Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Questions”

EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL

She was a 17-year-old senior in high school and fell in love with a 24-year-old man who was widowed and had 3 kids. They decided to get married, but there was a catch. Her school had a rule which stated you could not be married and be in high school. She had every credit she needed to graduate except one semester of history. She begged the principal to allow her to stay and complete the requirement so she could get her diploma, but a rule was a rule. That was in 1951.

She was thrown into instant family, taking on her role as wife and step-mom. Soon she and her husband had kids of their own. She fully embraced this responsibility, staying home to raise the kids and keep their home.

Years went by and she never looked back at the high school diploma that was so close, yet so far.

…Until 1999…

Forty-eight years after she would have graduated from high school, she decided to go back and get it. She met with the principal and told him her situation. He listened with a sympathetic ear and kindly told her to seek her GED. She kindly responded back to him, “I don’t want my GED, I want my high school diploma!”

After much consternation, the administration agreed. And she went back to high school for one semester to complete the history credit she lacked. She walked the halls with high school kids. She sat in class with high school kids. I asked her if she was mistakenly thought of as a teacher every now and then. She chuckled.

She completed her one semester history credit. She proudly wore her cap and gown, walked across the stage, and received her high school diploma…forty-eight years later.

Now this is the part of the story where you might expect me to say something like, “This just goes to show you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” Or, “Never give up on your dream, go for it, and you’ll succeed.” But truthfully, I’m not much of a buyer-inner to those feel-good, shoot-for-the-stars messages. While they work for some, they fall painfully flat for others.

No, this is the part of the story where I tell you everyone has a story to tell. You see, she’s quiet by nature. She’s not forthcoming with much personal information. She loves to be a part of things to listen and observe, but not necessarily to contribute to the conversation. She’s quiet and kind of soft-spoken. But that all changed when I began to ask her questions. One question led to another and before you know it she had shared this incredible story that blew us all away.

Here’s the thing about questions…they can be accusatory in nature, or they can be inquisitive. We can ask questions with an underlying whisper of disapproval or judgment. Or we can ask questions innocently because our curiosity craves an answer. And when it’s the latter, it opens up a whole new world—one that we wish people knew, but are too afraid to share.

Everyone has a story to tell—an opinion, a viewpoint, a conviction, a past—that’s inside them and just may be longing to come out. With our questions, we can carefully and graciously unearth these things in each other. Or with our questions, we can insensitively bury them forever.

Seneca the Younger once said, “If you don’t know, ask.” It’s why and how we ask that make all the difference.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A NON-RELIGIOUS PERSON

This week she found out she has cancer…again. As soon as she got the official call, she picked up the phone and called and requested that I come and visit with her. When I walked in the door, she said in a weak, troubled and trembling voice, “Oh, Beth…” With both arms, she grabbed me…and held on tight…and we said nothing.

Finally we sat down. She in her rocker, me on her ottoman, sitting face-to-face about three feet away.

I listened. I prayed as I listened. Prayed for the “right” response. Prayed for the “right” words. I asked a few questions because I’ve learned that asking questions buys me time. It buys me time for the Holy Spirit of God to work in me—to soften my heart, to better engage, to prepare my mind, to prepare my words.

As we visited, I tried hard to fight back tears. And I know she did too.

At one point she told me, “Beth, you’re the most religious person I know.” I disagreed with her. I’m not religious at all. I know she intended it to be complimentary, but honestly I have no idea what “being religious” even means. By strict definition, I’m very far from.

Her mind raced. It worried. It grieved. It doubted. It hurt. It went down roads and paths that I tried not to condemn or criticize.

She told me she was ready to die. She said something like, “I just hope I’ve done enough good things in my life that God will accept me.”

I couldn’t let the comment lie there untouched. I responded back to her, “It’s not about what you do, it’s about what you believe.”

Non-religious Person

I went on to explain to her that the Bible is clear, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I wasn’t trying to preach. I wasn’t trying to convert her. I wasn’t trying to be pushy or be a Bible-beater. I simply spoke what I knew to be true.

I didn’t have all the answers for her that day. I still don’t. But I think maybe I bridged a gap between her generation and mine. And hopefully I bridged a gap between her and God as well. Just when you think you can’t relate to people of a different generation, you can. We do have at least one thing in common with each other. We were all created by the same great big, loving, forgiving God who cares about the cruddy details of our lives. Maybe that’s the starting point of any conversation…in any circumstance. Maybe?

There are more talks to come. More listening to do. More words to speak. More gaps to bridge.

I just hope I’ve done enough…

Oh wait…it’s not about what I do…it’s about what I believe. And even though I’m a “non-religious person,” I believe that God “is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation” (Psalm 100:5, NLT).

WHERE DOES YOUR DOUBT LEAD YOU?

Doubting Thomas got a bad rap. Bless the guy! Yeah, yeah…I know…he did have a huge moment of doubt, but don’t we all? Didn’t a whole host of other people in the Bible have some major doubts as well?

  • Abraham doubted God when he was told he and his ancient wife would have a kid.
  • John the Baptist, who was sure Jesus was the Lamb of God, later had one of his buddies go ask Him, “Are you really the One?”
  • When Jesus took Martha to the tomb of her dead brother (who’d been dead for 4 days) and wanted to roll the stone away from his tomb, she objected, “No…no…that’s not a good idea…that’ll stink to high heaven!”
  • Peter, who was literally walking on water with Jesus, had a brief moment of wigging out and then started to sink.
  • Gideon didn’t believe God either, and he even put God to a test…not once, but twice.

So why do we pick on Doubting Thomas? Why has Thomas’ reputation of being a doubter the one which has withstood time for the last 2,000 years?

Beats me!

But here’s what I do know…Thomas was gut-level honest in his doubt about Jesus’ resurrection. He emphatically said he wouldn’t believe unless he saw the nail wounds in Jesus’ hands, touched those same nail wounds, and put his hand into Jesus’ side where He’d been pierced with a spear. And here’s what else I know…Jesus showed up and met every one of Thomas’ conditions one by one. He met Thomas right where he was in the midst of his doubt.

You see, doubting isn’t such a bad thing in my mind. Doubting leads to questions. Questions lead to seeking. Seeking leads to finding. Finding leads to answers. Answers lead to faith. Faith leads to a connection to God. A connection to God leads to a relationship with God. A relationship with God leads to a commitment to God. A commitment to God leads to an eternity with Him.

So why do we pick on Doubting Thomas? The way I see it, it was his doubt that led to an encounter with the risen Lord. He had to come face-to-face with the Living God. And it was his encounter with Jesus that led him to his declaration of who Jesus was to him. When he came to a point where he finally knew Jesus was who He said He was, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”

In the midst of Thomas’ doubt, God reached out to him. God met Thomas where he was. God revealed Himself to Thomas. And God helped Thomas overcome his doubt. You see, that’s the kind of God we have. He doesn’t wanna leave us hanging, floundering, and wallowing in a pit of doubt. God wants to meet our conditions and reveal Himself to us like only God can do.

Where does your doubt lead you?

Where does your doubt lead you? Closer to or further away from a God who wants to meet you where you are? My prayer for you today is that you, like Thomas, would have an encounter with the Living God, that you would in a sense come face-to-face with this God who longs to reveal Himself to you and help you overcome your doubt.

Jesus said, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” And like the man with the demon-possessed son cried out to Jesus, so shall we: “I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24).

DO WE DARE ANSWER JESUS WITH SARCASM?

Have you ever noticed that Jesus asked some really funky questions in the bible? No, seriously…He did! If I were in the crowd, I fear I would have responded to Him in a most sarcastic, perhaps even callous or pompous way.

Consider the time when He encountered two blind guys on the road who were crying out to Him for mercy. He asked them point-blank, “What do you want me to do for you?” My response:  Are you serious, Jesus? You just asked two blind guys what you could do for them?

How about the time Jesus met a gentlemen who had been disabled for 38 years. Jesus asked this guy straight up, “Do you want to get well?” My response:  Duh, Jesus!

And this one really gets me. When Jesus was 12 years old, His parents had gone to Jerusalem for the Passover. They left town and realized that their son was nowhere to be found. After three days missing, they found Him in the temple back in Jerusalem. That’s when Jesus asked His parents, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” My response:  Excuse me, Jesus? Parents with lost children go looking high and low for them…and church isn’t necessarily the first place they look.

We laugh at the seeming oddity of some of His questions, but Jesus also asked some very direct, poignant ones as well. And I think these particular questions are timeless. They had relevance then…and now. How would you answer these questions posed by Jesus:

  • Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Luke 12:25)
  • What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
  • Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3)
  • Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)
  • Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40)
  • Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)
  • Why are you so troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? (Luke 24:38)
  • But what about you? Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)

Do we dare to respond to these questions with the same sarcasm and callousness as I did earlier? The truth is, if we allow them to, these questions penetrate our hearts. These questions challenge the core of our being. And ultimately, these questions have eternal significance.

How do you answer? With sarcasm, callousness, or apathy? Or with sincerity, honesty, and humility?

If you could ask Jesus one question, what would it be?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: