100 Questions Away from God
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with questions or known someone who was?
A while back I was faced with this situation for the first time. It was one of the most memorable cups of coffee I’ve ever shared with a college student. Let’s call her Kelsey.
She sat down across from me at a table outside, frazzled. She hadn’t slept much that week due to homework—not given to her by a university professor, but by me. One week prior to this, I challenged Kelsey with an assignment to write down all the questions she was wrestling with. And she did.
Now, avoiding small talk, she went straight to the point, unzipping her backpack to pull out a notebook.
“Where do I start?” she sighed with desperation in her voice.
Pushing her coffee aside, she thumbed through the notebook. Page after page was filled with questions scribbled every which way. It reminded me of the movie poster for The Number 23, starring Jim Carrey, whose face was covered with twos and threes scribbled in ink. Kelsey’s face might as well have been covered with question marks. Her obsession with questions had nearly drained every last ounce of hope from her life.
“I have so many questions. How will I ever find all the answers? How does anyone EVER come to God? I feel like just giving up,” she said.
She had a good point. And I didn’t know how to respond.
On What Side of the Coffee Table Are You Sitting?
- …on HER side of the table, at a loss as to what to DO; or
- …on MY side of the table, at a loss as to what to SAY…
Pray For Help: “God, if you can hear me, I could sure use your help!”
The Bible is full of stories in which God answers the prayers of individuals on both sides of the proverbial coffee table.
Must We Know Everything to Make a Confident Decision?
After asking God for the words, a thought crossed my mind. I told her the story of how I met Jennifer, my wife, and how she and I had, what seemed to be a never-ending list of questions for each other. Once, while Jennifer spent a month serving at an orphanage in Africa, I read a stack of books on relationships. I too filled a notebook with a hundred questions. (Though I think, instead of numbers or question marks, my face would have been covered with stars). Ha!
I had questions about…
Family and traditions; interests and recreation; humor and temperament; values and convictions; debt and savings; children and education; pets and travel; decision making and conflict resolution; testimonies and doctrine; war and politics; struggles and trials; music and movies; bucket lists and ambitions; ministry and causes; mentors and friends; etc., etc.
I too felt overwhelmed. But I’m so glad I didn’t give up. In hindsight, I can see that…
The search for truth has a lot in common with the search for love.
Crossing the Line of Faith
I like the phrase Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg often use to describe the moment of spiritual breakthrough, when a person first acknowledges Jesus as their leader and forgiver. They call it, “Crossing the line of faith.”
Kelsey had subconsciously drawn the line at the very bottom of her list, thus making it impossible for her to ever cross it.
Everyone has a list of questions.
Your list may only have five questions on it. Or it may have 25. Or 100. Each of us draws a line somewhere on that list; and where we draw that line can make all the difference in the world.
Reordering Your List of Questions
So I gave Kelsey another assignment: prioritize her questions based on the importance of the answers.
For example, the answers to the questions of Jennifer’s faith and character were far more important than the answers to the questions of her favorite food or even how many children she’d like to have.
In the same way, the answer to the question of God’s existence is far more important than the answer to the question concerning why there are so many Christian denominations.
Imagine an agnostic on their deathbed who had devoted 95 years to 95 questions, but the five questions they had failed to address turned out to be the five most important questions they should have started with. How sad would that be?
I propose that just as we can “walk down the aisle” to enter a relationship with our spouse, while suspending questions of lesser importance,so too can we “cross the line of faith” to enter a relationship with God, while suspending questions of lesser importance.
It starts with listing our questions in an order that corresponds with the importance of the answers. Then we must run our finger down the list, stopping at each question to ask, “Can I have a relationship with God without having the answer to this question?” And once you come to your first question that you believe is not enough to keep you from crossing the line of faith, then draw a line above that question.
So How Did It Turn Out For Kelsey?
Kelsey accepted my challenge, and it was liberating. It gave her permission to put the majority of her questions on the shelf for later. It gave her hope that discovering truth was possible.
The semester ended and it was time for summer break, which meant she and I would be going in different directions. Not wanting to lose momentum, I lent Kelsey three resources:
1.) Confident Faith, by Mark Mittelberg (which she read twice in one week).
2.) How Good Is Good Enough? by Andy Stanley (which she read and lent to her mom), and
3.) The movie, The Gospel of John.
Suffice it to say, she crossed the line of faith and was baptized that summer.
She still has questions.