Answer Carefully

internet-business-questions-answeredPeople ask a lot of questions. And that is good. As Christians, if we’re not being asked questions, there’s a problem. Either we’re not getting out and about enough, or we’re not approachable enough.

I’m not just talking about questions from people who aren’t Christians. Christians need to ask each other questions, too. But we must be careful answering questions. We don’t have all the answers. Even when we think we have an answer, we need to accept the possibility (and responsibility) of being wrong. That might not be our intent, but it’s always possible.

There is always a motivation behind the question, and it might not be obvious. Questions that might sound like interpretation are more than likely questions of application. People might ask, “What does this mean?” or “What do you think the truth is about…?” But the underlying question is often “What do I do with this?” or “How will you respond to me even if I disagree?”

You can’t know all the implications behind the question, but you can always answer with humility and respect. Speaking the truth is always important, because it is the only firm foundation for the relationship, for you, and for the other person. But speaking the truth always needs to be done in love, which involves respect, patience, kindness, and self-control.

 

Answers Aren’t Easy

boots-in-concreteAlways be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)

Christians are taught to be prepared to give an answer when faced with a question, curiosity, or challenge. But being prepared to give an answer doesn’t mean our answers are always set in concrete. We’re human. We grow, change, question, settled in (sometimes too much). Sure, there are times when the answer is clear and certain, but I think much of the time we oversimplify and give an answer to a question someone doesn’t even ask. We don’t listen well enough to be able to answer well. And even when we think we listen well, we look for an answer that might fit instead of the answer that fits best.

Sometimes the answer is another question.

There have been many times in my faith journey that I’ve given a concrete response, because certainty seems reassuring. It gives a sense of security. But that sense of security is a deceptive one. Just because we think we understand doesn’t mean we do. Just because we’ve been taught something or have interpreted something doesn’t make us completely right. Sometimes we burrow into a snippet of truth so intensely that we fail to explore the full breadth of truth.

Faith is about trust, and trust has to do with a Who more than What. I don’t trust my faith. I trust who is at the center of my faith: Jesus. So, I guess I am prepared to give an answer for my hope. My hope is Jesus, plain and simple. But just to be clear, just because I know the core of my hope is Jesus, it doesn’t mean I have an answer for everything. It certainly doesn’t mean I understand everything. I can give you an answer for why there is pain in the world, why innocent people get hurt, why injustices seem to go unpunished, and so on, but I don’t completely understand those things, so I’ll hesitate to give you an answer, knowing whatever I offer will be insufficient. I know Jesus gets it all, and I trust Him. But it doesn’t make answers easy. It doesn’t make life easy. And it doesn’t make faith easy.

But He makes trust easier, because He is always trustworthy.

The Internet Impossibilities

2364b98bc293049f75580f87ff08b495We have easy, fast access to information. If we have a question, all we have to do is search for it. Our phones are rarely out of reach, so we can sit or stand wherever we are and find an answer. We don’t even have to type the question or read the answer anymore; we can speak into our phones, and we get a spoken answer.

But not all questions and problems have easy answers. Being able to search the internet for quick solutions might make it even more unbearable when we face the impossible, when we’re confused and overwhelmed. We can spend so much time searching for the perfect answer to our dilemma that we waste time we could spend solving it. We waste time we could seek God’s presence through the struggle. Not that He always gives us an answer, but if He doesn’t, maybe there’s something even more important we need in order to deal with the impossible. Maybe the search and the trust we give God through that search is much more important.

In fact, I know it is.

We can’t make the impossible possible with an internet search. Of course, we can find some tips and ideas, and I’m not suggesting we stop searching for those. In the past 24 hours, I’ve searched how to properly dispose of dry ice, common issues with a phone model, and comparative prices while shopping. But Google has its limits.

God does not.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Why Ask Questions?

Few things can be more frustrating than someone asking a question, then spending more time telling his or her own thoughts, or explaining the answer he or she already knows, instead of listening. If the asker is a teacher, it’s okay, even expected. But in everyday life, everyday conversation, everyday relationships, it seems condescending, insensitive, and rude.

A question should be an invitation to share and discover. Listening is difficult. It takes patience. But we learn in the patience of listening. We get to know the person. We better understand his or her perspective, so we’re better able to share what we think, ask follow-up questions, and encourage the person. And we show respect.

When we ask God questions, how patient and attentive are we? How much do we try to talk through the answer? Do we pause or do we fill space?

He certainly wants to hear what’s on our minds, but He also wants to answer our questions…in His timing and wisdom, of course.

What Notifications Do To A Prayer Life

When we grow accustomed to instant feedback and notifications, made possible by technology, we struggle to wait to hear from God.  We want instant feedback and answers. We want immediate approval and results. That’s not the way God works. As we get used to the immediacy technology affords, we begin to listen to and look for the constant input into our lives, and those voices begin to crowd out God’s.

We’d rather have something quick and inaccurate than use our patience to hear truth.

God has His own notifications, and they’re not usually instant. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they seem like a blinking light or alarming sound, but most of the time, God is quietly consistent and patient to respond to us. He wants us to be patient as we seek Him.

Praying isn’t about what we get from God; it’s about our relationship with Him. Are we willing to listen, pursue, seek, and wait? Or do we want God to fit into our timetables and schedules? What we see as urgent often isn’t, because what we learn through the process of waiting for and pursuing God is much more important to Him. He sees all of time and knows right now is important but is one moment that adds into many. It all matters, including how we respond to Him, demand of Him, and wait on Him.

Pray well.

Listen well.

Wait well.

 

When Google Can’t Answer

It doesn’t matter what resources we have to find answers. We still have questions, and we’re surrounded by people who have questions. We might think that we need each other less and less, because all we need to do when we need a piece of advice, solution, or fact is enter a few key words in a search engine and click. We live in a time that gives us an abundant access to information.

Yet, we still need each other.  photo index_zps5b4an4fo.jpg

I use search engines a lot as I’m writing, but I know I have to be careful. I can find any information I want to find…even if it’s false. I need to discern. And many times, I need to involve others to find the best information. I need to ask for help. I know I’m not alone, because I see posts every day on social media–friends asking for ideas for supper, questions to clarify start times and locations of events, and feedback on books, movies, and stores. We could probably find all the information we want, yet our need isn’t just for information. It’s for connection and relationship.

When we reach out to others, we need to be careful. We can’t just reach out to get affirmed, to find the information we most want to receive, to connect for the wrong reasons.

We each search, but we search together. We need to be discerning each step of the way…as we personally question, reach out, and respond to others. People need help with the searching process, because we all have questions.

We don’t have all the answers. God does. Yet He brings us into each others’ lives so that we can search together. We need God. No one else can fill that need, but God weaves our lives with others to fill needs along the process. Only God has the answers to all our questions, but He uses us in each others’ lives to confirm, explore, and debunk. It’s not just our opinions. We can’t guide each other well based solely on what we assume or want to believe. But we can let God guide as we help each other.

People might have access to massive search engines, but they’re not comprehensive. They might contain more information than we have, but they can’t use wisdom to discern. We can only do that when we trust and rely on God.

He is bringing people into your life today who you can help and who can help you. Whether your time together is brief or extended, fully lean into Him. Trust Him to guide you as you ask the right questions and believe the right answers.

Quit Asking Questions?

ask-questionsI recently heard someone say, “I don’t like all these questions.” I wondered, “Why?”

I don’t like all these questions, because they make me uncomfortable.

I don’t like all these questions, because I don’t know the answers.

I don’t like all these questions, because the uncertainty threatens me.

I don’t like all these questions, because I already know the answers.

None of these reasons are sufficient reason to cease asking questions. Questions invite conversation. Questions spur searching. Questions demand an active response and engagement in a…well, a quest!

Jesus asked questions.

Jesus doesn’t just focus on the “what” we’re supposed to do. The “what” of faith is throughout Scripture. Jesus fulfilled and expanded the “what” to the “how” and “why.” Knowing Jesus asked questions doesn’t spur us to ask questions. Knowing how Jesus asked questions teaches us how to ask questions.

Asking questions doesn’t have to be disrespectful (although it can be) or threatening (although it can be). Asking questions can be faith-building and God-revealing. Ask questions today. You might not get the answer you want in the timing you prefer. You might have to wrestle with God toward the answer, and you will likely wrestle with others. Honor God through the process. Seek him, and you’ll know him better because of the quest.