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Tough Questions

by Tammy Darling

What do you say when people ask you tough questions about your faith in God?

 While a friend of mine suffered from a chronic disease, a person who didn’t believe in God asked my friend, “How can you believe in a God that lets you suffer?”

My friend didn’t have an answer.
As my friend “unpacked” that encounter, he admitted that the guy's question left him downright confused. He wondered if the person was sarcastically mocking him and his situation, or if the guy had lost someone close to him and blamed God for it. Or was the guy sincerely desiring to know more about God? He wasn’t sure.
Someday, sometime you may encounter a questioning person. This is why the Bible encourages you to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that’s within you (1 Peter 3:15). It could be that your answer turns out to to be a catalyst to lead them to Christ.
Maybe you don’t think well on your feet, and you don’t see how you can ever pull off one of these conversations. Don’t sweat it. If you’re faithful in sharing the little you have to offer right now, you’ll grow more confident and competent in future conversations. But it’s not about growing your own confidence and competency, it’s about relying on Jesus to give you the words to say. He says: “Don’t worry about what to say in your defense, because you will be given the right words at the right time. For it won’t be you doing the talking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matthew 10:19, 20, NLT).*
As you get ready to answer the questions of unbelievers, here are some things to think about.
It’s not as simple as memorizing answers. Don’t try to get ahold of a Christian apologetics (proof) book, memorize it, and recite answers whenever someone asks you an appropriate trigger question.
Get to the heart of the question. Considering the way people word their questions is only the beginning. Think about how every question includes much more—emotions, experiences, attitudes, and an entire worldview. And behind every stated question there are other unasked questions too.
Ask some questions yourself. To answer somebody’s question, you may need to ask some questions to discover the personal history behind their question. For example, asking, “When did you first start to think this way?” may give you the background information you need to answer the heart of a person’s original question.
People ask questions for different reasons. Sometimes they’re searching for intellectual truth or philosophical logic. Others may ask because they’re hurt and are looking for responses that acknowledge their emotions. Try to figure out why they may be asking you questions.
Consider the “must haves” for a discussion. For example, whenever the topics of suffering and evil come up, there are some key points to bring up: the nature of free will, the tragedy of the fall into sin, and God’s sovereignty, as well as His plan to deal with evil. A substantial dose of admitting that we just don’t know as much as we’d like to doesn’t hurt either—“I don’t know all the answers, but I find that going through tough times with God is better than going through them without Him.”
Drop it. If you find yourself in an I’m-right- you’re-wrong impasse, it’s probably best to drop the subject for the time being. But do let the person know that you value their friendship, and you don’t want the relationship to end.
Admit that you don’t have all the answers. Sometimes there isn’t an answer. God hasn’t chosen to reveal everything to us. However, being honest about our own struggles with the mysteries of life can build bridges of credibility with questioners.
When nonbelievers ask questions about God—regardless of their motives—they stand at a crossroads. And you may have the privilege of pointing them in the right direction with your thoughtful responses.
*Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Tammy Darling writes from Pennsylvania.

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