If you’re like many people, one of the reasons you’re hesitant to speak out about your faith is that you’re afraid of scary questions.
You worry that if you question someone else’s assumptions and ideas about why there is evil in the world, they will fire back at you with a question that utterly stumps you. You’ll stand there stuttering, wracking your brain for an answer. Finding none, you’re left with only silence. Silence and humiliation as the person you were speaking with stares at you smugly.
Chances are, if you’re reading this post, you’ve found yourself in this situation before, or are trying to avoid it. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons you’re on this site–you’re looking for answers. Aren’t we all?
Unfortunately, you will never have all the answers. But don’t let that discourage you. Here are three reasons why it’s okay not to have all the answers.
1. You are not God.
Okay, so this is obvious. Of course you are not God. Hopefully you never claimed you were. But seriously, think about this for a second. If you’re not God, why do you expect yourself to know everything?
At the end of the book of Job, which is a book of people trying to give answers to a hurting man, God speaks to Job. His voice silences all the know-it-alls and their human wisdom. God says:
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.
“What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!
(Job 38:4-5,16-21 NIV. Emphasis added.)
God is driving home the point that Job, and the others with him, do not know everything. In fact, there is much they do not know, that only He does.
2. You are (probably) not an expert.
Most likely, you’re not an expert in any of the areas you are trying to speak from. Even if you are an expert in one of those areas, you’re certainly not an expert in all of them. But here’s the good news: Neither is the person you are speaking with. After all, how many people do you know that are experts in biology, geology, history, archaeology, linguistics, sociology, theology, ancient Greek and/or Hebrew, and communication?
Since you’re not an all-comprehensive expert, don’t put the pressure on yourself to speak as one. Don’t assume you have to know everything about every possible area related to apologetics before you can have effective conversations with people. When you encounter a new question you haven’t puzzled out yet, say so. Then look into it later. Even experts do this. They were not born an expert, already knowing everything; they became an expert by recognizing something they didn’t know and learning about it.
3. A little humility goes a long way.
You do not know everything. You know this, and the person you’re speaking with knows this. Admit it, and your conversation will be much more pleasant and productive.
No one wants to speak with a know-it-all. If you act like you have all the answers in hopes of convincing the person you’re speaking with, it will backfire on you. One of the fastest ways to lose credibility is by artificially extending it beyond the knowledge and authority you actually have.
Be very careful not to make sweeping generalizations or other claims based on hearsay or things you haven’t actually examined closely. It will only bring you scorn.
Take action: Just start talking
If you’re stuck in a rut of reading countless articles, waiting for the moment when you’ll feel like you know enough to have a conversation–get out of it! Dive in now, and when you hit a roadblock you don’t know how to clear, do some research. Then get back to having conversations with people.
It’s just like learning a language. Although studying grammar rules have their place, the best way to improve speaking a new language is to actually get out there and speak it. The best way to improve your engaging conversations is to get out there and talk to people. You will naturally encounter areas you need to read up on.
Discussion question: What are some questions that you don’t yet have answers to? How do you handle “scary questions” that come up in a conversation?