In Days of Questions

Recently, I spent a night fighting sleep. Reed and I had ended the day talking about our future plans, a topic that was coming up a lot lately. We did our usual cycle of “what if…?” and “then what?” and found ourselves unsettled again. Lots of questions; very few answers. And with that, I fell asleep.

It was a night of stressful dreams – the ones where the same thing keeps happening and you can’t escape the endless loop your brain is on. I woke up early, partially to just make the night end and partially to spend some time reading before Bo got up. I settled myself on the couch and opened up to Matthew 7. I only got a few verses in before I closed my Bible and looked out the window in wonder.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7: 7-11)

If you’re someone who trusts Jesus and follows him, you’ve probably experienced this feeling. It’s the feeling of being known. I woke up, restless and agitated, not knowing quite what I needed. When I opened my Bible to the next chapter of Matthew, I had little idea that God would care for me in such a simple, perfect way. In the quiet of my small living room, Jesus provided just what I needed.

I’ve been reading the Sermon on the Mount lately, and I am blown away by Jesus’ character. I’ve read lots about Jesus and spent years getting to know this man. Recently, though, it feels like Jesus is taking on a whole new image in my mind. And as I type those words, I am a little teary eyed. Because earlier this year, I prayed that Jesus would reveal himself to me in new,  fresh ways. He’s doing that through this book of Matthew. I see Jesus, full of compassion, full of care. I see his emphasis on people and his desire for us to honor one another. I see his desire and ability to give me good things.

In the year ahead, Reed and I will have to answer lots of those swirling questions in our minds. We’re walking into our last year at Bethel, and a year from now, so much change will be on our doorsteps. New home, new jobs, new normals. It’s far enough away that it doesn’t freak me out too much. But sometimes, like that sleepless night, the uncertainty wraps itself around me and locks me up in fear.

So I look to Jesus. And he says, “Ask. Seek me. Come home to me.” He will give me, us, good gifts. This is where he keeps bringing me in days of questions. It’s been all over my journals, all over Scripture I’m reading, in my conversations with friends and quiet moments with Jesus. When I’m overwhelmed with the looming questions, he tells me to seek him.

That feels almost trivial to say, doesn’t it? When life is hard, just seek Jesus. It’s like some terrible catch phrase that gets written across a floral journal sold at a Family Christian. I don’t mean it to sound so trite. Life is often more complex and nuanced than that kind of phrase implies. But what if that’s where rest and discernment begin? What if we actually ask God for the things we need or desire? And what if we just spend time with him to be with him, not to get automatic answers out like he’s some kind of vending machine.

So here’s what I’m trying. I’m trusting that Jesus meant what he said in Matthew 7. I’m asking him for answers and direction, and as I wait, I’m checking out who he is and getting to know him better. He tells me he gives good gifts – and even if that’s as simple as some peace and rest for now, I’ll take it as provision.

I know the Bible is often confusing and complicated for us to take in. If you’re in a place right now where opening this book holds more frustration than peace, that’s okay. So many of us have been there. It’s hard and feels heavy (the actual book, as well as the situation), and it’s tempting to just leave it alone for a while. What if you read these chapters in Matthew? Read the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 5-7, and look for the character of Jesus. Look for God’s care for his people and how he leads us.

I’m with you when it comes to the mess of questions. Whether those are questions about how to parent well, how to trust God, or how to walk into a murky future, I believe there is value in asking and being with him in the uncertainty.

Several years ago, I sat at a table in my school’s coffee shop, wrestling with some major life questions. I’d been reading a book by Brennan Manning, and in that moment, these were the words I came across:

“The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of the pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.”
― Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God

Earlier in the book, he says we must pray for trust over clarity. Years later, this still sticks with me. So why do we ask, why do we keep seeking? Because God offers his presence and promise. Go. Ask, seek, and be at home with Jesus.

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