The Answer to All the Questions

I’ve always been a question asker, a seeker of knowledge. I hunger and thirst for answers, for insight, for understanding. And this question-asking has often served me well, for questions can lead to a greater awareness of God or of His cosmos or of the human creatures He so lovingly tends. Questions can lead to worship and wonder, to praise and appreciation, to connection and intimacy.

My journals are evidence of this incessant question asking; they’re littered with questions. They’re filled with their fair amount of lament too, and plenty of Scriptures-turned-prayer, but always and ever, questions. Questions like:

Why did Jesus tell the lame man at the pool of Bethesda to stop sinning or something worse might happen to him? What was his sin, and what was the worse thing that might happen to him? Elsewhere Jesus says no one sinned, the man born blind or his parents. What’s up with that?

The Jesus who says “Come to me and I will give you rest” seems so different from the Jesus who speaks of “the narrow way.” Why the difference??

If Jesus claims to have other sheep not of this fold, why does He initially ignore the Syrophoenician woman?

Why does Jesus say “whoever is not with me is against me” but elsewhere says “whoever is not against you is for you”???

The Jews said Abraham was their father, but Jesus disapproved of them. Is it possible to THINK God is our Father and be wrong??

Are you angry, or are you compassionate? I see both in the Gospels, and both in the Old Testament. Which are you right now??

Then one day the nature of my questions changed. They swerved abruptly away from the search for more of God and careened dangerously toward the selfish:

What is wrong with me? Why am I so stressed?

Why am I so tired? Why am I so discontent?

Why am I so unhappy when my life is good and I “should” be happy?

I’m having more and more NOT OK days. What is wrong with me?

Where is my joy? Why am I so numb? Is there hope for me?

I don’t know what’s wrong, but I know I need help.

Why am I looking to others for affirmation?

Why can’t I connect with you?

What’s wrong with me? Is it depression?  I’m a shell, even my husband says so.

I just don’t want to work. I say and think that all the time. Is it burnout?

What’s wrong with me God?? Give me a diagnosis!

I flung my questions at a heavenly Father but nary an answer did I receive. Finally one day, after months of asking unanswered questions, I posed my last question (though I didn’t know it was my last at the time): Jesus, who do you say I am??

Jesus answered that question with a question of His own: Who do YOU say I am? It was a punch in the gut. You mean it’s not all about me, God? You mean maybe, just maybe this whole thing is about You??

A few days later I sat down with my journal and my cup of coffee and officially reached the end of my questioning. All of a sudden I said to God, I don’t need to know the answers anymore, I need to get well. I want to get well.

Jesus didn’t even ask me the question He’d asked the lame man by the pool of Bethesda. I just professed my answer to Him. It was my declaration of need, my declaration of intent. It was a resignation, a proclamation that I didn’t require an explanation of WHAT ailed me as long as I knew the Person who could take my ailment away.

It was thus that my string of fruitless, self-centered questions ceased. It was thus that my prayers began returning to praise, to worship, to the nature and character of God rather than the nature and character of me. It was thus that I began to live out the confession of the disciples in John 16:30: “Now we understand that You know everything, and there’s no need to question You.”

Even so, I know that the questions might come back some day, and when they do, I pray I will remember sooner the truth of these words from C.S. Lewis:

 “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.

You are yourself the answer.

Before your face questions die away.

What other answer would suffice?”

~~~

What areas of your life seem to generate questions?

Where do you find Jesus revealing Himself as the answer and calling you to greater praise and intimacy?

12 Comments

  1. Jenilee August 25, 2016

    Oh, the quote at the end… thank you for sharing your questions and THE answer to them all.

    1. Elizabeth August 25, 2016

      I know, isn’t C.S. Lewis great?? I’m glad my story could encourage you 🙂

  2. Grace L August 25, 2016

    Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing so honestly and with such insight. It is a help to all of us on the field to remember to focus on Him and to give Him all our struggles. I like what you shared:
    “It was thus that my string of fruitless, self-centered questions ceased. It was thus that my prayers began returning to praise, to worship, to the nature and character of God rather than the nature and character of me. It was thus that I began to live out the confession of the disciples in John 16:30: ‘Now we understand that You know everything, and there’s no need to question You.'”

    We all can get to that place where we might question is we are moving into burnout (and I have done so in the past month), and our member care people would want us to take care of ourselves and not let ourselves get driven into burnout and end up being useless on the field. Even so, we must keep turning our focus back on Him and to trusting Him. It’s definitely vital that we get that balance.

    I have been doing some teaching on the spiraling downward pit of “self-pity” to my two younger sisters here. We looked at Hannah in 1 Samuel 1 and 2 and also some of the Psalms. I like how in Psalm 42:11 the Psalmist moves from self-pity to praise: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

    1. Elizabeth August 25, 2016

      Yes, so easy to spiral down so far that we forget to look up — at our Savior who is the Answer to all our problems and questions! I love what you are saying here about burnout, that even if we are in burnout, it is still to God to whom we must turn in our distress. I pray that in the next weeks and months, as you take some extra time to care for your soul and your body, that you will feel God very near to you.

      1. Grace L August 25, 2016

        Thank you, Elizabeth, for your prayers and insights. I always do love to read your posts and responses. As I age, almost 72 now, I know how weak I am and how much I need God and how my only hope is to trust in Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding.

        I used to struggle a lot with self-pity, and when I recently recognized this going on in my dear sister here who is only 24, I had to refrain from moving into my compassion side of comforting, to exhorting her to pull out of it and look to God. Years ago, when I was mothering my young son and struggling so with the challenges and so caught up in what I now recognize as self-pity, I wish that my sisters then would have recognized it for what it was and exhorted me to renounce it and look to God and trust in Him totally. Oh, the tears that I cried… But, O the God that we serve and love and is worthy of our praise.

        1. Elizabeth August 26, 2016

          Oh, the wobbly balance between self-pity and true, soul-deep honesty, it’s so tricky!! For ourselves, and for others. May God be with us ALL as we walk that line.

  3. Grace L August 26, 2016

    Yes, you are so right. Amen.

  4. Juanita August 26, 2016

    ” It was a resignation, a proclamation that I didn’t require an explanation of WHAT ailed me as long as I knew the Person who could take my ailment away.” But He did not. He did not take my ailment away. He did not relieve my pain. He left me where I was. I had to go to professionals and get medications, I had to recognize that I had a disorder that I had to live with. SAD. Yes light affects me. And I have to have a lot of it!!! I had to take responsibility for my own mental health. I had to determine to stay on medication until the Doctor released me, and then live with the realization that this condition could return and would return if I I did not take care of myself. I had to learn what is good for me. What makes me happy, what was too much stress, what caused my soul to recover and stay on that road to recovery. There was no magic Person who could take my ailment away. That is just clearly wishful thinking, and irresponsible theology. It is the lie that said if I prayed hard enough and “lingered in His Presence long enough” I would be healed. NOT SO. I do know the person of Jesus. I do love him. But he is not a magician. He calls me to take responsibility, to assess my condition and situation, and live within the measure of grace that he has given me. I am glad that you got better. However, within the spectrum of mental health, it is a cruel thing to say that there is a “Person who takes your ailment away”. It is much more kind to speak the truth. Many mental health issues require much persistent care, a realization of who the ailment is harming, and a dedication to good mental hygiene and proper medical prescriptions. It may take many months or years to get to a state of health, and then the pinnacle may be a fulcrum of balance of many factors: chemical, physical, emotional, relational, rest and sleep, and of course, spiritual. It is this very theology that kept me from seeking professional help. It was even expounded upon from the pulpit and shame was cast upon those who did not “receive their healing”. After suffering greatly, I have never again been so cavalier concerning the healing arts required to restore a person from depression.

    1. Elizabeth August 26, 2016

      Oh Juanita, my heart goes out to you! I certainly never meant to imply in this blog post anything like you experienced in those churches. I’m so very sorry that I triggered something painful inside you. That must have felt awful 🙁

      Mental health issues are real, and I have friends who’ve had lifelong struggles with them; they weren’t “taken away” by having extra faith or extra prayer or extra anything. I’m so sorry if I placed another burden on you — or anyone else — in my post. I completely agree with you; our faith isn’t magical and we do have to know ourselves and take the steps we personally need in order to be as well as possible.

      And you are right, promising healing through faith IS irresponsible theology. My story here was less about mental health and more about a spiritual or faith struggle. I don’t think I was in a mental health crisis; I simply needed a different outlook on my life, some more quiet time with God, and more prayer from my sisters in Christ. But I do not think that solves all problems; I’m only saying that’s what helped me in this particular instance.

      So again, completely agree with you here, and thank you for bringing our attention to the nuance of mental health and spiritual health struggles. And can I just say for anyone who is reading this later, if you are struggling with depression or any other mental health issue, please reach out for help to a medical doctor and/or licensed counselor. There is NO shame in taking medication or in seeking therapy, and I hope Juanita’s words will empower you to take some steps to get the help you are so desperately wanting and needing.

      Thank you again for this important comment, Juanita.

      1. Juanita Frankamp August 29, 2016

        Thank you for your lovely clarification. It was a thoughtful and well written reply, thank you!. Yes, it was a painful realization for me to recognize that those whom I had looked to with respect as spiritual leaders were unable to recommend any practical help. It is a fine line between mental health issues and faith struggle. We often use the same words to describe the situation. There are many remedies for what pains we carry. I love that Jesus is called the Great Physician and he can lead us to the remedy that is appropriate for our individual situation. We are not alone. Sisters do help!!! Prayers are a great comfort….but if you find yourself numb with no more tears, please tell your medical doctor because with help you can recover.

  5. Monica F August 27, 2016

    I love the quote at the end, especially as I’ve gone through a desert season of deep questioning. Thank you for sharing your own questions- such beautiful transparency that give strength to others in times of struggle.

    1. Elizabeth August 27, 2016

      Thanks Monica. Glad this was encouraging to you 🙂

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