August 1, 2010
When Our Questions Are Not Answered
The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).
Not every question we might ask or wish an answer to is going to be answered. It is presumptuous to think that God must grant information on every question we might think to ask, and we need to be very cautious about issuing subpoenas to the Ruler of the Universe. In particular, questions about why things are as they are and questions about what is going to happen are often queries that, from God’s perspective, we'd be better off not knowing about. We may think we need to know and may even become demanding in our prayers, but the questions are still met with silence. About many things, God's word says simply . . . nothing.
Do you remember the freedom with which you asked questions as a child, and the firmness with which your parents often had to say that certain questions were not ones they felt it wise to answer? The eagerness with which children ask questions is not a fault. Indeed, it is refreshing, and God must surely look with paternal love on this aspect of our childishness. But we must be careful not to push past childish inquisitiveness into the realm of irreverent insistence and demandingness. We must be willing for God to correct our notions of what is important for us to know.
Moses said to Israel, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” It takes trust to accept God's decision about the "secret things," and it also takes courage, for it's often frightening to be left without information that we think is essential to our survival. Yet if we trust God, we will do this. When we don't have all the information we want, we must be content to have God. God is all we have to have.
What God says is important. But what God does not say is also important, and if we respect God’s statements, we should also respect God’s silences. In fact, it's probably true that our foolish fascination with certain unanswered questions is the result of our failure to be nourished by the truths that have been revealed. If we'll digest it, what God has already said will more than meet our needs.
“He who hath heard the Word of God can bear his silences.” Ignatius of Loyola