The wrong questions…questions regarding cause; why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this? Who’s to blame? Why is the Church lukewarm? Or questions regarding solutions; how do we fix it? What can I do so that God will heal me? I don’t know why the disciples asked this particular wrong question:
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”
Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause- effect here. Look instead for what God can do. (John 9:1-3, The Message)
Perhaps it was as simple as plain old stupid curiosity. Perhaps it was a way to work on their theology; maybe they thought if the cause was understood some how a solution could be found. But they weren’t looking at the situation through the eyes of Jesus.
The right question, Jesus said, is “what can God do?”
Answering that question is a completely different process from finding answers to the wrong questions. They require hard work, cleverness, and intelligence; they involve research, study, and evaluation. The diligent application of ourselves to find the answers can give us a sense of purpose and self-worth.
The answer to Jesus’ right question is found by a much different, although not a less diligent, means. Maybe it begins by asking the question back to God. “God, what can you do? What will you do? What are you doing?”
God, what can you do with my ALS, with my writing, with my limited conversation, with my declining strength and energy? What can you do with my denomination that is a sorry mess? What can you do with my country, with the power of the greedy and corrupt, with the burgeoning violence and persecution around the world? What can you do with the growing pain and sorrow of my own family? What will you do in all of this? Have you already done something? What are you doing now?
The list of possible answers is found by diligently reading the Bible. The answers to “what have you done” require sifting through the evidence of past experiences for clues of God’s power at work. As to what God is doing now, those answers require living with expectant examination of each moment for God’s finger prints, or still small voice. Hopefully that makes us that much more receptive when God is not so subtle!
I think leading with the Right Question is a game changer. Now, I can see an opportunity for the forgiving, healing, loving and merciful power of God. Now, I can ask, “Can I help you God?” Now, I begin to see what God can do in my own life.
I have begun to suspect that I have worked hard in my life to find answers to the wrong questions. Sometimes I wonder if ALS was God’s way of removing me from ministry because I was. What if I had been asking, “What can God do here, what is God doing here” instead? Not that I am weighed down with regrets. I am confident God did all he could with me as I was. As someone has said, “God specializes in striking straight blows with crooked sticks” and I believe that. (And deep down I don’t really believe that I could cause God to be so desperate that giving me ALS was the only thing he could resort to!)
But what can God do now? Lately I’ve been caught up with the things I wanted to see God do, things I desired to play a role in; but it looks as if I never will. Instead, maybe I need to go back and remind myself of what God has done for me, and through me in the almost two years since I was diagnosed. I need to ask for insight into what God is doing right now. And maybe ask for insight into what God wants to do in days ahead.
Although, perhaps only the first two really matter. So, God, what can you do?