As 2020 started to round up, I had big plans; I had been using productivity as a numbing agent to cope through the year after two burials before the first quarter was over. As December commenced, I began working on another business on Etsy for the new year. I was leading Bible studies and organizing numerous interviews on several online platforms. That all came to a grinding halt on an evening in mid-December when in a mad dash to my family house I watched the paramedics try unsuccessfully to give CPR to an uncle that was a father figure to me. 

For days after that, my shoulders felt bound to my ears. I was tense. I was exhausted. I was tired.  I was angry and weary. I could not pray.  The last time I had prayed was while waiting in the corridor outside the resuscitation room waiting for someone to come out to speak to us. Prayer stopped when we were escorted into the dreary hospital family bereavement room, but now I realize that I was still praying; my why, my anger, my frustrations were all a prayer received by God.

We all deal with grief in different ways. We have lost so much in 2020; time, finances and even loved ones. Although we are still grateful for life and those remaining with us, some of us are left with questions. Some of us have gaping holes in our hearts that we can only fill with memories of those we have lost.

As I raced around the house, receiving calls and flowers in as socially distanced a manner as I could, someone called the family to pray. An elderly relative rebuked me for not wanting to pray or sing. I had questions, yet no one had answers. Those who claimed piety were unable to create safe spaces for my questions and longing. My commitment to faith was questioned at the suggestion that I was displeased with God. 

A week later, I was finally able to write to Him; to God, the One I had been told not to ask questions to, but it was in my questioning that I found Him more.

Timothy Keller often says that it is only in the wilderness that we can encounter God truly. This has been true for me this year and more so over the past few days. We can ask Him questions honestly without fear that He is too superior to be questioned. We can seek answers without worrying that our faith is too small. Crying out in our distress without thinking that we should be able to bear our burdens is what having a savior is about.

I come from a Nigerian culture, where religion teaches that God is unquestionable, but the God of the Bible tells me that on the Cross, Jesus asked God why, even when He knew the answer. So I suppose I have permission to do so too.

I have asked a lot of why’s this year amid my grief, personal health challenges and significant bereavements. Perhaps like me, someone has told you to ‘hush’ and not ask God why. Maybe someone had chastised you when you said you didn’t want to sing another hymn or read the Bible. Perhaps someone has said that your faith is weak because you are asking God questions. Perhaps those are the wrong responses. Perhaps God wants us to do that very thing the religious paragons have been asking us not to do. When we ask Him why; this is a prayer in itself. It is a sign of belief that He must know the answer, and that is the very essence of faith.

Sometimes asking God why, is trusting that He must know the reason this happened, and maybe He will be able to answer, share the reason or help us make sense of a puzzling situation. I am learning that God is not afraid of our challenging and heavy-hitting questions. He is not turning away from us when we wail and cannot sleep. He bids us come – questioning, crying, asking why.  These are all ways we can approach Him. No good father takes the liberty to take questions away from His children. Instead, He asks them to come and sit by Him so they can reason the matter together. (Isaiah 1:18)

As we process last year, regardless of its turbulence, God remains faithful.  And part of the beauty of our faith is our ability to approach Him. Maybe that is what grief does; perhaps it encourages us to seek Him out. Probably like me, you have not been able to pray traditionally but have been able to write to God. Or have you been told to stop asking questions because He is too sovereign to question? Be encouraged; God is not offended by your queries; He is not irritated or distressed by them. He invites you to come; in your distress, with your questions, in your sorrow. (Jeremiah 33:3)

I hope that your soul finds this to be so.  May you find that reliable rest and comfort reside in the arms of the Father. I pray you will know that looking to Him with your questions and tears is not a sign of disbelief but as sincere a sign of faith as any.

Mo-Dami Ogunrinde

Mo-Dami is a writer who lives in London. She is passionate about faith, prayer and healthy relationships and encourages her community on her Instagram page @damiloves. When she isn't writing, reading or soaking in the word at Bible studies, she is in the kitchen whipping up something sweet.

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