Getting our questions answered is easier than ever.
This morning I was wondering how many stairs there are in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. And in the time it would take you to snap your fingers, I had already found out.
I didn’t have to track down someone who had inside knowledge of the building. I didn’t have to go to the library in search of press clippings that might have shed light on my inquiry. I didn’t have to book a flight to Dubai so I could go climb to the top of the building and count for myself. Instead, I asked Google my question, and in 0.78 seconds, I got my response (along with 963,000 other results from my search).
With this ease comes a sense of entitlement. It doesn’t take long for, “I can have my questions answered,” to turn into, “I must have my questions answered.” In an information age such as ours, knowledge is a basic human right.
As a case in point, consider the fact that two minutes ago, you weren’t thinking about the Burj Khalifa, and you didn’t care how many stairs it had. But now that I’ve raised the question, you’re curious. And maybe you’re a little bit annoyed that I haven’t given you the answer yet. Unfortunately, you’ll only be more annoyed when I tell you that I’m not going to give you the answer. Go ahead: skim through the remaining paragraphs to see if I’m bluffing. It's frustrating, right? A structure that is nearly twice the height of the Empire State Building. That can be seen from over 50 miles away. That took 22 million man-hours to construct. It must have a lot of stairs. But how many? It bugs you not to know. More than a few of you are going to open a new browser tab and Google it right now. Some perhaps already have.
In light of our entitlement to answers, I find it remarkable that Jesus so often lets our questions linger. As we read about his life and ministry in the Gospels, we encounter someone who is deliberately elusive at strategic (and sometimes frustrating) times. Instead of giving a straightforward answer to someone’s question, he tells a story. Instead of putting a matter to rest with a definitive, authoritative word, he invites further discussion. Instead of resolving a thorny interpretive problem, he throws a few more thorns into the mix.
As we go along in our respective spiritual journeys, it can be easy to demand quick and easy answers to the questions we find ourselves asking. But if you’ve been following Jesus for more than 30 seconds, you probably know that “quick” and “easy” would hardly be suitable descriptions of much of anything in the Christian life. Words like “slow” and “hard” are much more accurate. As are words like “discouraging” and “confusing” and “murky” and “what on earth is going on right now?”
We think we need answers, and we think we need them now. But often Jesus knows better. He knows that we need to hang out with our questions a bit longer. He knows that fueling our curiosity is sometimes better than resolving it. He knows that we frequently miss out when we’re in too much of a hurry to leave ambiguity behind.
Christianity is full of experts who are ready to feed us bite-sized answers to the biggest questions of our souls. But what if these easy-to-swallow solutions were harmful for our spiritual health? What if God wanted to work in and through our as-of-yet-unsatisfied hunger pangs?
I think Casey Tygrett is correct when he observes that “sometimes our certainties obscure what the good God is working in our story and in our world” (Becoming Curious). Can you relate? Have you discovered times when your quest for answers blinded you to the ways God wanted to commune with you in your questions, doubts, and uncertainties?
If you’re like me, you want more answers than you have. Perhaps you even feel like you need more answers than you have. But maybe that’s not such a bad place to be. Jesus wasn’t afraid of ending some of his sentences with a question mark. Why are we?