SO, DON’T ASK?

Every now and then when I am leading a Bible Study someone in the group begins to struggle with a particularly deep issue, one that eventually leads us to one of those mysteries of faith that may or may not have a final answer.  Since my Bible study groups are flexible enough to allow discussion of just about any question, we spend a bit of time on the student’s issue.  Sometimes, as we discuss, the student who began the question begins to look concerned.  When I ask them what is going on, I sometimes get an interesting response.

They want to know if we should be talking about this.  It seems like drawing near to these faith mysteries worries them–maybe we are trampling all over sacred ground.  They begin to wonder if the proper approach to the mysteries of faith isn’t to metaphorically at least remove our shoes and bow down, acknowledge our dependence on God, accept that he is God and we aren’t God and back away from the question or issue in fear and trembling.

There is good reason for some people to react that way.  People of faith, any faith, have not always been the most open about asking and allowing questions.  There is almost always a rule against asking certain kinds of questions in faith, any faith.  The rules might be written but more likely they are unwritten–but no less powerful for being unwritten.  The rules generally include not questioning the agreed upon basics, the structure and organization or the leadership.

In my Bible study groups, I try to operate without those rules because I think they are unnecessary and limiting.  Questions are important–and questions that some say shouldn’t be asked are, in my mind anyway, some of the most important.  And, when I run into a question that some say I shouldn’t ask, I immediately have another question, “Why shouldn’t I ask the question?”

Even when those questions take us into the realm the unanswerable, we need to ask them.  Going back to the book of Job, it was Job, the man who asked the questions that others thought he shouldn’t ask, who received satisfaction at the end of the book.  He didn’t really get an answer to his questions, at least not an answer he was looking for, but the asking and the conversation with God resulting from the question did something very positive for him and his faith.

Asking the questions isn’t wrong.  Asking the questions, even the hard and unanswerable questions is a valuable process.  If we ask and get answers, that is great.  If we ask and discover in the process one of the unanswerable mysteries of the faith, that too is great.  We have still learned something about ourselves, God and our faith.  We might not have learned what we were asking about, but we still learned something important.

There is one caveat here, though.  There is a time when we might want to at least consider not asking questions.  If we are not sure we want to know the answer, we might want to hold off asking the question, at least until after we have asked why we don’t want to know the answer.  If we ask the question knowing we might not like the answer, it is much harder sometimes to hear and process the answer or lack thereof.

Aside from that, ask the question, whatever it is.  There may be a readily available, easy to grasp answer just sitting there.  There may be a more difficult, harder to understand answer that will take some work.  There may be a wealth of unsatisfactory answers that we have to dig through.  There may not be a good answer now but in asking and encouraging the question, we may get an answer someday. And occasionally, the question may point us directly at the deep, mysterious unanswerable questions that show us the limits of our humanness in the face of God’s unlimitedness.

There may not always be answers but there will always be questions to be asked.  And when we begin to realize that the questions we allow ourselves to ask are sometimes as important as the answers we get, we will probably be much better off.

May the peace of God be with you.

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