Two weeks ago, I published the first post in a three-part series titled, “Understanding Our Trials.” This week, I am delivering the second part. Suffering is one of the most universal and difficult topics in the Christian life. With that in mind, I was a little nervous to tackle such a topic less than a month after I launched my blog. So I took it easy on myself last time and discussed a simpler aspect of this topic: what we can understand about our trials. This week, I’ll be braving the waters and tackling an aspect of suffering that is harder: what we cannot understand.
Though it may be easy to understand God’s overarching plan for us, it is harder to understand how that plan is accomplished in the nuts and bolts of everyday life. God is going to use all our circumstances to make us more like Him, that is clear. But why must the suffering be so intense? Why must life be so hard? If He’s so wise, why can’t He think of some other way to bring about growth?
Those are good questions, and they are not easy to answer. To shed more light on the subject, let’s draw our attention to one of the most well-known sufferers in the Bible next to our Lord Jesus Christ. His name is Job.
When the book of Job has hardly begun, Job has already lost everything: his children, his health, and his wealth. But his agony doesn’t stop there. Thirty-seven chapters later, Job is still in the midst of intense suffering. Covered in boils and laying in an ash heap, his “friends” constant ridicule and his wife’s advice to “curse God and die” pounds in his head.
At last, God responds to Job, and He has no small thing to say. After listening to a four-chapter-long, humbling description of God’s power, wisdom, and might, Job answers with this revelation:
I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know.Job 42:1-3
This has got to be one of my favorite passages in the book of Job. In these verses, Job has finally realized what we all need to understand if we are ever to go through our trials with any kind of trust in God. Job realized that God’s purposes were too wonderful for him to understand.
Now, at first glance, that statement may not seem very profound. But think about it. They were too wonderful for him! In these verses, Job uses the kind of too that forms phrases like too much or too late. God’s purposes were so wonderful, so amazing, and so good, that Job could not even begin to comprehend them.
When we are faced with the realization that we can’t understand what is happening around us, we should not see this as a reason to despair. In fact, we should take this as a reason to rejoice.
Human understanding is so small and so limited that if I could fully understand everything that was happening, I would be petrified! We are a small people on a small world, and our thoughts are small too. We make mistakes, we don’t always make the best decisions, we harbor regrets. We don’t need a God who thinks small–we’re already doing that just fine. We need a God who thinks big, and that is exactly what we have!
Praise the Lord that He is not bound by our faulty reasoning!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9
The truth is, there will always be times in our life where we do not (and may never be able to) understand what God is doing. In our sinful state, our hearts push back against, and are even frightened by, that idea. We like being in the know. We like putting God in a box because doing so means that we are the ones in control. This is when, once again, we must submit our hearts to Christ and His Word. If we were the ones sitting in the driver’s seat, we would wreck the car faster than we could put our foot on the pedal.
When you read verses like the one in Isaiah, take comfort. Rest in the knowledge that it’s OK if you don’t understand. Rejoice with Job in the realization that God has amazing plans for you. God’s got this… and He’s got you.