Exhibit A: “Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is too old to give me a child. What sign can you give me to prove this will happen?’” (Luke 1:19, tPt).
Exhibit B: “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34, ESV).
First, Luke gives us Zechariah’s interaction with Gabriel, as an illustration of how not to ask God a question. Fifteen verses later, he narrates for us Mary’s encounter with the exact same angel. Her response is the perfect demonstration of how to present our queries before Him, the right way. The parallelism is unmistakable. Holy Spirit sets up this contrast very intentionally.
Both inquiries begin with the word “How” and end with a question mark. However, they are entirely distinct from each other. The bottom line difference is that Zechariah’s question is born out of disbelief. Mary’s query springs from quite the opposite: faith. Zechariah’s words spill out from his heart in contradiction to what God had promised. Mary’s words actually affirm her confidence in God’s message and seek to more deeply understand it.
Daddy God delights in questions that flow from our trust in Him. In fact, He eagerly welcomes them. Gabriel goes on to provide the explanation that Mary has humbly requested. On the other hand, he does not bother to respond to Zechariah’s questioning with a direct answer, but rather expresses displeasure with the aging man’s unbelief.
If we approach our Father with questions from a submissive, trusting, meek heart, He overflows with pleasure. However, if we refuse to believe it when He speaks, we may miss out on some of the blessedness that only faith can bring. In Zechariah’s case, it cost him the power of speech for the duration of Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
Words are so powerful; God needed to ensure that His son wouldn’t charge the spiritual atmosphere with any more negativity! So for Zechariah’s own good, He lovingly put some heavenly tape over his mouth while He got to work initiating the miracle of John the Baptist’s conception.
Meanwhile, Mary was free to sing out His praises. For you see, He really does like our earnest, sincere questions. As a matter of fact, He treasures our drawing near to inquire of Him. He relishes the confidence displayed when we are not afraid to ask Him what we are wondering about. He profoundly enjoys the experience of our trust when we enter into utterly transparent dialogue with Him. He even cherishes it when we pour out our messy, raw emotions to Him, holding nothing back. This also reflects deep trust in Him.
The Lord may respond to our questions quickly, or He may not. There are times when His answers come much later in our unfolding story. Nonetheless, He will always converse richly with us, each and every time we draw near. And if it is not yet His perfect timing to shed light on the mysteries that we are wondering about, He will instead gently quiet our uncertainties with His immense love.
Trust in Him with all your heart. Drawing near in a spirit of submissive abandon to Him, boldly yet humbly share with Him everything that is on your mind. Ask every question that is pressing on your thoughts and emotions. And then rest in Him, knowing He will answer at exactly the right time.