Not all questions are equal. In Psalm 42 there are a lot of questions being asked. In the NIV version, nine questions are asked in eleven verses. Six times he asks why? A lot of questions are being asked. Questions are typically wonderful tools for opening up to new ideas. The new ideas are always good ideas though.
- Questions can be used to open up new doubts.
- Questions can be used to deepen discouragement.
- Questions can be used to elicit hope.
I notice in Psalm 42 there are three types of questions being asked. There are people poking the Psalmist with questions. “Where is your God?” is mentioned twice (verses 3 and 10). Both times the Psalmist says he is being asked this “all day long”, which is probably an exaggeration. But that is the nature of taunts. These questions get amplified and ring in our ears.
Then the Psalmist asks himself questions. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (verses 5 and 11) He asks these same questions of himself twice. Pondering can be healthy. This kind of self-talk can be a way of helping the mind navigate tough times. They are not always signals of doubt. Sometimes they are just questions.
The questions in this Psalm are asked in a third direction. He also asks God questions. This turns questions into a third form—prayer. Do you ever pray questions? He asked, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” (verse 9) I don’t hear many prayers like this. I’m not prone to pray tough questions. Maybe I’m afraid what the answer might be.
We can’t be afraid of questions. We do need to discern what kind of questions are being asked. If they are taunts and provocations of unbelief, they will only deepen our discouragement. We have to regulate our own self-talk as well. The questions we ask ourselves need to lead us to hope. Finally, know that God can handle our questions. He listens to our questions and asks that we listen to his answers.