I have been reading C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed over the last week and a half, and that little book has just about wrecked me. I can’t relate to Lewis’ precise experience; I haven’t lost anyone that close to me. But there are other types of loss, other deaths, that cause intense grief in us. This isn’t discussed much, so we don’t always know how to walk it out. We don’t always recognize the presence of grief or its role as the catalyst in forcing us to face our hardest questions.
And this is what has struck me most and drawn out my reading time of what normally would be an easy book. I am undone by the questions Lewis transparently and bluntly asks about God and his whole spiritual journey. He doesn’t back down from them or hide them; rather he grabs them and shakes them out and wrestles with them. It’s breathtaking. It’s freeing.
I encounter again and again people raised in church or around church who feel like they cannot ask certain questions. Even if spiritual leaders would say, “Of course you can ask questions. It’s called seeking God, He can handle our doubts.” There is still this almost unspoken understanding that the freedom for asking only goes so far; there are still questions you just shouldn’t ask. And if you dare to voice those doubts, those puzzles troubling your mind, you are usually told you are in error or must be in sin or clearly have not been reading your Bible enough or some combination of all of the above. I wish this wasn’t true. But I’ve listened to their stories and experienced my own. We all have that spiritual leader or friend we trusted and dared to voice our questions to, only to be rebuked or shamed or given some empty trite answer.
(*As an aside, I do need to say, I was fortunate to have two pastors in my life during two different critical, formative periods in my spiritual journey who received and encouraged all my questions, big and small, in those seasons. I am fairly certain I wouldn’t still be loving God without the grace they showed me, and I am unspeakably grateful.)
But here is the epiphany that has come to me as I have sat with Lewis in his grief journey. The only truly damaging questions are the ones we do not ask of God. The ones we keep inside because they seem too dangerous, too inappropriate, too unorthodox. These silent questions turn into a slow poison, eating at us, smothering the life in us one day at a time. They are ever present to feed our ravenous fears and doubts and wounds.
If we ever want answers, or at least to be at peace with the unknown when we realize some questions have no answer in this life, we must ask the questions. We must voice them. All of them. The angry ones. The hurt ones. The confusing ones. The terrifying ones whose answers could unravel everything we ever believed. The broken ones that simply cannot be asked without some swearing and anguish. They don’t have to be asked nicely or neatly or politely. They just need to be asked. Really truly knowing God depends on this unfiltered, unedited dialogue from our heart to His. I am more convinced of this than ever.
I encourage you – no, more seriously, I implore you – ask your questions. Scribble them into a journal (you can always burn the pages later if you’re worried about someone reading them. Or even if you’re not worried. **It’s therapeutic.) Drive out to the middle of nowhere and scream them at the sky. Pour them out to a trusted friend who will love you no matter what, if you are so fortunate to have one of those. Do it however you like, but please, get those questions out. You cannot possibly shock or offend God with your seeking heart.
I will take my own advice and do the same.
P.S.: I’m sorry I have been neglecting this space a little. It’s a rough season and the words are not coming easily. **Also, I promise I’m not a pyro, but I do find occasional small burnings to be cathartic. 🙂