One of the most significant conversions to the Christian faith came about as a result of questioning. I was recently reading in Acts 9 how the Apostle Paul, formerly Saul, saw a blinding light and heard a voice. The voice asked him, “Why do you persecute me?”
Interestingly, Paul replied with his own question, “Who are you, Lord?”
During the next three days, as he suffered from blindness, Paul mulled over the situation. Why was he persecuting these followers of Jesus? What was he afraid of? What did he hope to accomplish by destroying them?
Coupled with this were his misgivings about Jesus. Was he really alive as his followers claimed? Was he truly God? If so, what chance did Paul have in fighting against him?
He wouldn’t be given clear-cut answers, but he would receive what he needed: someone who would accept him as he was. Ananias, a follower of Christ, was instructed by God to “go to this man, because he is praying.”
Paul realized he did not have answers. He had to look beyond his own limited capacities, and his questions led him back to God. He brought his doubts to the One with the answers. He went from fighting to praying.
Instead of giving pat answers, the Lord gave Paul the response he really needed. He sent someone to restore his sight and to lead him into a new relationship with God through Jesus. Paul would never see things the same way again.
Of course Ananias was apprehensive about approaching Paul, a man notorious for his persecution of Christians. But God helped Ananias see Paul not as the man he had been, but as the man he was becoming, a man who could bring Jesus to the Gentiles.
Paul must have shared with Ananias the questions that weighed so heavily on his mind. Despite all of his education and religious training, Paul could not figure out what God was doing. All he could do was bow before him and ask for mercy.
Ananias, filled with the Spirit of the Lord, placed his hands on Paul, and the Bible says the scales fell from Paul’s eyes. From that day forward he saw everything in a new way and became instrumental in the development of the Early Church.
In his writings, Paul posed many new questions, and the radical change that had taken place in him also led others to examine their beliefs. As he began to share his new way of thinking, however, people were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on the name of Jesus? Hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
I suspect their questions led them to think more deeply about what they believed, and about what had brought such a transformation in Paul. These questions fostered them on their own journeys to faith in Christ.
Paul’s story is a reminder that questioning and honest searching can help us see God in a new light. Doubt is not the opposite of faith; fear is. So let’s not be afraid to pose our questions—to God and to each other. We may find ourselves radically changed.
Colonel Eleanor Shepherd lives in Montreal. Her new book, More Questions Than Answers: Sharing Faith by Listening, is available from Salvation Army Christian Book and Supply Centres or online at salvationarmy.ca/store.