Faith & Inspiration

The Best Question Ever

By Elaine Olson, Ph. D.

It wasn't what I had planned for my one week of vacation this summer, but in hindsight, it may have been providential.

I found myself holed up in my parents' cottage, nursing my family through a dreadful, rotating 48-hour flu, starting with myself. Thankfully, I had tucked into my suitcase a book that a friend had recommended, "The Best Question Ever" by Andy Stanley. The book became my week long companion, besides the…..well, I think you know the symptoms of the flu.

In my profession, asking the right questions is vital to success, but the notion that one single question could trump all other questions seemed presumptuous. So, before I opened the book, I tried to imagine what that best question could be? Certainly "Why"? is a good question, generally uncovering even the best-kept secret motivations. The common question, "How did I get myself into this mess?" seemed another worthy possibility. Even "Where do I go from here?" is a terrific question revealing a mature attitude to take steps in a positive new direction.

I then wondered, Is it possible that one question could help someone with a debilitating eating disorder begin to appreciate food again? Could the same question challenge a struggling pornography addict? Bring clarity to a business decision? Help get control of a busy schedule? Cut through the blinding emotions of a budding romance? Finally, curiosity got the best of me and I cracked open the book to discover the question;

"What is the wise thing for me to do?"

My mind suddenly flashed back to several points in my life when I wished I had asked myself this question. Perhaps I could have avoided an impulsive stock, and come to think of it, car purchase. It may have spared me some heartache in the early years of my marriage. For sure it would have diverted a few embarrassing moments, when I've opened my mouth only to insert my foot.

When we ask ourselves, "What is the wise thing for me to do?" we are essentially establishing strong boundaries for our conduct. Boundaries based on wisdom protect us from moral, financial, physical and social disasters. These boundaries remain a safe distance from the line of indiscretion, allowing a margin for error. To more clearly define our boundaries, we could ask ourselves "What is the wise thing for me to do, in light of my past experience, my present situation and my future hopes and dreams?"

The Bible tells us that us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God for it and He will give it to us generously (James 1:5). In my mind, this scripture makes two irrefutable points.

There will be times when we don't have the answers.

When life's pressures cause anxiety, stress or emotional instability; our perceptions and judgement tend to be impaired. Even Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, found himself lacking insight when the responsibilities of kingship overwhelmed him. The wisest men and women I have ever met recognize and acknowledge their limitations. Admitting we don't have the answers places us in the best position to gain greater wisdom.

When we don't know what to do, ask God to help and He will.

No matter the reason we find ourselves lacking wisdom, seeking God invites His guaranteed solutions to our problems. God promises in the scriptures to provide insight and instruction for making decisions - when we ask.

If asking for wisdom establishes safe boundaries, increases wisdom and guarantees God's solutions to life, "What is the wise thing for me to do?" may truly be the best question ever.

Elaine Olson, Ph.D., is a professional counsellor, teacher and author. She has a private counselling practise in Ontario and has actively supported many social and women's initiatives for the past 20 years. She is married and a mother of three teenage daughters.