The Answer Is Not the Answer

When we pray, we usually expect an answer, either yes, no or wait. Some cite the story of the persistent woman and the unjust judge in Luke 18 as an example of how we should keep praying until we get the answer we want. One author likens our prayers to filling up a prayer bowl and when it gets full, we can expect something to happen.

But what if getting an answer isn’t what prayer is all about? Can we be satisfied with no answers?

The story of Job is an encouraging if puzzling example of God’s presence but lack of answers during difficult times. Job asked many questions of God including the age-old Why? Why did he lose his family? Was God punishing him for sin as his friends suggested? Why did this calamity happen?

God didn’t directly answer his questions. He pointed Job and his friends to himself, to his omniscience and his omnipotence.

Boiled down to the simplest element, God’s answer was I AM. Job must have realized this was enough because in verses 4 and 5 of chapter 40, Job said: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more” (NIV throughout).

Then God told Job to brace himself and be ready to give some answers while God asked the questions. And he asked some good ones, including, “Would you condemn me to justify yourself?” (verse 8b). Later in chapter 42, verse 5, Job repented, saying his ears had heard of God but now his eyes had seen him (verse 3). He had nothing more to say.

There often are no answers to the hard questions, particularly Why? Many think God should be answering these questions and when he doesn’t, they turn away in disbelief, becoming skeptical of his very existence. It’s hard to accept that in this life we won’t always receive the answers we want and hard to explain this to others to their satisfaction.

I want answers too, but for now the only answer we need is God himself. Job realized this after going through tremendous grief and pain. Paul learned of the sufficiency of God’s grace after receiving no relief from his affliction (2 Corinthians 12:9). We too must learn and accept this, not out of resignation to victimhood or giving up in hopelessness, but out of the realization that God himself is our salvation, our sufficiency and our hope.

Psalm 73:26 says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

We will have problems. Bad things will continue to happen. We will still pray and expect God to answer, but many answers will elude us. God’s grace is always sufficient. Resting in his love and grace will ease our questioning minds more than all the answers in the world.

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