When You Lose Your Way (Habakkuk 3)

On Sunday, March 3, fifteen years ago, a United Airlines flight bound for the airport in Colorado Springs crashed nose first into a neighborhood park, killing all 25 people on board.

Larry Crabb, the brother of one of the 25 people on that plane, was sitting in church when an elder tapped him on the shoulder. “You have an emergency phone call,” he whispered. Larry followed him to the church office and pressed the flashing button on the telephone.

“Larry? This is Dad. Bill’s been in an accident. Phoebe just called from the airport. We don’t know how bad it is, but she’s really shaken up. Could you get down here?”

When he got to the airport he was told, “Flight 585 has crashed just north of the airport. There are no survivors.”

You’d expect Larry to be overcome with grief, and he was. But this experience also shook his faith in God. It’s an experience he’s had to deal with many times since then, when he was diagnosed with cancer a few years back, when his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The question is this:

How can an unmarried man or woman struggling with loneliness find God? How can a bereaved parent enjoy God’s goodness? How can a bankrupt businessman with a large family rest in what he knows about God? How can a discouraged, confused, and unmotivated teenager find enough confidence in God to continue living?

I guess the question is this: when things fall apart in your life, how can you continue to worship God?

It is reasonably easy to worship God when things are going well. There are days that I am overcome with how blessed I am. On those days, when work is going well and I’m relaxed and there’s money in the bank to cover the bills, and everyone is healthy, it’s relatively easy to worship God.

But many of us know how hard it is to worship God when life falls apart, when you have questions for God and you haven’t received a good answer.

A boy once asked his father, “How many people in the world, “Dad?” He said, “I don’t know, son.” He said, “How many stars in the sky?” He said, “I don’t know, son.” “How many fish in the sea?” “Don’t know, son.” “Dad, you don’t mind me asking you all these questions, do you?” “No, son. How are you going to learn if you don’t ask questions?”

That is probably how a lot of us feel: we ask question after question of God, and it seems that we just get a shrug of the shoulders from heaven. How do you worship God when you have questions of God, and the questions just aren’t getting answered?

Fellow Travelers

Well, I think part of the answer might be in enlisting some help from someone who’s been through this experience and survived it. I’m talking about fellow travelers, people who have had their lives fall apart, and who still have managed to hold on to their faith. They don’t give easy answers because they know how hard it really is. When they speak about holding on to their faith, it has credibility because they really did experience what it’s like to barely hold on.

And yet they’ve held on, and somehow they’ve managed to worship God even through the pain.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been in one of the smaller books in the Old Testament. It’s called Habakkuk. It’s the fifth last book in the Old Testament, just three short chapters.

What I like about this book is that it is a book of questions for God. Habakkuk had questions for God. God gave an answer, and Habakkuk didn’t expect the answer or especially appreciate it. So you have in this book a back-and-forth honest conversation between God and an honest believer who is struggling with the way things are.

By the time we get to today’s section, Habakkuk has come to accept news that he doesn’t especially appreciate. His nation, Judah, is full of evil. Instead of getting better, it’s going to be destroyed very soon by an even worse nation: the Babylonians. God tells Habakkuk that he will punish the Babylonians eventually as well.

It’s good to know that God will set things right in the end, and it’s very comforting, but when you’re looking right at bad news, it’s hard to see past that. You know the type of news - the type of news that threatens your faith. When you get this type of news, you may know that God will set it right eventually, but that doesn’t take away the hard questions that don’t always have easy answers. It can still be almost more than you can handle.

Habakkuk never survived long enough to see God put things right. I don’t know how all of this played out in Habakkuk’s life. We don’t know if he survived the events that are prophesied in the book. But we know that he managed to hold on to his faith, and that he left us with a liturgy to guide us when we go through the same circumstance. Let’s look at the pattern he left us for worship when we go through the same sort of experience. If you have your Bible, look with me at Habakkuk 3.

A Prayer for When You’re Barely Holding On

Let’s look right at the end of chapter 3. The end of verse 19 says, “For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.” This tells us something important about the intent of this chapter. It’s not just somebody’s thoughts. This is a song, a psalm, that is supposed to be used by God’s people in worship. This has been given to us to guide us through worship when the theme of this book - questioning God - is our experience.

It’s interesting, this song. Most songs in the Bible fit into a category: a psalm of praise, a lament, a kingly psalm. This one really doesn’t fit neatly into any one category. But it has a purpose. I think it was originally written to guide Judah in worship when they wouldn’t feel like worshiping. When Babylon invaded, when the Temple was destroyed, and the people were in exile, they would have this song to guide them in their worship, just when worship couldn’t get any harder.

So this is a liturgy for us when we don’t feel like worshiping, when we are barely holding on. Liturgy is a pattern for worship. It guides us in how we should worship by providing a structure and a content for our worship. It’s just what we need when it feels like we’ve lost our way. This liturgy provides a way for us when we are barely holding on.

A few years ago, Charlene dragged me to the Arthur Murray Dance Studio for a free lesson. This is the lesson where they try to give you some hope that you too have what it takes to learn how to dance. They have these footprints on the floor that show you where you should put your feet next. It’s practically impossible to not dance with things marked out for you like that - but I managed. I endured the complimentary lesson but never went back, and I think they’re probably glad.

The liturgy is a little like that. When you’ve lost your way, when you’ve forgotten how to dance - or, in this case, how to worship - the liturgy shows us where to place our feet next. It marks what we’re supposed to do next. It’s the guide for us when we can’t find our own way.

I need it because there are times that I lose my way. I almost did yesterday, attending the funeral of a twenty-year-old man, the son of one of my friends. I knew this man when he was five. I sat in church and I forgot how to worship. I was put back on track by those who had laid a groundwork to worship, even when the unthinkable happens. I was numb, but the steps were there on the floor. All I had to do was follow.

I have a feeling that Habakkuk wrote this chapter for the people who would endure the events that he had prophesied. They would endure the destruction of everything that was important to them. Even worse, they would feel that God had abandoned them. This song would tell them how to worship, even when they had lost their way. And it’s the reason that we have it today. It’s a song that we can use today.

So I need this prayer. I need it because I’m still a bit numb myself. I know that some of you need it today as well. I don’t know what you’re going through, but some of us may feel like you’ve forgotten how to worship. You need the steps on the floor, to be shown where to place your feet.

Instead of preaching this today, I’m going to invite you to join me in actually pray through this song with me. We don’t have the music, and you wouldn’t want me to sing it anyway. But we can pray it. The song comes in three parts, and I’m going to invite you to pray these prayers, these three movements with me.

First Movement: Cry Out

The three movements of this song move from elementary to advanced levels. The first movement is the easiest. No advanced training is needed here. It’s simple: Cry out to God. Level with him. Tell him honestly that you hope for more.

Habakkuk 3 begins with a simple cry of the prophet out to God:

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy.

The Message paraphrases it like this:

GOD, I've heard what our ancestors say about you,
and I'm stopped in my tracks, down on my knees.
Do among us what you did among them.
Work among us as you worked among them.
And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
remember mercy.

It’s as if Habakkuk is looking back over old pictures, remembering the way that it used to be. He sees snapshots of how it used to be, and he likes what he sees a lot better than what he sees now. And he cries out, “God, I’ve seen the pictures. I’ve heard the stories.” And he says, “Don’t let the stories remain in the past. Do something again today. Act now as you have in the past. Display your wrath, but God, don’t remember to show us your mercy as well.”

So you have someone heading into rough times. He looks forward and doesn’t like what he sees. He looks back and says, “God, I like that a lot better. Do it again. Renew your acts today. Don’t let them be memories. Do it one more time.”

It’s like what happens with rock climbers. Eugene Peterson writes:

My two sons are both rock climbers, and I have listened to them plan their ascents. They spend as much or more time planning their climbs as in the actual climbing. They meticulously plot their route and then, as they climb, put in what they call"protection"—pitons hammered into small crevices in the rock face, with attached ropes that will arrest a quick descent to death. Rock climbers who fail to put in protection have short climbing careers.

Our pitons or"protection" come as we remember and hold on to those times when we have experienced God's faithfulness in our lives. Every answered prayer, every victory, every storm that has been calmed by his presence is a piton which keeps us from falling, losing hope, or worse yet, losing our faith. Every piton in our life is an example of God's faithfulness to us…. As we ascend in the kingdom of God, we also realize that each experience, each victory is only a piton—a stepping stone toward our ultimate goal of finishing the race and receiving the crown of glory.

So this is what I’m going to invite you to do. This first prayer, I’d like you to do privately. Cry out to God. Say, “Lord, I remember it used to be better. Renew your mighty acts again today. Don’t forget to show me mercy.” I’m going to give you a few minutes to pray silently, and then I’ll lead us in prayer.

Second Movement: See What Can’t Be Seen

Annette and her husband were missionaries in Western Europe when she began to have pain in her back. When the pain became so unbearable that she could no longer function, even with muscle relaxants, X-rays revealed a tumor the size of a grapefruit that had attached itself to her spinal cord. Though surgery would need to be done immediately, the operation was considered somewhat routine and not a particularly high-risk procedure.

Something went wrong. Annette awakened from the surgery paralyzed from the neck down and in constant, excruciating pain. Not long afterward, she, her husband, and their five children returned to the United States where she could be cared for in more appropriate surroundings.

When she first came out of the surgery, she and everyone else focused on praying for God to heal her. When that didn't happen and she was confined to 24-hour care at home, she became very depressed. Most people stopped connecting with her. Their lives moved on while Annette's came to a screeching halt. Bible college and missionary training had not equipped her to deal with a life tied to a wheelchair and filled with constant pain.

“I felt that I was left with three choices,” said Annette. “To kill myself and end the unbearable suffering for all of us; to abandon my faith in God and merely exist on painkillers; or to put my energies to discovering God in the midst of all of this suffering.”

Annette's face beamed. “I chose the third,” she said. “And as I began slowly reading the Bible again through the lens of pain and suffering, what I saw was a God who was familiar with both. I thought my pain and suffering had taken me to a place where God could never be found; instead, it was a place where he became more real to me than I had ever known him to be.”

It is an amazing thing to stand in a place that looks deserted by God’s presence, and to find that instead of being absent, he is very much there. That’s what happens in the second part of this prayer. Habakkuk cries out to God, and discovers God’s presence. Verses 3 to 15 are what’s called an theophany, which is a fancy word for an appearance of God:

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His glory covered the heavens
and his praise filled the earth.
His splendor was like the sunrise;
rays flashed from his hand,
where his power was hidden.
Plague went before him;
pestilence followed his steps.
He stood, and shook the earth;
he looked, and made the nations tremble.
The ancient mountains crumbled
and the age-old hills collapsed—
but he marches on forever.
(Habakkuk 3:3-6)

These verses are full of imagery, and it’s easy to get lost in all of the details. The important thing to remember is this: Habakkuk realizes that God is present. He didn’t just move in the past. He is present today.

God is present when we think he’s deserted us. He is present in the hospital room. He is present in the funeral home. He is present in court. He is present when we are alone. He is present in the very places where he seems most distant.

I’d like to invite you to pray that what happened to Annette and what happened to Habakkuk would also happen to you: that in pain in suffering, you would find God’s presence; that he would become more real to you than you ever would have imagined.

Third Movement: Trust Anyways

This hasn’t been an easy prayer for Habakkuk:

I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.
(Habakkuk 3:16)

He’s cried out to God. He’s asked for God to act again. He’s seen God’s presence, even when God seemed most absent. But he’s still full of dread. His situation hasn’t changed. Things aren’t any better. But something within him has changed.

In these next few verses, Habakkuk moves to the most advanced level of faith: to trust God unconditionally, even if, even when everything falls apart.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
(Habakkuk 3:17-19)

Habakkuk says, even when the simplest sign of God’s favor is absent, even then he will trust. Even then he will not give up. His allegiance to God is unconditional, no matter what the personal consequences may be.

Margaret had multiple sclerosis. She was confined to a wheelchair, and could only slur her words. She drooled constantly and was in pain nearly all her waking hours. Margaret had grounds for complaint; but she did not complain. She loved Jesus, and she never missed church.

One night, the pastor was conducting a forum asking questions and facilitating dialogue with a group of about 20 people. He asked people to tell him their favorite Bible verse or a passage from Scripture that was personally meaningful. After many people spoke, Margaret let him know she wanted to say something. Most of the people had recited their verses from memory or read them aloud from Scripture. Since Margaret could not speak, he looked up the verse for the group and read it for her: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).

Margaret smiled broadly and nodded her head. Her wheelchair was a testimony to grace.

Even here, even now, even if nothing ever gets better...

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Father, I thank you for the prayer that Habakkuk has given us, so we know where to place our feet when we lose our way. Thank you that it is real and a little bit raw. Thank you that it ultimately leads us back to see your presence and to trust you, even if nothing else changes.

Thank you as well for that we know something that Habakkuk didn’t. Thank you that we know that “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

May we continue to hope and rest in his love. Amen.

Crisis of Faith (Habakkuk 1:1-2:20)

Subject How do you keep your faith when your expectations in God aren’t met?
Object By taking steps to trust God despite how things appear
Big Idea We keep our faith in God when he doesn’t meet our expectations by trusting him anyways.
Purpose To learn how to trust in God when our expectations aren’t met

Tomorrow I attend a funeral for somebody who died suddenly last week after being hit in her car six weeks ago. Last week I attended a funeral led by a pastor, whose wife phoned with a cancer diagnosis during the funeral reception.

Sometimes we think life will go a certain way because we follow God. We experience a crisis when our expectations aren’t met, which seems to happen to quite a few of us.

1. Sometimes we face a crisis of faith when God doesn’t meet our expectations (1:1-4; 2:1)

Background: had been warned of corruption for 150 years; death of a community is the plot of this book

When we receive word that someone we love will die; religious leadership fails us

This is a book to guide Israel to faith when things are falling apart (Babylonian conquest)

2. God doesn’t always resolve our crisis (1:5-11, 12-2:1)

Answer (shock) and second complaint: How can God use wicked Babylon to punish people who are more righteous?

We don’t know if Habakkuk survived, but we know he responded faithfully to this crisis

3. He does tell us how we can preserve our faith in this crisis, and not give up (2:2-20)

Pray

Trust God’s timeline (2:2-3) - it may linger but it will come (586 - 19 years after Habakkuk’s prophecy, the Babylonian conquest; 539 - 66 years after, fall of Babylon; Needed a larger and slower worldview - Allow for God’s slow-moving justice)

Trust God’s Word and live by it, even when the evidence is stacked against it (2:4b) - When in exile 600 miles from home and without a temple, waiting for 70 years; Not faith as in belief; continue to live faithfully; The righteous will believe what God says and live by trust in His Word

Speak against the source of the suffering (2:4a, 6-20); 2:6-20 is an exposition of 2:4a

Where he ends up eventually: 3:17-19

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the penand no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
For the director of music. On my stringed instruments.

Those who want to live in right relationship with God and his people will live by their trust in the promises of God.

Questioning God (Habakkuk 1:1-4)

Have you ever wanted to question God? I’m not talking about having questions for God, like “Is light energy or particle?” I’m talking about coming with some tough questions for God - maybe even doubts and challenges.

I’m a fan of the West Wing. It’s a show about a fictional president of the United States named President Bartlet. In one episode, resident Bartlet is still reeling from the sudden and pointless death of his longtime friend and confident, Mrs. Landingham. Alone in a cathedral, he rails at God. Let’s watch what happened.

[Scene from Two Cathedrals from Season Two of the West Wing]

I give thanks to you, O Lord. Am I really to believe that these are the acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God? To h*** with your punishments. I was your servant here on Earth. And I spread your word and I did your work. To h*** with your punishments. To h*** with you!

I remember feeling shocked when I watched this. Some of you are probably shocked as well. You expect lightning to strike him dead. How dare he question God? How dare he rail and make accusations and then storm out like that? It sounds heretical.

I know that some of you rarely suffer from doubt. I know this because you’ve told me. There are some of you who have never had anything but trust in God, and it’s difficult for you to relate to those who would dare to question God. You’ve been given a gift that is rare, and that is something to be appreciated.

When Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment with God came out, I remember loving the title. I loved the book too, by the way. I talked to an elderly man at the church, someone I respected a lot. He was disgusted by the title. “How could any Christian write a book called Disappointment with God?” he asked. He was ready to conclude that Yancey couldn’t possibly be a Christian. I know that some of you feel the same way. To question God or to get angry with God is a character flaw, you think, and you just can’t relate.

But I know there are lots of us here today who can relate. You know what it’s like to question God. You can relate to those who have been through tough experiences that have made them question God and their faith. It’s the mother and father whose son was killed by a drunk driver. It’s the family whose father committed suicide. It’s the small business owner whose business has taken a nosedive, and the pressure of the payroll is killing him.

Many times, we read the newspapers and say, “How could God allow that to happen?” Just a few days before Christmas, a woman was driving a van with her 10-year-old daughter, 13-year-old son, and 10-year-old niece. They somehow hit an SUV, and all four were killed. I know you can say this sort of thing just happens, but why? Could God have prevented it? How could something like this happen to a family?

That’s not even the big question. You watch a movie like Hotel Rwanda and ask, “How could a genocide like that happen? How could an estimated 800,000 people be slaughtered in 100 days? How could God allow this to happen?

So some of us don’t really have a history of questioning God. For others of us, it’s a constant struggle.

My question today is this: how do you handle questions and doubts? Do you deny them? Stuff them down? Does it reveal a character flaw in you that has to be dealt with? What is the right thing to do when we have doubts?

A Book of Questions

Not surprisingly, this question comes up in Scripture. But you may be surprised that a couple of books of the Bible deal extensively with this question. One is the book of Job. One day we’ll look at that book, but not now. I’d like to look at the other book that deals with questioning God.

It’s the book of Habakkuk, a book you may have heard, but not really remembered. But it’s a book that’s full of questions for God. It’s also a book that teaches us what to do when we have questions for God. So if you have a Bible, I’d invite you to turn to this book. It’s the fifth last book in the Old Testament.

The question again is: how do we handle it when we have questions and doubts with God? Habakkuk answers this question.

Habakkuk 1:1 says, “The prophecy that Habakkuk the prophet received.” The word prophecy there is a good one, but there’s a nuance that doesn’t come out. It’s the idea that it’s not just a prophecy; it’s a burden. It’s not just a light thing. It’s heavy. It’s something that he can’t get off of his mind.

Habakkuk’s prophecy really is a burden. It’s different than any other prophet’s book that we have in our bible. Usually a prophet speaks to the people on behalf of God. In this case, we have recorded a conversation between Habakkuk and God. Habakkuk has questions, and he’s like God to step up and answer.

It’s important to realize a couple of things before we look at how Habakkuk questioned God. One is that this is a prophecy that has been received from God. Another version says, “The following is the message which God revealed to Habakkuk the prophet” (NET Bible). So what we have in this book isn’t just a record of one man’s struggle with God. We have in here something that God thinks is going to be valuable for us to understand. This is something that God wants us to read.

The other thing is that this is more than a private journal. I guess Habakkuk could have kept this private. But this book was written for the benefit of Israel, and it’s come down to us today. Why? We’re going to read later that part of this book was meant to be used in public worship. The act of questioning God is something we can all relate to, and it’s ultimately something that can lead us to worship.

Habakkuk’s Question

So here are the options that I think you have when you have questions and doubts.

One: you can pretend you don’t have a question. You can figure that it’s just wrong to question God in the first place. How dare you ask God? How dare you doubt him? You little pip-squeak! Don’t you dare question God. You’re way out of line.

Two: you can ask the questions, but go for easy answers. This one allows room for doubt - a good thing - but doesn’t go too far in questioning God. You face a tragedy that you can’t figure out? Sure, come to God with your questions, but don’t forget that all things work together for good.

Three: Let the questions loose. Don’t be threatened by the questions. Just be honest.

Which one do you think Habakkuk chose? Let’s find out. In Habakkuk 1:2-4, we find out which approach he chose:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

So which one do you think he chose? Ignore the questions? Ask them but look for easy answers? Or go flat out with your questions? He chose the last one. Habakkuk let’s loose and is completely honest with God. He complains. He comes close to making accusations to God.

The core of his complaint is in verse 3: “Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” This is one of the top questions we have of God today as well. It’s what they call the problem of evil. How could a good and powerful God allow evil in the world? Why genocide and murders and abuse and accidents?

Habakkuk has a pretty specific list of complaints that seem pretty relevant today. He lived under a king who was ambitious, cruel, and corrupt. Wickedness and oppression were everywhere. The justice system was a joke. And he challenged God: what are you doing about it?

And God didn’t zap him dead when he asked these questions. Quite the opposite. Instead, we have these words written down for us so that we can learn from his experience, and so we can know it’s okay to come to God when we have questions as well.

How do you handle your questions and doubts? According to Habakkuk, don’t deny them and don’t settle for easy answers. Let the questions fly. Bring them to God. Let them loose.

When We Question

We’re going to look at God’s answer next week. But for a few minutes, I want to look at how questioning God can be good for our spiritual lives. Not all questioning, of course. But Habakkuk teaches us that there is a faithful way to question, a way to have doubts and even to challenge God while still remaining faithful. Like Habakkuk, we can insist that God pay attention to us, and to tell him that he isn’t making sense to us.

Habakkuk teaches us a few things about when we have questions. Here’s just a few.

God can handle our honesty. Here’s the thing. Do you think God would like us to lie or be honest? Of course, God is all about truth. He values honesty. So one of the things we can learn from Habakkuk is that God is okay with our honesty. We can come to God with our honest questions and doubts and it won’t be threatening to God. God is more than able to handle our honesty.

I love Habakkuk because he is so honest. He doesn’t sugarcoat his questions either. He says:

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

There is not a lot of sugarcoating going on here. He is laying out how he really feels before God.

One-third of the psalms are prayers and songs of lament. They express honest feelings and doubts. There’s a lesson here for us. We don’t have to come to God only when we’re happy and we have everything figured out. We can also come to God with complete honesty and brokenness. Even our doubts and our questions can be acts of worship. Don’t be afraid to ask God difficult questions, because he can handle the honesty.

There are a lot of times that I don’t know the answers. I can’t tell you how many times I hear someone’s story and what they’ve been through and I’m left speechless. I don’t have the answers, but I know that God isn’t threatened when we bring the questions to him. He even gave us a book that models this for us.

Our questions take God seriously. Habakkuk’s questions were based on a premise: that God is good and that he can’t tolerate evil. In other words, Habakkuk’s questions were, in a way, statements of faith in God. When we question God, we are often asking why he doesn’t act in a way that’s consistent with who we believe him to be. So our questions are often statements of faith and trust in disguise.

That’s why I think Habakkuk’s protest is faithful. It’s faithful because it’s all about who God is. It’s done out of the conviction that God is good all the time.

Our questions drive us to God. You’ll notice something in Habakkuk’s questions. He’s not asking questions about God. He’s asking questions of God. Faithful protest continues to address God. When we have questions and doubts, those questions can actually increase our faith in they drive us toward him, even if we go toward him to challenge him and to ask him why.

That’s really the definition of a healthy relationship. It’s not whether you have fights or disagreements. It’s whether you’re talking to each other or about each other. When someone comes to me to talk about someone else in a negative way, that’s a very bad sign. But when they are talking to each other, even if the conversation is a very difficult one, then there is all kinds of hope for that relationship.

So we actually need people who doubt. People who doubt are a gift to us. Without them our faith might become glib. We don’t ever need to settle for easy answers, or to feel threatened by our questions. Instead, we can bring our questions and even our doubts as acts of worship to God.

I don’t know what questions and what doubts you have brought with you this morning. I do know that we have a whole book of the Bible that is designed to teach us to take our questions and our doubts seriously, and to be honest enough with God to dialogue with him about those questions.

We opened with the scene from the West Wing. You were probably shocked by how Bartlet talked to God. The last line of the speech was, “ To h*** with your punishments. To h*** with you!”

The last phrase, “To h*** with you,” can literally be translated, “May you go to a cross.” What is intended as a direct challenge to God actually ends up as a reminder of the extent that God went to for us, questioners though we be. He doesn’t turn away those of us who question. Instead, he gives himself to us. So bring, and continue to bring, your questions to him.