Asking Better Questions

Have you ever asked a question and received a less-than-helpful answer?

A few days ago my Internet connection decided to demonstrate its absolute power to control my life. For no apparent reason I’d suddenly have no signal. A few moments later everything was fine.

This cycle recurred several times. I did all of the standard stuff—restart, unplug, reset, but the problem persisted. In frustration I looked at Monte, my dog and network consultant, and asked, “Why won’t the stupid thing work?”

Monte, of course, refused to help.

Since I’m preparing for an interactive retreat this weekend, I’ve been thinking a lot about questions. I realized that even if Monte answered my question, it wouldn’t have helped much. He might have offered a bunch of technical information about the inner workings of my network router or outlined the mysterious processes behind encryption.

Eventually, my floppy-eared expert might have explained why the connection wasn’t operating reliably. Great background information—now I know why it’s not working. Super.

I asked a poor question.

Suppose I’d asked a better question: “What should I do to make the connection to work?”

Instead of providing a technical explanation, Monte could have answered simply. Do these four steps, toss your consultant a doggie treat, and—eureka! It works.

I didn’t really care why the connection failed; I just needed concrete actions to re-establish my lifeline. It’s a silly example of an important principle:

To get better answers, sometimes I need to ask better questions.

Those who know the most about something don’t necessarily have all the answers, but they usually know how to ask the deepest, most useful questions. This morning that principle challenges me to re-think my conversations with God.

Perhaps the answers seem confusing because I’m asking the wrong questions. Maybe if I seek to know Him and His character more fully I’ll understand how to ask better questions.

One of the themes for the weekend will be God’s role in adversity. We’ll look at a nearly universal question: “Why does a loving God allow horrible tragedy?” (I wrote a bit about this here)

Suppose God sat down in front of me and explained His reasoning. Suppose I clearly understood why He allowed my injury. Would that knowledge reduce the pain or remove the frustration? I don’t think so. Why isn’t the right question—bad question, less-than helpful answer.

Will You show me how to carry this burden? Will You redeem this pain, even though You didn’t cause it? Can You show me how to make this struggle count for something?

Better questions. Much more helpful, life-changing answers.

What questions are you asking? How might you improve the questions and receive better answers?

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Copyright 2010 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.
Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of:
Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance
. Visit his web site

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