“Jim, what are you doing?”
“I’m asking a question.”
—Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, on meeting “God”
“God may well slay me; I may have no hope. Yet I will argue my case before God.”
I’ve heard two people recently point to something good in their lives and give God thanks for it, along the lines of “God knew I needed this.” And while I am happy for their good fortune, I wonder if they have taken time to go the next step: if God knew they needed it, what does mean when someone else, someone equally loved and valued by God, does not receive the thing that is needed? God knew you needed it. Does God not know that she needs it too?
Even though I wish it were otherwise, a large part of me still believes the lie that God’s love is equal to God’s provision for me. God loves me, therefore good things happen to me. Bad things happen and I am thrown into doubt. God has not provided. I know the key to what we are promised is God’s presence with us, not abundance or smooth sailing or anything of the sort. “In this world you will have trouble.” That is what we are told.
But I want to ask God a question. I want to know how we are supposed to believe he is with us, trust that he has not forgotten us when all the evidence points to the contrary. I want to ask God: “Where are you? Where are you for all the voices that even this night are crying out for relief from sickness, sorrow, and suffering? Where are you? And why don’t you do something?”
I’m just asking a question. I am made bold by biblical companions like Job, the Talmudic tradition of arguing with God, and even the modern-day example of Captain Kirk. What am I doing? I am asking God a question. I don’t expect an answer. Just, for a while, to burn with the words I need to ask. And to hope, as a friend reminded me with a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, that I am able to “love the questions themselves” and trust that one day I will “gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”