31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: On Asking God Why

Elisabeth Elliot2

This is from Elisabeth’s book On Asking God Why:

I seek the lessons God wants to teach me, and that means that I ask why. There are those who insist that it is a very bad thing to question God. To them, “Why?” is a rude question. That depends, I believe, on whether it is an honest search, in faith, for his meaning, or whether it is a challenge of unbelief and rebellion. The psalmist often questioned God and so did Job. God did not answer the questions, but he answered the man–with the mystery of himself.

He has not left us entirely in the dark. We know a great deal more about his purposes than poor old Job did, yet Job trusted him. He is not only the Almighty–Job’s favorite name for him. He is also our Father, and what a father does is not by any means always understood by the child. If he loves the child, however, the child trusts him. It is the child’s ultimate good that the father has in mind. Terribly elementary. Yet I have to be reminded of this when, for example, my friend suffers, when a book I think I can’t possibly do without is lost, when a manuscript is worthless.

Elsewhere (I am not sure of the source) she writes:

Now is it a sin to ask God why? It’s always best to go first for our answers to Jesus Himself. He cried out on the cross, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ It was a human cry; a cry of desperation springing from His heart’s agony at the prospect of being put into the hands of wicked men and actually becoming sin for you and me. We can never suffer anything like that, yet we do at times feel forsaken, don’t we? It’s quite natural for us to cry, ‘Why, Lord?’

The psalmist asked why. Job, a blameless man suffering horrible torments on an ash heap, asked why. It doesn’t seem to me to be sinful to ask the question. What is sinful is resentment against God and His dealings with us. When we begin to doubt His love and imagine that He is cheating us of something we have a right to, we are guilty as Adam and Eve were guilty. They took the snake at his word rather than God.

The same snake comes to us repeatedly with the same suggestions. ‘Does God love you? Does He really want the best for you? Is His Word trustworthy? Isn’t He cheating you? Forget His promises. You’d be better off if you’d do it your way.’

I’ve often asked why. Many things have happened which I didn’t plan and which human rationality could not explain. In the darkness of my perplexity and sorrow, I have heard God say quietly, ‘Trust Me.’ He knew that my question was not the challenge of unbelief or of resentment.

I don’t understand Him, but then I’m not asked to understand, only to trust. Bitterness dissolves when I remember the kind of love with which He has loved me–He gave Himself for me. He gave Himself for me. He gave Himself for me. Whatever He is doing now, therefore, is not cause for bitterness. It has to be designed for good, because He loved me and gave Himself for me.

I agree. It’s not a sin to ask, at least not unless the attitude is one of defiance or resentment. He may not answer, or may answer in a way we hadn’t at first wanted, but the more we learn to know Him, the more we can trust Him with those questions, no matter the answer or lack thereof.

See all the posts in this series here.

8 thoughts on “31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: On Asking God Why

  1. Pingback: 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot | Stray Thoughts

  2. I totally agree that it’s right–and human–to ask God why. The key is whether we’re asking in trust or truly questioning OR in doubting and scorn. I believe that God is a loving Father who loves to hear from us. He will explain–or not–as He wills. He knows best what’s good for us to know! Great quotes, here, Barbara. As you know, I’m a fan of hers.

  3. Good thoughts. I think it is good to ask God what he is trying to teach us with difficulties and trials. This sounds like a really good book. Thanks for sharing these concepts.

  4. I love that you are doing this on Elisabeth Elliot. Apart from the Bible, her writings have probably had more impact on my life than anyone else, influencing my college choice (Wheaton) and my desire to go into missions. Thank you for sharing her words. I really needed to hear this today:
    “The same snake comes to us repeatedly with the same suggestions. ‘Does God love you? Does He really want the best for you? Is His Word trustworthy? Isn’t He cheating you? Forget His promises. You’d be better off if you’d do it your way.’… In the darkness of my perplexity and sorrow, I have heard God say quietly, ‘Trust Me.’ Blessings to you as you write! Leslie

  5. Asking “why” is a natural question for most because when we are very young we question everything. I also ask God “why” but not out of rebellion, but out of a place seeking to truly understand. By learning about our God, we deepen our relationship and consequently deepen our faith. Thank you for these words today.

  6. I am so glad I found this via the 31days survivors page . I love what she says about Job, that God didn’t answer the questions but he answered the man with the mystery of himself. I’ve asked many whys. I’m asking them every day at present and it is my experience that God answers me, but not the questions. I really appreciate you taking the time to share Elisabeth Elliot’s writings with us.

  7. Amen! It’s important to ask our why questions–and then to trust God whether he answers us the way we think he should or not. I’ve learned that God’s plan is always bigger and better than I could ever imagine–and that he won’t give me anything I can’t handle if I depend on him.

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