The "What" Questions
Jerry N. Duncan, Ph.D., ABPP
How we think about problems in life has a significant influence on our mental state and the way we think about God. Dr. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled, believes that the first step towards mental health is accepting that problems in life are normal. He believes the second step toward mental health is learning the tools to deal with life’s problems. This is not necessarily an original thought.
Jesus shared the same thought in John 16:33- “In me you will have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
Remember the context of this passage. The previous week, Jesus re-emphasized to his disciples that he had come, not to set up an earthly kingdom, but to travel to Jerusalem to die. Pretty discouraging news. It must have been confusing to them to then see him ride into Jerusalem and to be treated as an arriving monarch.
I believe he knew they needed another reminder lest they think he might be persuaded to become Israel’s king. He therefore told them that life was really going to be hard, but that if they abided in him while they were going through those difficulties, He would give them peace in the midst of the turmoil. The fact that problems are normal is emphasized again in 1 Corinthians 10:13- “For there hath no trial taken you but such that is common to man…”
Why don’t we get that? If we did, I do not think there would be as much self-doubt and doubt of the love and provision of God.
Our task is to learn to ask the “What” questions, not the “Why” questions. The “Why” questions may never be answered in our lifetime, other than the fact that problems are a normal part of life in a fallen world with people who have a free will that God will not violate.
The first legitimate “What” question is, “Lord, what are you going to do to help me “bear” this? (1Cor. 10:13b-…but will, with the trial, also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”)
The second legitimate “What” question is, “Lord, what do I need to do, who do I need to talk to right now?” There are many ways the Lord makes tools available to help us “bear” it.
The next “What question is, “Lord, what are you going to do to make this work out to my good in some way?” He promised in Romans 8:28 to “…make all things work together for the good of them who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” Our calling is to trust Him to do so.
The last “What” question I would like to address is, “Lord, what do I need to do to be prepared for You to use me in someone else’s life?” In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
The Father definitely wants us to have answers to our “What” questions, and is willing to help us find those answers. Let us pass on that encouraging news to those we help.