Think Again - The Most Difficult Questions
The Most Difficult Questions
I have had the privilege of crisscrossing this globe over four decades and seeing much of the world. I have frequently been asked about my favorite city or what food I enjoy the most. The latter is easier to answer than the former because, while cities have attractions for different reasons, the palette is often influenced by one’s land of birth.
Strangely, I have never been asked about my favorite site. I am not sure I could pick a single spectacle but I know one experience that would be in the running as the most emotionally moving moment for me. On a brilliantly sunny day, my colleague and I were driven from Cape Town to very near land’s end in South Africa: Cape Point. There we stood at the edge of terra firma and watched as the waters of the calmer Atlantic and the restless Indian Oceans collided into one massive torrent of fluid strength, the power of the current almost visible to the naked eye. That body of water has been the graveyard of many mariners trying to navigate their way around the globe. The endless horizon, the borderless blue and turquoise of the mighty waters, and the frothy white tips of the crashing waves as they collided against each other—this scene from the world’s end seemed to just overwhelm us with a stupendous sense of awe.
Yes, I have seen the Taj Mahal and many of the other so-called wonders of the world. But this was sheer enchantment, not made by human hand! Whether it was because we were not expecting such a banquet for the eyes, or whether it was that we needed refreshment after a busy day, I would not even venture to analyze. All I know is that it affected both of us in the same way. For seemingly unexplainable reasons, my eyes filled with tears. I was in the throes of enjoying the wonder and the vastness of creation. I felt at once both dwarfed and elevated, dwarfed because my entire stature as a human being seemed so diminished compared to this display of beauty and power before me but elevated because I could revel in this glorious sight—while the land and water combined could not exult in its own beauty or share in any delight.
But then a strange, unexpected sensation took hold of us, and we both did something that neither of us had ever done before. We walked back a few steps, found a sharp stone, and scratched the names of our wives onto the surface of a massive piece of rock. We realized that in a matter of days the writing would be erased, but the thought and act spoke volumes. We had been in the throes of wonder and it just seemed incomplete that we could not enjoy it with the ones dearest to us and express something from the overflow.
Questions of personal choice are relatively easier to answer. After all, one is answering from his or her own context and delights. But then there emerge questions that are really not just personal. The answer calls for some universal implication. Such questions are indicative of the struggles of many skeptics as well as believers and reveal that the deepest questions can span both the mind and the heart.
Out of the scores of letters that I have received over the years, one in particular stands out. The writer simply asked, “Why has God made it so difficult to believe in him? If I loved somebody and had infinite power, I would use that power to show myself more obviously. Why has God made it so difficult to see his presence and his plan?” It is a powerful question that is both felt and intellectual at the same time. One might say, “Why is God so hidden?” The question ultimately gains momentum and parks itself in our heart’s genuine search for meaning, belongingness, and relationship to our own creator.
I recall the restlessness and turning point of my own life. I had come to believe that life had no meaning. Nothing seemed to connect. When still in my teens, I found myself lying in a hospital bed after an attempted suicide. The struggle for answers when met by despair led me along that tragic path. But there in my hospital room the Scriptures were brought and read to me. For the first time I engaged the direct answers of God to my seeking heart. The profound realization of the news that God could be known personally drew me, with sincerity and determination, to plumb the depths of that claim. With a simple prayer of trust, in that moment, the change from a desperate heart to one that found the fullness of meaning became a reality for me.
The immediate change was in the way I saw God’s handiwork in ways I had never seen before. The marvel of discovering even splendor in the ordinary was the work of God in my heart. Over a period of time, I was able to study, pursue, and understand how to respond to more intricate questions of the mind.
That divine encounter of coming to know Him brought meaning and made answers reachable. I believe God intervenes in each of our lives. He speaks to us in different ways and at different times so that we may know that it is He who is the author of our very personality; that his answers are both propositional and relational (and sometimes in reverse order); that his presence stills the storms of the heart.
Oddly enough, in history, the most questioning and the resistant became God’s mouthpieces to skeptics. Consider Peter, Paul, and Thomas—just to name a few. They questioned, they wrestled, they challenged. But once convinced, they spoke and wrote and persuaded people in the most stubborn of circumstances. That is why they willingly paid the ultimate price, even as they sought God’s power and presence in those “dark nights of the soul.”
In the end, in the face of difficult questions, the answers that are given and received must be both felt and real, with the firm knowledge that God is nearer than one might think. Yes, the Scriptures reveal, as many can attest, that this assurance of his nearness sometimes comes at a cost, like any relationship of love and commitment. But God desires that we know Him and that He is not distant to us. He is grander than any wondrous sight we may behold and the answer to every heart’s deepest question. That is why, maybe, seeing two majestic oceans coming together within the panoramic view of a splendid creation, the heart saw Him not hidden but gloriously revealed.
Questioning is the way of humanity. We will always ask, debate, challenge, and search. But when we come to know our creator, the questioning is not for doubting but for putting it all together. The real hidden factor may be not the absence of evidence but the suppression of it.
That connecting of it all is the wonderful journey of the soul. The real struggle of sin is not in pain or suffering, but in the discrowned faculties, the unworthy loves, and the enslaved imagination. When the thinking is set aright again and when the flesh has its shackles broken, the mind and body come under God’s liberating and fulfilling plan. Then we see as He designed us to see.
The final consummation of that glimpse is yet future. I firmly believe as the apostle Paul declared—that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Then we shall see, not darkly, but face to face. That is when the soul will feel the ultimate touch, and the silence will be one of knowing with awesome wonder. The only thing we would want hidden is how blind we were.