Four Steps to Answering Hard Questions

Meet any 3-year-old, and you’ll quickly learn their favorite question—“Why?”

You’d think such a simple question would have an easy answer, but this isn’t always the case. How much more difficult are questions from adults about complex biblical truths and the mysterious ways of our great God?

Whether your primary ministry is small group leadership, discipling other women, meeting with unbelievers, or facilitating events within your church, rest assured, you will be asked some hard questions. How will you handle them? How can you keep God’s Word central and exercise wisdom as you do?

The hard questions our women ask challenge and encourage us to apply Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” Consider the following four steps, keeping this verse in mind:

1. Discern

Is this person genuinely curious, or do they want to stir conflict?

Your first step is to discern the motivation behind the question. While many hard questions will come from hearts of genuine curiosity, confusion, or conviction, some may cause conflict, whether the question-poser realizes it or not. As a leader, try to discern if the woman asking the question intends this, or if she’s unaware this could be the result.

Let’s say you lead a small group, and you’re discussing God’s plan for marriage according to Genesis 1 and Ephesians 4. One woman asks, “So do you think Christians who get legally married to a same-sex spouse go to hell?”

Before responding, exercise the “wisdom” of Colossians 3:16 and discern the heart behind her question:

  • Does she have a family member or friend in this situation whom she loves and wants to see safe in Christ?
  • Is she actually asking about the Bible’s authority on marriage?
  • Or does she simply want to stir conflict within the group through a controversial topic?

If it’s conflict she’s seeking, it’s best to acknowledge her question for later discussion and move on from it. If it’s genuine curiosity, then feel the freedom to proceed to the next step.

2. Dig

What’s at the root of the question?

After discerning if the question is worth pursuing, try to get to its root. Usually (though not always) there’s a question beneath the question.

Consider the above example: Let’s say the woman has a friend in this situation. Her question about hell may be only about that—but it may also be about how she can best love and minister to her friend. Perhaps there’s fear over her salvation, fear over sharing the truth with her, and fear of being rejected if she does. Maybe their friendship is on the rocks because they disagree. Her seemingly simple question is actually multi-layered and cries out to be addressed by Scripture.

Leaders can use wisdom in the questions we ask to dig deeper. For example,

  • What is your friend’s understanding of Christianity?
  • What have your conversations with her looked like so far?
  • What Scriptures have helped and encouraged you lately? How can we pray?

3. Discuss

How can you encourage the input and wisdom of other women?

As leaders, we can easily dominate discussion, especially when it involves hard questions that other women may be reluctant to address. Instead, in group settings, we invite everyone to respond and contribute because we desire to work out Colossians 3:16: “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” (If you’re in a mentoring or discipleship situation, you might consider asking another woman or two to join you for a period of time.)

One direct, simple question can be helpful to prompt discussion: “What have you seen in God’s Word that would help us answer this question?” Not only does this focus the group on truth, it redirects potential rabbit trails, and it helps prevent opinion-based responses.

We let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly when we discuss hard questions as the body of Christ.

4. Defer

Should the question be addressed in a different context?

What should you do when a woman’s question is beyond your group’s ability to address? Perhaps it’s a concerning one, or you discern there’s a sensitive situation beneath the question:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Infidelity or marital strife
  • Suffering and pain
  • The problem of evil
  • Doubting the faith

Your small group or discipleship time may not be the best context for addressing confidential situations, though God can certainly use you to point your sister in Christ to a more appropriate one. In any of the above cases, her question may be more wisely addressed by her pastor or a biblical counselor, so your goal as a leader is to gently defer it to another time, place, and person.

Of course, only you know the depth of your (and your group’s) relationship with her, as well as their ability to grasp and apply God’s Word, so you may feel the freedom to discuss, rather than defer. This is why prayer is vital to ministry, and why we as leaders should cover our women and discussions in petitions to God for his help!

Depend on Jesus

Thankfully, sister, we aren’t left to our own resources, wisdom, or words as we seek to lead our women in the gospel. We have a very present help in time of need, the Spirit of Christ, who indwells us and leads us into God’s truth:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. (John 16:13-14)

The Spirit of Christ is our Counselor, our Helper, our Guide into the word of Christ; we are never alone. We can cry out to him on behalf of our women, depend on Scripture, and trust it will never return void as we seek to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.

[Post Credit: Revive Our Hearts]

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