Years ago, while still in college, I remember being furious with God. For months I had been praying for an answer to a specific question I had about a difficult situation in my life, and had only been met with silence. Even more offensive to me was the fact that God had provided clear, direct answers to a myriad of other things I had been praying about during this time period—we’re talking the kind of answers that make you look up to Heaven and say, “WOW! There is a God!”
So why in the world was He remaining silent concerning this issue?
Meanwhile, I had been volunteering as a tutor for middle school students, and I vividly remember reaching my breaking point concerning God’s silence while driving to the school where I was to tutor. Through tears I just starting screaming and shouting at the top of my lungs…
“WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER ME?!?”
“WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!?”
“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST TELL ME THE ANSWER TO MY QUESTIONS?!?”
“I’VE DONE EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING, I CAN THINK OF TO GET AN ANSWER FROM YOU AND STILL YOU ARE SILENT!!!”
To no avail. My furious raging at Him didn’t result in an answer. All I felt was a strange silence and being loved in the midst of my yelling at Him. God, I have learned, is a really good listener.
I arrived at the school, and wanting to save face before walking inside, I calmed myself, wiped away the tears and took a deep breath. I don’t remember exactly what I thought, but I recall thinking something along the lines, “we’ll finish this later.”
Tutoring was going along quite normally at first, but then I caught what I thought was a boy holding his fingers in the back of his math book to look up answers. I stopped to watch him for a moment only to confirm my suspicion: back and forth between his homework assignment and the answers he went, copying down the right answers to all the problems in front of him.
I stopped him and asked, “what are you doing?”
He responded matter-of-factly, “I’m writing down the answers to my homework from the back of the book.”
“You can’t do that.” I replied.
He looked dumbfounded, as if no one had ever bothered to explain the right way to an otherwise innocent child.
“Why?” he asked.
I was actually taken aback by the demeanor of his response because I expected some kind of smart-aleckyretort, so I had to pause and think for a minute on how to explain why his seemingly brilliant idea wasn’t at all good for him. I did my best to give him a reasoned response and explained something along these lines (I don’t remember my words verbatim),
“You can’t do that because even though you get the right answers to all the problems, you don’t actually learn anything about how to solve the problem. What you’re doing sort of works for now as an instant fix, but you don’t learn or grow as a person and won’t become a better thinker. Eventually, you’ll go on to higher math where the answers won’t be in the back of the book for you, or you’ll have to do some really practical math with your budget as an adult, but you won’t know how because you took too many shortcuts. You have to practice now, learning how to think through easier problems so you can go on to do the more difficult problems you’re going to encounter later.”
As soon as I finished answering him I realized what had just happened. God had answered my screaming prayers from the car ride over by making me live out a parable! It’s an incredibly humbling thing to have God listen patiently to you rage at Him only to turn around and demonstrate He is so masterfully in control of your life He can make you utter the answers to your own questions without even having a clue He was going to do that to you. I was blindsided. My eyes widened and my jaw literally dropped; I had to turn around to hide the shock on my face from the student and the other tutors who had no idea what just transpired.
So permit me to make a few observations I learned about God that day.
For starters, God is big enough to put up with all our raging. He is also honest enough to know how mad we are long before we are willing to admit we are mad at God. In my opinion, Christians do far better when we drop our pious pretensions before God and let Him know how we truly feel since He already knows.
Secondly, God can answer and give clarity in a moment’s notice to anything we pray for, but oftentimes He produces situations in our lives where we have to continue asking, seeking, and knocking for answers. His purposes for this are many, but they include our going on to the “higher math” of becoming more discerning, holy, and loving people.
Finally, the epilogue to this story is that God did NOT give me the answer to my question for another two years, and it was a difficult journey. By the end of it I felt as though I were an old house that had been gutted for renovations, but by this time I was also ready for those renovations because I had matured greatly through the process. I never got the short cut I asked for on my way to tutoring, but to this day I am profoundly grateful for the foundational lessons and habits of soul I received in those two arduous years.
Plus, I’m happy to say, the boy went on to do his homework without looking up the answers.