Have you ever delivered a solution – maybe a paper for school, a new idea for a group, or a finished product – that was really good…except that it didn’t solve the problem that you needed to address in the first place? Whether we misunderstand the requirements (because we were in a hurry), or we learn more about the situation later on (because we stopped listening when we decided we knew the answer), sometimes we do what looks like a good job, but it doesn’t actually help.
In most of these cases, even elementary school students instinctively know the right answer (although, as an adult, I seem to forget): When we don’t understand something, a great solution is to ask for help. A quick conversation, a short note, or a moment of research can often stave off a future failure.
It’s one thing if we remain ignorant because the answer hasn’t yet been discovered or invented. However, it’s quite another if our pride prevents us from retrieving a readily-available answer.
In one situation, when Jesus had prophesied His upcoming execution and resurrection, we find the following verse, about His disciples’ reaction:
But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.
MARK 9:32 NASB
I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t discourage honest questions. He answered people like Nicodemus (see John 3:1-21), a rich man (Mark 10:17-22), a lawyer (Matthew 22:35-40), and even those who were trying to trap Him (Matthew 22:15-22). He spent months and years with disciples, as they listened to Him and learned. Still, in this case, they were “afraid to ask Him”.
Lest we be too quick to condemn them, though, we should probably consider our own habits.
- Do we fill in the blanks with our own “best guess”, when we only know part of the answers about a Biblical topic? Similarly, rather than admitting that we need to go and research an answer, do we make something up on the spot, based on limited knowledge?
- Do we avoid difficult topics – whether in our conversations, our studies, or our thought life – because we don’t want to face a potentially-uncomfortable message from the Bible?
- Do we rush into decisions, thinking that we know enough to make the right choice, when we should ask God for guidance (and then listen for His reply)?
I suspect that pride, hurry, and selfishness (recurring sins that create a problems for a lot of us) probably contribute to our not asking God for answers. Why do we let those things get in our way, though, when we have access to the Source of all truth? It’s not like we have to go through life in a vacuum, limited to our own finite understanding (see Proverbs 3:5).
The following passage may be talking about material things and opportunities, but I feel like it applies to finding answers to our questions, as well:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8 NASB
God doesn’t promise that He will tell us everything (at least, not right away), but even discovering that He has chosen to wait (before giving us the solution to a mystery) is something that we can use to develop our faith.
Even among multiple options that all appear to be valid (and righteous), taking the time to ask God – both through prayer and studying His word – can mean the difference between an “OK” result, and a “divinely incredible” result.
Let us be humble and patient enough to ask God when we have questions. If we need motivation to do so, we can consider the risk of making a bad choice or remaining in ignorance, when we had the chance to do something better. Don’t be afraid – or too proud – to ask for help.