Have you ever asked “Why?” This is perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching questions we can ask. We ask it after the tragedies of life, we pose it in light of unfair diagnoses and untimely deaths. It is a question that flows not from the head, but from the heart. We’ve all asked this question. I have. You have. Jesus has.
Our experience of spiritual discouragement is often connected with this deep questioning. We feel that we are unable to manage our life of faith as we once did. Everything appears up for grabs; we feel shaken and uneasy.
Out of this uncertainty comes a host of questions. For some, the question will surround their prayer life. A season of prayerlessness may thrust us into uncomfortable judgements and questions. “Where is my faith when I cannot pray?” we may ask. Others may question God’s very goodness: “If God is good, why is my life so chaotic?”, or “If Jesus loves me, why did he allow X to happen?” We may even ask “my God, why have you forsaken me?” These questions uproot us; we feel torn away from the center point of our faith.
Because of the intimate connection between discouragement and questions, we may believe that the way to end our discouragement is simply to answer the question. Unfortunately, answers rarely help. In fact, the deepest questions rarely have any answers at all.
What would it be like if you could know the answer behind a tragedy, an illness, or an untimely death? That is, what if you could know the divine answer behind the question, “Why? Would this make you feel better? I doubt it. I know it wouldn’t for me. In fact, I think it would make matters worse. It would make me feel trapped in a cold and hostile universe, one where God remains removed from me. God would become a puppeteer to be feared, and I would feel unloved and used.
What then, do we do with our questions? Well, maybe our questions are less about finding an answer and more about uncovering a presence. Jesus responds to our questions not with logic or rationale, but by entering the frailty and fragility of human life. Jesus comes to us in our questions, not to explain them away, but to hold us amidst them. We are embraced no matter the feelings we feel or the questions we pose. Your questions are an invitation to meet Jesus.
Faithfulness to God, therefore, doesn’t involve ignoring our questions, it involves holding them. By holding I mean we embrace them, we value them, we peer into them. It is when we sit with our questions, as uncomfortable as they may be, that we meet the one dwells with us in our questioning.
Your questions about prayer, for example, doesn’t mean God is distant and removed. Your questions invite you to explore new ways of connecting with the Lord. If you don’t feel God when you pray silently, then try something else. Explore the practice of walking a labyrinth or ask a trusted friend to pray audibly with you. Maybe it is enough to sit in the realization that Jesus is with you, that he is present in all your ups and downs. Maybe you are called to do nothing else but recognise that Jesus sits with you on the couch, he travels with you to your job; you are not alone.
The questions we ask amid our discouragements are incredibly important. They point us to the where Jesus calls us to a deeper experience of himself. This means that the place of your discouragement, along with the question connected to it, may be a place of dislodging, and a time where you can grow more deeply into the person that Jesus is calling us to be. So, hold your questions, and allow them to lead you to Jesus.