Is there a God? Where is God?” Those were the questions someone recently asked in a moment of intense honesty, as he told a story. “It is a really good question,” he continued.
“The other day I was praying over something as I was running, and I ended up saying to God, ‘Look, this is all very well, but isn’t it about time you did something, if you’re there?’”
If human beings were to resemble punctuation, we would probably be question marks. Imagine walking down the street and seeing a peacock of question marks hovering over each head. Imagine a trail of question marks hanging like a wedding train behind each person, floating on the breeze as they walk, leaving question mark–shaped particles of dust flittering down onto the sidewalk, coming to rest in the gutter as each of us continues to walk and ponder. That’s the kind of image that arises for the writer of Psalm 8. See if you can spot the big question that the psalmist is asking.
“O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8).
In this magnificent poem, the psalmist goes from the very heights of heaven to the very depths of the sea, reveling in how the expansive creation testifies to the truth of God, how it screams that God is to be glorified. Yet in verse 4, there’s a question mark: What about human beings? What are humans, anyway?
As human beings, we are the embodiment of questions. We ask them all the time, seeking, searching, exploring, plunging to the depths of things because we want to know more—we want to understand, to probe, to dig deeper. The psalmist finds that to be human means not only to ask questions but essentially to be a question, one that’s directed to God. We question things. All of creation lays forth God’s glory, but humans stand back and think; we pause to ponder what we see. The psalmist wonders, Who are we? And we wonder, Who is God?
Part of the journey of life is coming to grips with our identity as question askers and learning to see and hear our questions as strengths, not weaknesses. What are the good questions we should be asking, and how has Scripture equipped us to ask good questions of each other and of God?
What are we trusting when we say we have faith? How do we know that God is going to show up? Where is our certainty? When will doubt be filled with faith enough for us to move forward?
Fear is Fed By Worshipping the Wrong Things In Life
In Genesis 15:1, God tells Abram to break his culture’s habit of paying attention to the little gods and to pay attention instead to the One who is going to take him into his promise. As Abram hears this promise, he is also reminded that he’s heard it before.
“O Lord God,” he replies, “what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” Abram continues, “You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir” (Gen 15:2‑3). Abram is essentially responding to God’s promise with protest, just like we often do in our own lives. When we are drawn into a relationship of promise, and we feel that it might be too big, too overwhelming, or too impossible for us to imagine, often our first port of call is protest.
That’s what Abram is doing here because God’s promise to Abram calls out Abram’s biggest fear from somewhere deep inside him. When God makes a promise to us, it often has the unexpected effect of calling out the thing we most fear in order to show us where our worship and praise is focused. Abram’s greatest fear is that he’ll have no heir, that he’ll have to adopt a slave to keep his family’s legacy moving forward. He’ll have to take a shortcut to get to what God wants to do. He can be given all the land in Canaan, all the milk and honey he wants, but without an heir, it all seems pointless. Without a child, he has nothing, and he knows that he’s not getting any younger. God’s powerful promise comes boldly forward, right into Abram’s ear, and Abram immediately begins pushing with powerful resistance and protest to keep it at a distance.
Abram’s example calls us to think about how we would respond too. When God is inviting you into a deeper and more trustworthy relationship, what arises in you as a reason to resist?
Perhaps you’re hearing God call you to change your course of study or your job; there’s something about your career path at present, and you know maybe you’ve come to the end and need to do something different. What arises in you as a reason not to take the leap and change course? Where is that coming from?
Or maybe you’re feeling the pull to downsize your lifestyle, like you’re buried under debt and you’re trying to juggle too many parts of your lifestyle in the air, spinning too many plates, going crazy just to satisfy your creditors without going hungry, and you’d love to downsize and get simpler. What’s stopping you from doing that? What’s fearful in that move?
Maybe you have a vision for your family, the types of people and friends you need to be around, the support network you need to have and you need to make a change in order for that to happen. Or maybe you need to confront somebody you have a broken relationship with; you need to be the one to make the first move to reconcile. What is the resistance in that? What’s stopping you?
The point is, when God is inviting you into a place where God can identify your fear to you, what’s the resistance in facing and dealing with what God shows you? When we feel our sense of protest arising to counter God’s call, it actually shows us exactly where we need to lean into God’s presence even more, not less—and why is it so difficult to lean into what God is showing us?
God has made a promise to push us onward, and it’s not just for Abram, it’s not just for me—it’s for you. This promise is for you. And your protests and your fears? Listen to the cannon shot of God reminding you of where you are and what time it is. Do not be afraid, but tell God what your fears are so he can deal with them. Get them out there. Be bold. Even protest; God can take it. But know that the provision to fulfill God’s promise is going to be found in the presence of God, if you and I will have the courage to wait with Him and let Him fulfill his incredible plans for us.
Jeffrey F. Keuss (PhD, University of Glasgow) is professor of Christian ministry, theology, and culture at Seattle Pacific University. He is also the executive director of Pivot Northwest. He is a regular contributor to the The Kindlings Muse podcast on theology and culture and is on the editorial board of Literature and Theology. His books include Live the Questions, Freedom of the Self, Blur, and Your Neighbor's Hymnal.