Day 14: Good Question
Updated: Feb 24, 2021
How could there be a good God with all the suffering in this world?
Isn't life ultimately absurd?
If the church has the truth why is it full of hypocrites?
Is there any solace in the most suffocating moments of life?
Sometimes the world asks better existential questions than the church knows how to ask because we Christians have decided that those questions reveal a lack of faith, so we don't go there. We want to stay positive and encouraging. (insert smirky gif)
But curious and thoughtful non-believers seem, at times, able to go into the rooms of the soul that we don't really want to go into. They look around and say, "What's up with this?! It's not supposed to be this way, right?"
Interestingly enough, I think the church really can offer good answers to the tough questions, if we would have the courage to follow non-believers into those dark rooms of doubt...if we would only listen better. Our problem is that the way we answer the questions is so often confusing or offensive to the world that our answers fall on deaf ears, lose their power and actually become bad answers.
When we have a suspicion that we are giving bad answers we need to circle back and ask ourselves some honest questions like, “what am I communicating and how am I communicating it?” "Am I making certain presuppositions that my listeners don’t have when I give answers in a certain way?" "Am I making an issue out of something that not only misses the world's point but actually reveals to them once again that I don't really practice what I preach?" Once you've pondered these questions, pause and wait. Don't be quick to speak.
Sometimes it’s better to listen. Let the world give their question and their best answer and then dialogue with that. This is what Radiohead does with the song Street Spirit (well, actually their entire repertoire does this masterfully). They ask some really good existential questions about the nature of death and then they give a great answer “immerse your soul in love“. Let's dialogue with this one...
This is the basic question:
"What do we do about the meaninglessness of this life that always ends in death?" Even when we come together to "form a circle before we all go under" we all still "fade out again" so what is the point?"
And sometimes…sometimes it is really good for us not to give an answer to the question. Sometimes it is really good just to say, "I know. That's a great question."
I think Psalm 88 does just that. It says, "I know. 'What's the point?' That's a great question."
(As you read this, play Street Spirit again because it is a good soundtrack to this Psalm).
For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah. A song to be sung to the tune “The Suffering of Affliction.” A psalm of Heman the Ezrahite.
O Lord, God of my salvation,
I cry out to you by day.
I come to you at night.
Now hear my prayer;
listen to my cry.
For my life is full of troubles,
and death draws near.
I am as good as dead,
like a strong man with no strength left.
They have left me among the dead,
and I lie like a corpse in a grave.
I am forgotten,
cut off from your care.
You have thrown me into the lowest pit,
into the darkest depths.
Your anger weighs me down;
with wave after wave you have engulfed me.
Interlude (fade out again)
You have driven my friends away
by making me repulsive to them.
I am in a trap with no way of escape.
My eyes are blinded by my tears.
Each day I beg for your help, O Lord;
I lift my hands to you for mercy.
Are your wonderful deeds of any use to the dead?
Do the dead rise up and praise you?
Interlude (fade out again)
Can those in the grave declare your unfailing love?
Can they proclaim your faithfulness in the place of destruction?
Can the darkness speak of your wonderful deeds?
Can anyone in the land of forgetfulness talk about your righteousness?
O Lord, I cry out to you.
I will keep on pleading day by day.
O Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you turn your face from me?
I have been sick and close to death since my youth.
I stand helpless and desperate before your terrors.
Your fierce anger has overwhelmed me.
Your terrors have paralyzed me.
They swirl around me like floodwaters all day long.
They have engulfed me completely.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me.
Darkness is my closest friend.
(fade out again)
This is a Psalm of Heman the Ezrahite but maybe it is better to read this as a Psalm of Jesus the King of the Jews as he hung on the cross. This Psalm fits nicely within Jesus' Eloi.
"You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me."
"My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"
Radiohead, along with the world, asks some really good fundamental questions about suffering, justice and the meaning of life. How do I know? Because Jesus asked those same questions as he plumbed the depths of our loneliness, fear and despair. So ask your questions. Go into the room of your soul that contains all the hard questions. You might just discover a God who has been there waiting for you the whole time.
Don't be afraid to ask questions that make it seem like you don't believe. There is no question you could ask that Jesus has thought of already.
I confess my eagerness to give an answer for the hope that is within me can often be without gentleness and respect. Give me the grace and courage to be slow to speak and quick to listen.. Amen.