“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1934)
I love this quote, because it reminds me that it’s only when we live and love the questions that we become safe places for others who are questioning as well. If suffering does anything in our lives, it produces questions, questions and more questions!
This also points out why God frequently withholds answers to our questions – we are not ready to live them. Being “ready to live them” implies we can handle the answers without assuming that it doesn’t imply that we are in control. God lets us live in the questions because they keep us in a healthy state of dependence, disillusioned of all our independence and control.
When we hate questions we either avoid them altogether in jaded skepticism, or seek to drown them out in prematurely constructed answers. Often we won’t know where we are in relation to questions until someone comes to us with their own questions. Are we patient with them? Do we rush to answer their questions before listening to them ourselves, and the God who dwells there?
It must be said that loving questions does not mean there are no answers. We have God’s revelation in Holy Scripture, where he has revealed everything we need to know for a life of salvation. But too often we assume that God’s revelation silences all questions, when in reality it provides a place for us to take our questions, especially the ones without answers. God hasn’t revealed everything; just everything we need to know for salvation. There is obvious tension and irony here.
Ultimately the reason we need to learn to live and love the questions is because questions point to the irony that is at the heart of all human existence – the foolishness of God hanging on a Cross. The ultimate unanswered question is “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46 ESV). I still don’t know how to answer that.
Let us not rush to answer questions too quickly. Let us marinate in them, listening and watching for our Jesus who loves to dwell with us in all our unfinished places. His grace covers all questions and answers, and may this bring peace to all our chaos today.
[EDIT]: just after I posted this, I came across this very relevant quote from Rich Mullins (posted on the Rich Mullins Film FB page):
“The Bible is not a book for the faint of heart -- it is a book full of all the greed and glory and violence and tenderness and sex and betrayal that benefits mankind. It is not the collection of pretty little anecdotes mouthed by pious little church mice -- it does not so much nibble at our shoe leather as it cuts to the heart and splits the marrow from the bone. It does not give us answers fitted to our small-minded questions, but truth that goes beyond what we even know to ask.” (Rich Mullins)