When the answers lead to questions...

I've had a couple of conversations recently with friends who once knew they had the answers to faith. Raised in the church, dutiful, exemplary, and content with what they knew and how they lived.

As they've grown up though, life has turned some of the Sunday school answers to questions, and they're a bit shaken by that.

Maybe it's because the people around them won't entertain questions of the faith-sort. Maybe because having questions implies that they don't believe the answers they already know.

One of these friends asked me what do you do with those questions? I think she's wanting to know how to get past the questions and to a place of confident belief once again.

As I've pondered this for a while in search of something (hopefully) helpful to say, I've come to two realizations:

1) Questions don't equal doubt.
When we have questions about something we've been taught since we were "knee-high to a grasshopper," it doesn't mean we don't believe in God or His word. I believe God entertains our questions and our attempts to really understand the things that perplex us in the same way we as parents entertain our own children's questions.

And sometimes, when the child says (or shows by their actions) "I'm just not sure I believe that," He lets us find out by way of 'natural consequences' the same way we do with our own children.

YES, I'd so much rather spare them the pain of finding truth by unfortunate experience, but it doesn't mean I love them any less by standing by and being there to kiss the boo boo's when they inevitably come.

Bottom line--seeking is ok. Trying to understand is good. And God is no farther from the one who is still trying to figure out all the details than He is from the one whose steps never (seem) to falter.

2) The answer to the questions is going to be "God loves you and desires a deep, genuine relationship with you."

In my opinion, at the end of all the questions we won't find rules or commandments or guidelines. I believe all the questions lead back to God's infinite, patient, unfathomable love for us.

The rest is stuff that our human side seems to crave because we need a framework on which to hang that vast love. We try to shrink God into terms and concepts that we can understand; images and words that make Him seem tangible and finite.

But He is so much more than all of that. Getting to the end of our own understanding and being comfortable with a big, fat "I really don't get it all," can be the place of greatest confidence.

How do I know?

I was one of those kids. Had all the answers. No time or tolerance for questions or seeking. But at some point, when my examples didn't lead me to God any more (in fact, the opposite may have been true), and when the answers didn't bring me closer to God, I had to discover these things for myself.

The path for each of us is different. The experiences we have that raise the questions vary.

But I believe if we never get to the stage of wondering and evaluating and trying to find answers outside the Sunday school class, we are in danger of never really owning our faith and thus not having the type of personal, intimate relationship with God that He created us for. And I mean that in both senses--He created us so He could have a relationship with us as much as He created us to have a relationship with Him.

David is called "A man after God's own heart." The Psalms are filled with passages of David crying out to God, questioning all manner of things. It doesn't look like those questions harmed David's standing with God.

And I don't believe your questions harm your standing with Him either. As long as you're willing to see Him at the end of them all, you're on a noble quest that will leave you richer--both in this world and the next.

"You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jer. 29:13


Bonnie said...

Love your post, Mary. I believe that our questions at different times in our lives are just the steps that we need to take to go to the next level in our relationship with Jesus. Your ending comment "as long as you're willing to see Him at the end of them all..." is the defining moment. Keep writing!

Tammy said...

This was a great post. I believe questions can help us get closer to God and questions don't mean lack of faith. They can be stepping stones to the next place God wants us to be. I loved your verse from Jeremiah. I am also a fellow tea lover.

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