Each of the big questions we will consider uses the big question words (Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?) to take us on a journey of discovery.
Who Is God? What is He like?
A. W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Knowing who God is and what He is like really is at the heart of life’s questions, for if we know these things, we can also know who we are and the reason we are here on earth. Answering these two questions opens up for us so many other things such as the meaning of life, what’s the purpose of life and so on. We must, above all, come to terms with the fact that God is at the centre of the universe, not mankind. Just as the Copernican revolution in the 15th and 16th centuries meant that people had to re-think their astronomical views (that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around), we must see life from God’s point of view if ever we are to understand it fully. Exploring the essence of God is essential to our spiritual growth.
Where Is God?
We need to understand both the transcendence of God (Ps 115:3) and His immanence – that He is near to us (Phil 4:5) We need to remember that Jesus is ‘Immanuel – God with us’ (Matt 1:23) every day of our lives and not just at Christmas! Knowing that God is with us sustains us through many tragedies and through suffering as well as being a constant source of enrichment and encouragement. If God is with us and for us, then who can be against us? (Rom 8:31) Paul goes on to remind us that nothing can separate us from God’s love and the fact that the presence of God is with us always to the end of the age becomes our source of strength. (Rom 8:38-39, Matt 28:18-20, Heb 13:5) No matter what is going on around us or even within us, God’s presence becomes our sustaining force.
When, God? How long?
‘When?’ questions can be divided into two categories: ones which are relatively easy to answer because they have a fixed point (your birthday will be on the same day each year, for example!) and ones which are not so easy to answer because they are more fluid. Often, we question God’s timing. When will God move in power? When will we see His answer to our prayers? When will Jesus come again? These are all important questions relating to God’s timing, and it’s hard for us (because we dwell in time) to understand the eternal nature of God and the way He works in time. One of the recurring questions in the Psalms is ‘How long, Lord?’ (see Ps 6:3, Ps 13:1-2, Ps 35:17, Ps 74:10) and it’s one of the most frequent questions we still ask today. We need to explore time and eternity and God’s timings to begin to answer this question.
The Bible is full of ‘why?’ questions. Why does God allow suffering? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why can’t we all just get along together? Why are there wars and murders? Why is life so difficult at times? Sometimes, God reveals His purposes to us, as He did when Habakkuk asked him about the suffering Israel was undergoing, though we often can’t cope with His answers! (Then, He told Habakkuk He was going to raise up a ruthless people, the Babylonians, to discipline His people, which confused Habbakuk even more! How could God use the treacherous in this way?!) Sometimes, He doesn’t answer the ‘why?’ questions (Job never really got an explanation from God as to why he had to suffer so much). Exploring the purposes of God will lead us to mystery and wonder: ‘oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!’ (Rom 11:33)
How God works (or the methods of God) draws us inevitably into paradox and mystery, because God doesn’t do things the way we think He will or even the way we think He should. Is 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s thoughts and ways are far higher than ours. God’s kingdom is a topsy-turvy kingdom, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first (Luke 13:30), where life is found through death (John 12:24-25), where greatness comes through service (Mark 10:43), where love conquers hatred (Matt 5:43-48) – and where we have to turn all the world’s wisdom the other way up to have even the faintest clue what God is doing. We spend our whole lives learning something about how God works, and this matters enormously not in the abstract, but so that we can begin to live reflecting His character to the world around us. God teaches us about loving unconditionally, forgiving freely, caring compassionately – and essentially, if we even begin to glimpse something about His methods (seeing only a reflection as in a mirror, as Paul puts it (1 Cor 13:12)), our lives are changed for the better.