3 Reasons Questions are Sometimes Better than Answers


radical wesley sliderThe benefit of our questions is that they often push us beyond those false assumptions and invite us to experience God’s true character in a new way. In this article, David Alexander shares 3 reasons why he thinks asking questions is often better than giving answers.

She sat down in my office with her Bible and a tattered notebook that contained the notes she had made in preparation for our conversation. Earlier in the week she had requested to meet with her pastor to discuss the growing list of questions that had been generated from her recent study.

I could tell she was nervous. She was wrestling with questions she had never even considered before. It was clear that the foundation on which she had been building her faith was now beginning to feel unstable, and there was an uneasiness in her about what that might mean.

I tried to restrain myself but eventually I could not help but break out into a smile which immediately added to her confusion. Regaining my composure I replied, “I know it may feel like you’re losing your faith right now, but in my experience, the process of finding faith often feels like you are losing it.”

I continued by saying, “Don’t be worried. Growth happens when we start to wrestle with the right questions, and from what I hear, you are asking the right questions.”

Conversations like the one I had that day in my office have further solidified my belief that the people of the deepest faith are often those who have the courage to ask the hardest questions. It has further led me to the belief that in my role as pastor, sometimes the greatest value I can add is not providing an answer, but instead inviting the consideration of a deeper question.

Here are three reasons why I think that questions are often better than answers.

1. Questions create conversations.

The opportunity I had that day to affirm and encourage a member of my congregation occurred because of her questions. Uncertainty does that. It leads us to participate in conversations that might not otherwise occur. In the process we hear another perspective which allows our own understanding to expand and grow. It also serves to relocate our growth in the context where deep transformation most often occurs; in our relationships with one another and with God.

2. Questions challenge our false assumptions.

If you have not read James Bryan Smith’s work, The Good and Beautiful God, let me recommend it to you. In the book, he writes, ”The New Testament reveals a God who is pulsing with goodness and power and love and beauty. To know the God of Jesus is to know the truth about who God really is.”

In the rest of that work, Smith unpacks what he describes as the characteristics of “the God that Jesus knows.” It’s an important distinction because our false assumptions about God often create a barrier to our spiritual development. The benefit of our questions is that they often push us beyond those false assumptions and invite us to experience God’s true character in a new way.

3. Questions honor God.

Have you ever tried to help someone who seemed to already know all the answers? If you have you know it is an incredibly frustrating process that often ends up stifling the relationship. Can we not see that same dynamic at work in our relationship with God? I am convinced that God is honored by our questions. They are not only an acknowledgement of our human limitations, they also create the space needed for us to embrace the mystery that is always beyond us and allow God to speak into our lives.

When I first started working as a pastor I remember feeling greatly concerned that I would not always be able to supply my congregation with the right answers. That concern has waned in recent years.

What I am learning is that my role is often instead about pointing to the deeper questions.

Get David’s book The Deep End.


Rev. David Alexander serves as the Directing Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Mansfield, Texas. He is the author of The Deep End, a book he describes as “reflections on some of the more difficult questions that I believe every person of faith must wrestle with at some point in their journey.” For more of David’s writings you may visit www.pastordavidalexander.com.