I am learning (and it’s taking me longer than I would like) that the key to so much in life & leadership lies not in having the right answers, but in asking the right questions. Sometimes when you think you have all the answers someone changes all the questions. There is actually a Book Note at “Leadership From the Heart” titled “Leading with Questions” which is jam-packed with great ideas and a plethora of different kinds of questions that can be utilized in different situations.
It’s advantageous to ask questions of God, of others and of yourself. The truly great leaders (in my estimation) are those who facilitate other’s learning by asking the right questions--not giving them the “right answers.” It’s the old, “Give a person a fish (the answer) and you’ve given them food for a day. Teach them how to fish (the right questions) and you’ve given them food for life.”
But, in a different vein, there are some questions we should NOT ask ourselves, or God. I’m sure there a quite a few, but here are two I’ve been thinking about recently:
1. Why me?
The “Why me” question could be you asking yourself rhetorically: why is this or that happening to me? Or, it could be asking God why certain things are happening to you. I don’t think it’s a good question to be asking because, for one, you may never get an answer, and, secondly, you are assuming that certain things should not be happening to you. The book of Job should, once and for all, settle the fact that God is sovereign and, yes, bad things do happen to good people because we live in a fallen world and there are no guarantees that it will always be blue skies and smooth sailing.
Captain Gerald Coffee became a prisoner of war in February of 1966 after he ditched his plane which was shot down off the coast of Viet Nam. He spent seven years as a POW living, some of that time, in a cell that was about seven feet long and three feet wide which he says he shared with ants and lizards. A small tin bucket in one corner of the cell was supposed to take care of all his physical requirements. The cell reeked of the human misery that had been there before him—decades of human misery.
He said, and I quote him here, "You can bet that I prayed a lot. But I began to realize that the nature of my earliest prayers was kind of futile, kind of useless. I was saying, Why me God? Why does this have to happen to me? We all know that it’s supposed to happen to the other guy, right? Never to us."
“Finally I began to realize that that was the futility of it all. I changed my prayers to Show me, God. Not why me, but show me. What am I supposed to do with this experience. What are you preparing me for? What am I supposed to learn?”
Now most of us have never had as extreme an experience as Gerald Coffee, but probably all of us, at one time or another, have asked ourselves (and God) “Why me?”
At times, our finite minds cannot understand or accept why things are happening to us and we must trust (or work ourselves into a frenzy trying to figure it out and demanding answers) that our sovereign, all-knowing, all-loving God will accomplish his purposes in and through us.
“When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions (like “Why me”). Wait for hope to appear.” Lamentations 3:27, 28 (The Message)
I have received tremendous peace and God-confidence from this passage. If I’m not careful, my questioning can lead to bitterness, resentment and distancing myself from God, which only makes matters worse. It’s not easy. Life is not always fair. Unexplainably bad things happen. But we either believe that God is in control or we can go bananas trying to make sense of it all.
2. What if?
The “What if?” games can cause untold trouble to our spirits and to our walk with Jesus. What if this or that happens, what will I/we do then? I’m reminded of the person who said, “What do you mean it doesn’t pay to worry? Most of the things I worry about never happen!” I can worry myself into an early grave with the “What if?” question(s).
Here’s another verse from The Message that helps me deal with worry: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34.
Growing up, I was the poster child for worrying about anything and everything. But, over the years, the Lord has used His memorized Word and the Holy Spirit, to do a deep work of grace in my life. I don’t want to go to the Lord and always be telling him (in a whining sort of way) how big my problems are; but, instead, go to my problems and tell them how big my God is.
So, by His grace, and with the help of the wonderful Holy Spirit, don’t fall into the trap of allowing your life and ministry to circle around “Why Me” and “What If…” They are questions that could lead you down a dead-end street that may well rob you of joy, peace and power!