COLLINS COLUMN: Finding Answers in Questions

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, June 12, 2024

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By: Dean Collins, President of Point University

If you have children, grandchildren, or are around children much, you know that kids ask a lot of questions, and some of their questions are difficult to answer! Many times, I have fielded a question from one of my grandchildren that I have found quite hard to answer. Sometimes it is because I really don’t know or have any knowledge on the subject. Other times I have an answer, but as I try to think about my response, I realize that the topic is complex, so I ask my grandchild another question to try and understand what he or she really wants or needs to understand. The question behind the question can help one clarify and get to the right answer.

All through my career I have asked a lot of questions so that I can learn and understand. As a leader, a campus pastor, a marriage and family therapist, and now as a president, I am asked a lot of questions. As I get older, it seems that some of the questions I get now are more about how to navigate the big challenges in life and less about the micro details of management. I suspect one reason for the shift in questions is that those who ask the questions believe that with age comes wisdom. Older people have more life experience, so they often can help with navigating the complexities of life.

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I have many young friends and leaders around me who I can learn from, but as I look over my shoulder there are fewer and fewer of the older friends I can talk with when trying to navigate subjects and transitions that simply require more life experience to understand. So, as I get older, I find myself increasingly comfortable with asking God lots of questions. Not the “Can I have this or that” question, but the hard questions about suffering, justice, grief, and sometimes the questions I ask God include whether he sees or is paying attention to what is going on in the world. I have discovered that God doesn’t shy away from any of our questions. He longs for our honesty because only when we reveal our inability to understand and solve life’s challenges can we truly discover his sovereignty and providence.

Habakkuk had a few hard questions for God in his short book of prophecy. Right out of the gate in chapter one the prophet asks:

“O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?”

And he doesn’t stop there, but his follow-up question was:

“Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.”

God answers back quickly:

“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”

God’s answer sounds pretty good and would lead you to believe that something big was about to happen. We love it when God lets us see something that is clearly beyond anything we imagined or could have created. In fact, I had that kind of an experience just a week ago when meeting a new friend who runs a major foundation.

This foundation director and I had never met or spoken to each other. A mutual friend had set the meeting six weeks earlier, but when I walked in the room, the gentleman told me that he was sorry for a significant loss I was experiencing, referring to the death of a good friend and mentor who had died about three weeks ago. I was confused, and so I asked him how he knew of this loss. As the conversation continued, I learned that he had a friend who had attended the memorial service, heard my eulogy, and called the foundation director and told him about me. In that moment, I realized that God was working way ahead of me and setting the stage for my meeting that day. Just as God told Habakkuk, I saw that God is always doing a work that we would not believe if he told us. But here is the thing: God has told us that this is exactly how he works. He is always doing far more and far better work than we could ever imagine.

As you continue to read Habakkuk, you realize that the unbelievable situation was that God was going to use an adversary, a powerful enemy of God’s people, to bring judgement on Israel for their lack of obedience. Habakkuk was startled and confused about this revelation. God would send Babylon to bring correction to his children.

Later in chapter one the prophet has more questions:

“Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One?”

And he followed up with another question to God:

“Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”

But as the prophet was honest with God about the things he didn’t understand, he simultaneously began to gain wisdom and understanding from God as he processed and remembered God’s promises and his past provision. Habakkuk called God a rock and acknowledged that God’s ways are purer than man’s and that in the end whatever God chooses to do will always be what is best for all of humanity. God desires that everyone experience his grace, his love, and his mercy.

The prophet closes his small book of prophecy with a prayer in chapter three. He opens his prayer by telling God that he has heard the reports about all the work of the Lord through the generations. He stands in awe of God’s power and asks God to not forget his mercy.

I am sure that Habakkuk did not get all his questions answered. The truth is that on this side of eternity there will be many things we simply do not see or understand. But bringing God our honest and hard questions never bothers God. He welcomes the conversation. And like Habakkuk, we will learn that God does reveal glimpses of his plans to us. Often these glimpses come unexpectedly when we discover that God is always going before us and cleaning up after us.

Habakkuk ends his prayer with these powerful words. May his declaration of trusting God in every situation, including desperation, be our prayer today:

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” Amen