continues to do for us now. I hope we can praise the Lord for providing a Savior such as Christ. And most of all, I hope we can sing.
Charlene Han Powell is currently the Associate Pastor for Christian Education at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. She oversees Adult Education, Young Adult Ministries, and Family Ministries at this historic Manhattan church.