What if the questions we ask around our faith and spirituality are making us more lonely, more afraid, and more isolated? Our questions have become formulas…
How can I do more of this (prayer, bible studies, quiet times) to add more of this (peace, joy, love) and subtract all of this (shame, rejection, and fear of abandonment)?
We have become a culture fixated on finding the the answer that will get us out of our pain and out of facing the story of our life. When I’m told to pray more or have more faith as an answer to my loneliness or anxiety, intimacy is shot and connection is lost.
I become a doer and my faith turns into a vehicle of escape.
My feelings, my needs, and my longings are going to be completely missed when a well-meaning, albeit-sterile, answer like “pray more” is given. We too often resolve to do everything in our power to not face ourselves, others, and God. We become masters of disguise and lose the ability to tell the truth.
If we’re honest, reality is oftentimes more about tragedy and suffering than it is about happiness and ease.
Consider these questions in the Bible:
Why are you so afraid? (Matthew 8:26) What do you want me to do for you? (Mark 10:51) Where is your faith? (Luke 8:25) Do you want to get well? (John 5:6)
Just these four questions that Jesus asks could take a lifetime to answer.
And even then, I would wonder if we could answer them in the fullness they deserve.
These questions certainly cannot be answered in a moment with a few subscribed words. Instead, I see an invitation to a lifetime of curiosity. And a lifetime of connection can be lived out if we honor the questions themselves and allow them a more generous space in our hearts.
Paying attention to the questions we ask will lead us to the stories of our hearts and our lives.
Instead of turning away, we get to turn toward. Instead of finding a solution to my loneliness or my anxiety, the invitation becomes a place to share my stories of loneliness and anxiety with safe and trusted people.
In the process of sharing, you are known. You become connected and that connection creates intimacy with yourself, others, and God. In my own journey, I’ve found that it’s connection and relationship our hearts are usually after — much more so than the answers.
When I look at the questions Jesus asks, it’s clear He too is after connection and relationship with us.
A litmus test for our questions can be as simple as asking ourselves if our questions are leading us into the stories of our past or if they are leading us away from our stories, and towards behavior modification? Am I going toward the fear or away from it? Am I wanting to fix something or am I wanting connection with something?
The terrain of our heart is vast and glorious. It is full of treasure and beauty that is found only if we take the time and courage to uncover it.
“…try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke
Blake Blankenbecler is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, TN. She recently earned her Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with Play Therapy specialization from Lipscomb University and is currently working toward licensure in the state of Tennessee. Learn more about Blake.