One of our defining characteristics as humans is our ability to ask questions—the who, what, where, when, why, how and to what extent of everything we experience. We’re wired to want to know more than meets the eye.
We can see a situation and immediately imagine it being better, or different than it is. We like to rewrite history in our heads and play out scenarios that could have been, tracing ulterior tangents that would have taken us down completely different roads.
This peculiar part of us has led to unimaginable problem-solving and progress. Asking questions has brought about clear solutions to complex issues. It has helped us build strong bridges. Develop cures for diseases. Create phones that double as computers in the palms of our hands. Questions are good.
But throughout history, questions have also left a trail of carnage, spiritually speaking. Ever since Satan planted the doubt of “Did God say?” in Eve’s mind, questions have played a role in shipwrecking the faith of many souls. We live in a time of unprecedented access to intelligent, eloquent, persuasive attacks on the Bible and Christianity. It doesn’t take much reading of what is out there to start doubting everything you believe. (I won't even go into what this means for us as parents!)
I have sat across the table from many dear Christian friends who were being haunted by their own garden variety “Did God say?” questions, their faith being rocked off its foundation before my very eyes. Questions as basic as whether there’s a God at all. Questions about whether the Bible is true. Questions about the creation and consummation of all things. Questions about the coexistence of God’s love alongside suffering, or evil.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where questions fit into the Christian faith. Are questions a virtue, or a vice? Are Christians who never ask one question somehow holier than those who do? How far should we go in questioning things not seen? And where should we go to ask questions the Bible doesn’t directly address?
I’m confident that the Bible can sustain our deepest questions—and it models how to ask them. But it doesn’t answer all of them. There’s a big difference. The book of Job contains a raft of unanswered questions. The Psalms are filled with perplexities that don’t give us nice, neat conclusions. God has given us all we need for life and godliness. But the Holy Spirit has inspired countless questions throughout Scripture. Which brings me to what I believe to be my answer.
Should we ask questions? I say yes. It’s quite common for us to go through seasons where we’re perplexed, discouraged and full of doubt. To suppress the questions is to prolong the inevitable, because you’ll eventually have to face them if you ever hope to progress past them.
So what makes the difference between questions that serve to deepen our faith and those that serve to destroy it?
I think a lot of it is who you ask and how you ask them. Are you earnestly laying your deepest questions at the Lord’s feet? Are you echoing the psalmist’s intimacy and honesty with God, who said over and over, “How long, O Lord?”
Even in our perplexities, God is honored when we wrestle with Him in the night watches, putting away our pointed finger and bowing our knee in humble submission to Him as the source of every answer.
When we come to Him for help, we’re acknowledging that He is the only One who is gracious enough to understand our deepest questions, and wise enough to answer them. Even questions can be an act of worship when we ask them in His presence, drawing near to Him and desperately seeking Him for answers.
I don’t claim to have this figured out, and would welcome your comments below.