When it comes to questioning God, everything hinges on a person’s attitude and expression of their heart. It seems when Job questioned God his attitude may have been less that proper given the way God answered him. Once Job recognized his attitude was improper and changed it, his demeanor and words also changed in a major way.[i] However, consider an event from John 11 when two sisters, Martha and Mary, both said the exact same thing to Jesus after their brother Lazarus died. Jesus confronted one sister while he chose to comfort the other.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:20-26)
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:32-36)
In response to Martha’s statement, Jesus gave her a theological lesson and demanded an answer. But when Mary asked the exact same question, Jesus was deeply moved and wept without challenging her in any way. After reflecting deeply on these two events the only conclusion I can come to is that the sisters must have presented two different attitudes to Jesus’ arrival. Since it is recorded Martha was probably a “Type-A” personality and Mary more of a reflective person,[ii] Jesus responded to them in the exact manner required given their temperament, heart, and attitude.
God does not mind being asked why or questioned at times, as long as the attitude of the heart and presentation of the question are appropriate. Consider how Abraham interacted with God when through prayer he asked if God would destroy the righteous along with the wicked in Genesis 18:27-33. Abraham said to God, “What if I can find 50 righteous… will you spare the city? What if I find 40… 30… 20… 10 righteous, will you still destroy the city?” God allows Abraham to press him, but notice in the text Abraham’s attitude toward God during the interchange.
I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. (Genesis 18:27)
Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. (Genesis 18:30)
Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. (Genesis 18:32)
Consider also it is recorded in Hebrews 4:16 how believers are told to “come boldly before the throne to find help in time of need.” Then there are numerous times in the Psalms God is asked, “Why?”[iii] When approaching God attitude IS everything. It is completely acceptable for you in your hurt and pain to go to the throne of grace seeking answers. As it is written in James 1:5-6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…” If God prohibited ever being asked “Why?” then he would not have allowed Hebrews 4:16 and James 1:5-6 to be written and he might have killed Abraham and Job.