Answering Difficult Questions about God

Every Christian faces the hard task of answering difficult questions about God. How can we prepare ourselves to be competent and compassionate for the task?

I enjoy answering difficult questions about God because I came to faith asking such questions.

I grew up in a Christian home and my father was an evangelist. But when I was a teenager, I had to face the doubts in my heart about Jesus. Either my father was right or he had deceived himself into deceiving others.

I needed to know whether Christ is Lord or simply a beautiful lie I wanted to be true. After some soul-searching, book reading, and grace-working, I put my trust in Christ.

As a teenager, my doubts were intellectual and philosophical. But as an adult and a pastor, I see how doubt is more complex and personal than we are willing to admit.

Recently at a dinner conversation, someone asked me, “Has someone ever asked you anything really difficult?”

I replied, “The most difficult ones are usually personal, not intellectual. They’re questions of the heart, not the mind.”

“My grandmother died without knowing Christ. Does that mean she is in hell right now?”

“My father did unspeakable things to me as a child. How could God allow him to do that?”

“I prayed every night for God to stop my parents from getting divorced. Why didn’t he answer my prayer?”

Every Christian faces the hard task of answering difficult questions about God. They may come from trolls on Twitter, skeptical friends in social circles, grieving church members, or obstinate relatives. More poignantly, they may come from your own heart.

The Question Behind Every Question

All our questions about God boil down to the same question, “Why should I trust you?”

The Bible offers many credible answers to our toughest questions. But what it first demands from its readers is trust—the benefit of the doubt, the priority of affection, and the primacy of devotion (Heb. 11:6).

A closed heart cannot have an open mind.

Though it seems counter-intuitive, this is true to the nature of human reasoning. The mind is not an impartial judge that weighs evidence rationally. It is more like a shrewd lawyer, who reasons according to what the heart desires.

A closed heart cannot have an open mind. If the heart is set on something, the mind will always refuse evidence to the contrary. So the Bible calls for the heart’s trust in God, instead of giving it to anyone or anything else (Prov. 3:5-6).

Before the Question

The best time to prepare for battle is during a time of peace.

The worst time to answer difficult questions is when you are going through a difficult time. Every Christian needs to invest in a robust theology of suffering, when they are not suffering.

We may not always have the luxury of preparing for trouble. Sometimes we are thrust into it without warning. But like ants storing up food for the winter, we need to strengthen our minds for the day of trouble before the day of trouble.

In these times, we must invest in learning from Scripture, sermons, debates, lectures, podcasts, books, and people about all our questions about God. This way, we fortress the mind with “shock absorbers” for the day of trouble.

In testing times, the well-prepared mind will be more like an encouraging, empathetic friend than a noise-making, peace-robbing voice of derision.

We will be able to recognise lies, cling to the truth, embrace uncertainty, and persevere with patience until we see the goodness of God in the land of the living (Ps. 27:13).

In the Question

Trying to answer philosophical questions during a personal crisis is like trying to brush a lion’s teeth while it is eating. It is least required and invites the most retaliation.

Job’s friends were terrible counsellors. They were most effective when they were silent and least loving when they spoke.

In a crisis, people need comfort, care, and consolation from the company of loving, trusted, godly people. These times require us to answer difficult questions with silence, humble ignorance, and real presence.

Silence, because you cannot reason with emotion. Ignorance, because we do not know all that God knows. Real presence, because sometimes the most loving thing to do for someone in pain is to be with them in it.

In Lamentations, as the prophet is pouring his heart out to God in crisis, it is notable that God only speaks once (Lam. 3:57). Throughout the prophet’s lament, God is listening. He is quiet, he is patient, and he is near.

After the Question

Crisis always changes people, but it is not always for the better. Sometimes people who go through difficult times become difficult people. The mind turns against God and the heart hardens to protect itself from the danger of hope.

The deepest resolution to our most difficult questions is whom we know, not what we know.

But coming out of a crisis with Christ can be a deeply formative experience. It can show us that answers to difficult questions are not merely rational but personal.

Experiencing God’s grace personally is vital for anyone answering difficult questions about God.

Everything we know about Christ intellectually becomes a personally tested experience. No one knows the power of a painkiller more than someone in pain. In the same way, nobody knows the power of Christ more than anyone in the throes of weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

Having felt God’s power personally, we become people who can be trusted because we have been tested and we have tasted the goodness of God. It softens our hearts, trains our minds, deepens our compassion, and permits us to be merciful to those who have doubts (Jude 22).

We can become people who can offer great comfort to others because we have received great comfort from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

The Answer Behind Every Answer

All questions assume the answer will come from a person. The Bible takes this valid assumption further to show that the answer will not only come from a person. The answer is a person.

Answering difficult questions about God is a matter of looking to Jesus. The deepest resolution to our most difficult questions is whom we know, not what we know.

For everything we do not know, we rest in the beautiful nature of Christ—the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).

He is familiar with the test of suffering and the taste of death. His sacrificial love turns enemies into allies, foreigners into citizens, and strangers into family. He knows how to redeem terrible things and make us beautiful people.

God’s glory displayed in Christ is not merely rational. It is his most personal answer of his inherent goodness. It compels us to answer the most difficult questions about God by answering more difficult questions.

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

“Shall not the judge of all the earth do just?” (Gen 18:25)

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Ps. 42:5-6)

It is good for the mind to wrestle with difficult questions. But our wrestling is most fruitful when our hearts are tethered to Christ.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now we know in part; then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known (1 Cor 13:12).