The Question to Ask When Answers Are Unclear

math chalkboardLast week my daughter came home with a question about her math homework. For some, math questions might be more dreaded than having The Talk, but for me these discussions are usually a delight. After years of being the mom who has no idea how to make crafty designs for elementary school projects, I’m finally in my comfort zone. I’ve been waiting and ready for this moment.

Unfortunately, as we opened her enormous geometry book and read the question, I realized to my chagrin that I had no idea how to solve the problem.

Swoosh…that was the sound of my excitement rushing out the door.

And, then I did what I have done for so many years of both studying and teaching math. I took a pencil into my hand, reread the question and said to my daughter, “Let’s write out everything we know to be true.”

As we went through this process of listing out the facts before us, slowly the light clicked on about how to solve the problem.  We checked her answer in the back of the book and high-fived when we realized we had gotten the answer correct.

As my daughter and I chatted, I told her: “One of the best (and worst) things about math is that you become accustomed to the feeling of not-knowing.  It’s not comfortable, but if you can work through the discomfort, you will usually figure out which way to go. The one thing to avoid is throwing your hands up in the air and not even trying because you think it’s too difficult.”

As I reflected upon our discussion I realized that studying math probably prepared me for ministry more than any other subject. Most of the time, I look at the struggles in my own life and the lives of those around me and I have no idea what to do or say. It’s tempting to just throw my hands up in the air, choosing to give up because I’m fearful of not knowing the right answer.

Yet, I have found that the same process I use for solving math problems rings true in life.  When I don’t have an easy answer, I find the best question is to ask myself is, “What do I know to be true?” As I meditate on truths about God, He answers my questions by revealing Himself in new ways.  Here are some of the truths I regularly remind myself of:

God reigns over every circumstance and is acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:2-5)

All of my days were written in His book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139: 16)

He will never leave or forsake me. (Deut. 31:8)

His love for me is constant and powerful (Romans 8:38-39)

God does not change.  (Malachi 3:6)

He is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, loving, and just. (Exodus 34:6-7)

God is good and faithful. (Psalm 100:5)

Whatever circumstances He brings into my life, He is working for the good of making me more like Christ. (Romans 8:28)

He has goodness stored up for His children. (Psalm 31:19)

My inheritance is kept in heaven, guarded by God, fully protected and safe. It cannot spoil, rust, or fade. (1Peter 1:3-5)

He invites me to pray and He uses my prayers to accomplish His will. (Colossians 4:2)

God is reigning over all creation. (Job 38:1-41)

I know that the injustice and sins of others (and my own) is under His dominion. (Gen 50:19-20, Acts 2:23)

He watches over every part of my life, never sleeping, always protecting me from evil. (Psalm 121:1-8)

If I am in Christ, my debt is fully paid and there is no wrath left for my sins. (Romans 8:1-4)

By sacrificing Christ on my behalf, God has satisfied my greatest need. Will He not also provide for my lesser needs? Therefore, I can trust Him with what He withholds. (Romans 8: 31 -32)

The Bible is not a book that tells us what to do in every situation. It is a book that reveals God. His plan. His ways. His character.  What we know to be true about God is what we most need in the midst of our day to day problems. By mediating on His character, His plan and His commands, He guides and leads us. Sometimes He provides light for just a few steps on our journey. But it is enough. He is enough. His presence assures us that we can never be lost because we have already been found.

So the next time you find yourself in that place of not knowing, lean into the discomfort. Ask yourself, “What do I know to be true?” Rest in those truths, while waiting expectantly for Him to guide you into the answers you seek. As we know God, we know His voice and we follow (John 10:1-4). His word is a lamp for our feet, shining light for our path.