The Unanswerable Question (Proverbs 16:3)

How do you know when you don’t know?

This is not a play on words but a question that I face everyday. This is the unanswerable question in medicine and life.

All my professional life I have been conditioned to seek a definitive answer for a patient’s medical problems. Many times, the patient’s life is on the line. In the rare cases when I cannot arrive at a definitive diagnosis, I am left frustrated and perplexed. I need to provide direction to the physicians treating the patient. And although I may render a descriptive diagnosis, it is an educated guess, at best, made with all available resources and my experience and judgment. At this point, I may opt to send the case to another expert consultant with the expectation that they may have more experience and could shed more insight and understanding. But occasionally, even a consultant may be stymied and confess that they also do not have a definitive diagnosis. The unanswerable question-how do you know when you don’t know?

Part of the answer is experience. The more cases and patients one has seen, the more confident one will be when encountering an unusual case. If you don’t know what it is, it may be likely that no one else, including another consultant, may not know as well. Part of the answer is humility. You can never be arrogant thinking that you know everything. There is always something new to learn.

Witness an arrogant and inexperienced physician who is supremely overconfident in their abilities and knowledge.  He may see a patient and puzzle over the case since it does not absolutely fit the classical criteria for the diagnosis. Yet, enough of the signs and symptoms appear to fall into place and a diagnosis is rendered. He reassures himself that it resembles other cases he has seen. In reality, the actual disease is a more serious mimic of the benign disease he so confidently trumpeted. The result is a mis-diagnosis and serious harm to the patient.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3

In our walk with God, we must be ever vigilant to remain dependent upon His sovereign guidance. Too often, we may fall back upon our knowledge and experiences, confident that it will be enough to maneuver an obstacle in life. But the day will arrive when this knowledge may mislead you and tragic results may occur.

How do you know when you don’t know? When you acknowledge that all decisions must first be brought before the Lord, this is the beginning of true wisdom. God, who has created everything and controls the workings of the universe, can provide you the insight you need to answer every question.

The unanswerable question is resoundingly answered by God!


Love and seek the Lord; seek His will in your life.