Most every parent has gone through the sweetly annoying stage of questions from their children. These are the days when kids seem to have an inexhaustible curiosity, and the correspondingly inexhaustible list of inquiries to go along with it. The questions range from why the sky is blue, to why certain animals have spots when others don’t, to why we have to eat our vegetables.
The questions come in a flurry during that season of life – one right after the other, until most of the time the parent says that he or she has dispensed enough information for the day.
The reason kids ask these questions, at least in the purest sense, is because they lack information. They are sponges, wanting to soak up every bit of information that we, as the parents, have to give them. They assume that we actually are in possession of all this information, and will freely give it to them.
Parents ask their children questions, too, albeit for different reasons. Sometimes we ask our kids things because we feel distant from them. We want more than anything for our children to open up and share not only about what’s going on in their lives, but also how it makes them feel. So questions for us are not really about information; they’re more about intimacy. And we have such a strong desire for this intimacy that we can ask questions back to our children with the same frequency and intensity they once upon a time employed with us.
The badgered becomes the badgerer.
The same action—asking questions—is employed, but there is a different purpose behind it.
Now consider the fact that God, too, is a question asker. We see this happen many times in Scripture:
When Adam and Eve first sinned, God responded with a question: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9).
When Adam and Eve presented themselves, God asked Eve directly, “What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:13).
When God responded to Job’s accusations, He used a series of questions beginning with, “Where were you when I…?” (Job 38:4).
When Jonah was angry that God did what Jonah feared He would—relent on His punishment of the Ninevites—God asked him twice: “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4).
When the people said Jesus was a prophet or a reincarnation of John the Baptist, He asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15).
The list could go on. In each case, God is asking a question. And because questions serve different purposes, depending on the occasion, we might wonder what God’s intent is in asking these questions.
Well, we know first of all what His intent is not. We know that the question is not informational in nature because God already knows the answer. In fact, God actually knows the facts of every situation better than the people involved in the situation. And here we find one of the great purposes of God in His asking of questions.
God uses questions to force us to confront our own hearts. He questions us not because He needs to know and understand something about what’s going on, but because He wants us to know and understand the truth of what’s going on. Through questions, God forces us to turn our gaze on ourselves—our hearts and our motivations. He makes us look deeply into ourselves, knowing that He already knows, and then own up to that which we have either been unable or unwilling to see previously.
As He did in the garden, God might ask us, “Where are you?” not because He doesn’t know, but because He wants us to bring into the light the fear and shame that keeps us in hiding.
Or as He did with Jonah, God might force us to confront our own bias, prejudice, and bitterness so that we might, through His compassion and grace, actually move past it.
Or as Jesus did with the disciples, God might ask us again and again who He is—not because He has forgotten—but because He wants us to form the discipline in ourselves of speaking the truth of His character to our doubts over and over again.
This should mean a great deal to us because, as group leaders, questions are one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal. So use them wisely. Don’t neglect them because, just as the Lord does with us, a simple question can wake someone up to a new reality they are currently blind to.