I was at a youth leaders’ gathering recently where the facilitator shared a passage from the Book of Job. It was toward the end of the book where God finally replied to Job’s frustrations and questions. As was pointed out to us at the gathering, God’s response to Job was not to answer all his questions or even to explain what had been taking place. All God essentially says is “Are you greater than me? Do you know more than me?” The answer of course was “No” and God left it at that with no further explanation.
That got me thinking about how focussed I can be on having a youth ministry that gives young people all the answers. I teach, I preach, I counsel and I explain. But rarely do I say “I don’t know. But God does!” Perhaps I’m aware that such an answer is unsatisfying at best to young people. Or maybe it feels to me like a cop out- like I’m not really doing my job. Or perhaps, more tellingly, admitting ignorance is too painful for my pride and so I look to bluff my way through with a half-baked answer.
Whatever the reason, what challenges me as I reflect on Job, is how “I don’t know but God does”, not only can be an answer to young people’s questions, but at times should be our answer, and in making it our answer we must teach contentment with that answer.
Why is “I don’t know but God does” sometimes the best answer? Because if we knew all the answers God and His ways would become totally predictable to us and three things would happen.
Firstly, we would not need to place faith in His wisdom and knowledge. Our own wisdom and knowledge would suffice when it came to understanding and explaining His ways. The consequence of this would be that we would walk by sight and not by faith.
Secondly, we would not be so inclined to worship a God who seems ever “smaller” as we grow in knowledge to. Why worship a God who knows no more than us?
And thirdly, we would lose a sense of mystery as we contemplate God and His ways. Nothing would remain unknown; nothing would be waiting to be revealed.
Let me confess this to you. It may shock you but I feel I comprehend God less today than I ever did. Once I was driven to discover all the answers and to pass them on to others in neat little packages. Now I’m far more content to just sit with the questions and enjoy the mystery as I seek to stumble along by faith.
So, back to youth ministry. Is your youth group one that prides itself on giving the answers or one that encourages the questions? Is it one that reduces God to predictable formulas that anticipate His response in every situation, or one that basks in the mystery and the uncertainty of who God is and how He acts? Is it a youth ministry that sees understanding God as its goal rather than developing in young people a sense of wonder and awe toward Him? Is it one that encourages young people to know Him, without letting on that He can never be (fully) known?