In Theory: Does God answer simple questions?

A post has been making the rounds recently on social media sites such as Facebook in which a man asks God a series of questions and God answers.

The man starts off by asking, "Why did you let so much stuff happen to me today?" He goes on to list several grievances that may seem trivial — his car not starting, his sandwich being made wrongly and his phone going dead. God answers each question with an explanation of why these things happened. For example, he tells the man that he prevented his car from starting because if it had, the man would have been hit by a drunk driver. The phone died because the person calling would have given false witness and God didn't want the man to hear it. The post has received more than 700,000 "likes" and hundreds of comments. While the majority of those who have commented agree with the post and its sentiments, with one saying, "God's answers are designed to show his care and protection of his followers," there are many that criticize it, saying the questions are "trite" and "self-centered." One who commented says that he'd have asked God how the Holocaust could have happened.

Q: What's your take on this? Are the questions valid things to ask God, or are the people who called them "trite" and "self-centered" correct?

My answer to this question is "yes," and "yes." Because we are God's created, we have the right to ask our loving parent, Mother, Father, Spirit God anything. How else will we learn if we don't pose questions, especially new questions to concepts for which our parents and formative cultures taught us we already had answers? However, God's answers come from doing more than waiting for the thunder to roll, the rabbit's foot to twitch, the lotto numbers to match our ticket, or counting rainbows. Answers to the questions we ask God come from being willing to leave our preconceived ideas of how the world should be, and constantly seeking and redefining our place in a rapidly changing universe.

Generally allowing adequate time for thorough preparation means that we are going to have the best experience that we can have in each situation. For instance, getting a reliable alarm clock that we won't ignore, making sure that our cars are dependable and filled with energy before we begin our journeys, and allowing 25 minutes for a trip that usually takes 15 minutes, means that we raise the chance that we are going to get where we are going safely and on time.

Theodicy argues for the goodness of God in spite of the fact that there is evil and confusion in the world. When we do our part to prepare to take care of ourselves, we make room for God to be benevolent to us.

When God has to work against our entitlement issues and our impulsiveness, God's job is tougher because we have already preconceived notions of what "good" means to us. If things then don't go our way, we wonder where was God. The truth is we never let God be part of our planning; how can we be surprised when God is not in the outworking?

Of course in spite of our best-laid plans, there are sad, terrible and tragic things that happen in the human experience. They don't happen because God is angry with us, they happen because they happen. People of evolved faith believe that no matter what the trial, God is there going through it with us. God is centered on the loving children of God's creation. Therefore we are freed from having to be centered on our individual selves. We are liberated to step away from that egotism and look through God's eyes at, in the words of philosopher Josiah Royce, the total "beloved community." The good news is we each have a cherished place in it.

The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel


This reminds me of a similar question-answer exchange where the fellow asks, "God, what's a million years to you?" God responds, "To me, only a second." The man follows with, "What's a million dollars worth to you?" God answers, "To me, it's but a penny." The man finishes with, "God, give me a penny." To which God counters, "Sure, give me a second."

These are cute illustrations of spiritual truth, but they can seem trite to those trying to make too much of them. They aren't Scripture, for crying out loud, but the illustration in the question today really boils down to our putting things in proper perspective; not focusing on how everything centers around us but on how everything is really in God's control. And my own contribution says something about how God is greater and wiser than all. Both of these, with a knowing smile, are meant to convey God's superintendence and capacities.

I'm not of the opinion that God spends his day going about preventing stubbed toes, but he could if he found it necessary to realize his ultimate will for mankind; think, Butterfly Effect. Perhaps being punched in the nose will teach me a lesson, whereas winning the lotto would make me a goof. God only knows. Maybe those objecting to such illustrations question God's personal concerns because they doubt his goodness or existence, or both.

With subjects like the Holocaust, you could suggest that God was lax, or that he's ultimately unreal, but you could contrarily grant that God infinitely knows the bigger picture, and despite his goodness, grants mankind's godlessness and inhumanity temporal unleashings. There would have been no Holocaust if the whole world served God, right? If someone can reject God, even over the Holocaust horrors, their faith proves false. If they trust God despite darkest tragedy, they are likely his children, and subsequently garner his loving, daily concern.

The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church


Quite possibly both are correct. The questions might be trite and self-centered, but in the Judeo-Christian tradition a personal relationship with God is thought to be important. And if one has such a relationship, then necessarily some prayers will seem self-centered.

The mature believer, however, eventually has to realize that God and God's purposes are more important than one's own. As Humphrey Bogart said near the end of the movie "Casablanca," what happens to two people doesn't amount to a hill of beans in the grand scale of things — and yet, the outlandish claim of the Judeo-Christian tradition is that God does care about little old you and little old me.

Faith is a strange commodity. Faith involves trusting God no matter what. Faith involves seeing the hand of God at work in the normal and the everyday. After the Hebrews left Egypt, the believing eye saw God in the storm clouds that rained on their enemies. The unbelieving eye would have seen a lucky break for the Hebrews that atmospheric conditions happened at just the right moment. The believer sees the hand of God; the unbeliever sees a lucky break. Which one is right?

You have heard it said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same may be said for faith: Was what happened to you an act of God or a lucky break? What does your faith tell you, and could it be both? Don't limit God, is what my faith tells me. That lucky break just could have the hand of God all over it. Keep the faith!

The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge


I believe that grace comes in all sizes. God is the one who grants us the grace of the shade on a hot summer day as well as the one who overthrows oppressive dictators bent on genocide. In all things, God looks after us. A lack of grace in one area of life (whether large or small ) does not negate its presence somewhere else.

That being said, it is hard for me to sympathize with a person whose greatest complaints against God are a late alarm, a delayed lunch, and a car that starts on the third try. I find it unhealthy to spiritualize even the most minor of setback in life. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. However, I am also a believer that sometimes that reason is that you were acting like an idiot and there are negative consequences to not thinking things through.

I believe our lives have purpose insofar as we learn to put God first in all things. This view that God is micro-managing a person's life to protect them from all these minor life annoyances makes it seem to me that the author is saying God's purpose is to worship us.

David Derus
Student, Fuller Theological Seminary


So many people I know believe this way, that God causes every little thing to happen, and for a reason. And these are not trite people; they're people whose intelligence I respect and whose faith I admire. They're God-struck and wonder-filled; they see miracles everywhere and sense God's hand in everything; and they can't help but stammer of blessings, awash in gratitude.

Personally, I don't believe that God causes things to happen in order to help or save or chastise or judge us. I don't think God has such a linear relationship with time, for one thing, to be bound by the petty progression of cause and effect.

Rather, I believe that in any good or bad event, God's encompassing and saturating love and mercy are at work, on some tiny and infinite, sub-material, holistic and majestic level that we can barely imagine. Rather than causing them from without, God's will for life and wholeness is attentive to and responding from within the molecules of each moment as it unfolds, capable of weaving healing and redemption and blessing from the raw material of circumstance. And it's that imbuing and abiding holy presence that people are sensing when they say, "God has caused this," and stammer their thank yous.

It seems right to be grateful and humble in the face of the blessings that befall us. But "God caused this" is fraught with theological peril — if God saved you from the car accident, does that mean God was punishing the guy in the other car?

Scripture says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). And God does this too. Rather than causing good or bad things to happen, God lives in the infinite fullness of the moments when they do — and is capable, for instance, of weeping with me because I didn't get the job, while at the same time rejoicing with the one who did.

God doesn't cause things to happen — and there is no moment in which the love and mercy of God are not present and at work.

The Rev. Amy Pringle
St. George's Episcopal Church
La Cañada Flintridge


This popular post addresses the kinds of daily questions and authentic concerns we all have. God is not too busy, too overwhelmed or too distant to address even the smallest of our questions. Romans 8:32 asks us that if God has given up his son on the cross for us, then "how will he not also with him freely give us all things," even answers to seemingly trivial questions?

It's valid to ask God about trivial events that genuinely concern us. The Bible teaches us that "his sovereignty rules over all" (Psalm 103:19) and that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God" (Romans 8:28). So no event, grand or small, occurs outside of his active or permissive will. He is in absolute control and he is absolutely good in all he does and in all he allows. Paul reminds us to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). "Everything" logically includes what others might consider trite.

God invites us to bring all of our requests to him, but we must remember that he is God, not our "411" service. He is not accountable to us. We cannot place him on the witness stand and demand his testimony. Job came to realize this. Yet he is good, and often he answers the most important questions we never even thought to ask.

Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church


Of course it is valid to ask questions of God. How can a person who witnesses pain or injustice not question the cause of such events? It is the natural response of our internal moral compass to ask "why." At the same time, I disagree with the notion of a human playing God and trying to answer those questions. Our Judeo-Christian belief system tells us that God in his infinite wisdom knows and does what is best. Often, it is excruciatingly difficult for us to comprehend tragic world events or difficult moments in our personal lives — and sometimes it is simply impossible.

The Holocaust is a good example of an event in history which we simply cannot comprehend. How can any human wrap their mind around brutality and suffering of that magnitude and try to understand it? And even if we were to "understand" it, would it then make sense? I am reminded of a statement by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, who was once asked after delivering a public address, "How did God allow it to happen?" Wiesel responded, "My son, if I were to tell you the answer, will you sleep better tonight?"

I believe that suffering and injustice must trouble us greatly and move us to question God and insist on an end to human sorrow and grief. But we must not wait for a divine answer or try to conjure one up on our own. Instead, we should roll up our sleeves and help those who are in anguish. Our moral obligation is to do everything in our power to alleviate prejudice, heal broken hearts, and create a world characterized by fairness and peace.

Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center


I had no idea that God was on Facebook. Wow, how did I miss that? It must be because I am not a subscriber. However, I do believe there are sincere people who communicate their beliefs online and should have every right to do so. Also, from all the positive responses, this post must have brought others great comfort. And most of us certainly do have many things for which we should be grateful — what I believe is the central theme of this dialogue.

Unfortunately, the divine force I respond to would not have given the same answers as the responder in the post, neither would I have asked the same questions. It is not that those questions are invalid. it is just that for me, they make God much too small. How can we possibly believe that an anthropomorphic being is constantly monitoring each of our lives and making everything all right? Not only would that be highly unlikely, but it would also suggest that good things always happen to good people, something I know from personal experience is not true. I have known many good people whose lives have been miserable.

The questions I would like to ask God would have been about what we humans can do to make the lives of the many in our world who suffer better — feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, ministering to the sick, protecting the abused, providing shelter for those who have none and stopping the causes of these ills, just to name the few. To expect God to do everything for us is to abrogate our responsibility and assume that we have no agency in our own lives. The God in whom I believe is one who encourages us to walk our talk in service to the Earth and all her creatures. May it be so.

The Rev. Dr. Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
La Crescenta


God is concerned with the details of our lives and how they affect us. I believe he treats the inquiries of a young child as seriously as he does the petitions of a world leader.

God makes it clear that he wants to dialogue with us. John 10:27 states, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me." Here we see that our communication with God is a two-way street. God wants to communicate with us and we have the responsibility to stay attuned to him and hear him. We can ask anything, but we must use discernment with the replies we receive.

God does not send mixed messages. We must always test what we sense God is saying to us with the written word of God. For example, every so often a young person will inform me that they think God is telling them to marry a nonbeliever with whom they have become romantically involved. I simply respond, "What does the word of God say?"

Scripture makes it clear that we are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This is not exclusivity or an attempt on God's part to deny us fulfillment in love, but because God knows we can never have true harmony with someone who does not share our faith. When our vested interest is strong, it is easy to mistake our own desire for God's voice.

If we have an intense need to hear a particular answer, or when Scripture does not address our question, it is always wise to seek godly counsel from someone we trust. Proverbs 1:5 instructs, "A wise person will hear and increase in learning. And a person of understanding will acquire wise counsel."

Pastor Ché Ahn
HRock Church


The young man who posted the dialogue is trying to deliver a faith-affirming message to people who may be frustrated by the trials of day-to-day living. For that he deserves credit.

The fact remains, though, that God doesn't always intervene and terrible things do happen. In my own family, my father died of cancer, a painful end that left my invalid mother to fend for herself. I don't believe God caused their illnesses, but I do know that those trials increased their faith.

The Book of Job addresses these matters at some length. It leaves us with the answer that our role is to retain faith even in those times when God seems out of reach. He neither causes nor approves of evil. However, he gives us the right to choose how we behave. Those who choose evil and fail to repent will someday be held accountable before God for their actions.

The key point is that we can also have the power to do good. This is another part of our mortal learning process. We can become cynical and embittered or we can make ourselves instruments in God's hands by easing the suffering that we see around us. This is what Christ did. He urged us to follow his example.

Those who blame God for life's tragedies might instead consider what they can do to help. No, we don't have the power to prevent events such as the Tohoku earthquake or the Rwandan genocide. But we can help the victims. For that matter, there are plenty of people here, close to home, who could use a helping hand.

Michael White
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
La Crescenta

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