This might be a bit of a repeat, but I wanted to dive a little bit deeper into some of the topics I wrote about back in August on future seasons. With that post, I touched more on how the future and the dreams and fulfillment of desires God’s planted in us all start where we are right now. But what about the things we don’t see happening? Can we trust our own intuition and foresight to determine whether or not something is worth investing in right now?
I’d say that sometimes intuition like this makes sense– God gave it to us for a reason, after all. But here’s the catch: He also tells us explicitly not to lean on our own understanding.
I recently rewatched Hacksaw Ridge with my parents. The thought hardly occurred to me because of the sheer faith Andrew Garfield portrayed Desmond Doss to have— that I’m sure the real Desmond Doss did have,— but it occurs to me now in hindsight: did Doss really believe the whole time, with His whole heart, that he could survive World War II without a single weapon? Though the movie is little more than an adapted reenactment, Garfield (as Doss) still seemed to demonstrate a tinge of fear in his eyes– the doubt that he might not make it because he couldn’t see a way out with his own mind or two eyes. He was pressed with this very human understanding of how a soldier should operate when at war. He was given little else to remind him of why he chose to contribute to the war efforts other than his wife’s bible with a photo of her tucked inside. He was surrounded by human understanding while likely already wrestling his own. But his heart saw that way out, and that way through the atrocities of war unarmed was The Way.
See, I think we often get stuck in places God is trying to call us out of because we focus too much on our own foresight. I’ve been— I am— quite guilty of that. I can’t even tell you how many ideas for businesses, paintings, prints, sculptures, poems, essays, etc. swirl around my mind on a daily basis. I can tell you that the myriad of ideas narrows incredibly when considering the ones that come to any sort of fruition. Why? Because I doubt the idea. Because I doubt myself and my abilities. Because I doubt my resources. Because I doubt that the people around me actually want to help me out, or I doubt my worth to them. My foresight is clouded with doubt.
And ultimately all this doubt is rooted in the doubts I wrestle with almost daily about God— whether regarding His provision, sovereignty, or His very existence depends on the day, the season, etc. The point is that even I, as a believer in Jesus Christ, doubt my God. I would tend to say that any believer that claims to never doubt Him in any capacity is a liar. There are fearsome things in the world, and fear is doubt that things will not work out (in whatever capacity is irrelevant to this point). In the case of Israel right now, there are countless Israelis being held captive by Hamas right now in fear of never making it back to their families— doubting they will see their loved ones again. In the much less tragic case that I brought up in a previous post about my fear of becoming a mother (Lord willing), I’m most afraid of it because I doubt myself most in my ability to be that gentle and understand my child’s needs before they can communicate it all for themselves (in part because I have trouble truly expressing things myself, often times).
And it’s hard to express doubt when it feels like everyone around you is so knowledgeable and strong in their faith. I get it, I’m there all the time. I will straight up be in my Wednesday Bible study listening to someone pour out some insane wisdom and there will be a voice screaming from a cage in the back of my head something along the lines of “you do not really believe these fairy tales, do you?” Even as someone who writes and ponders and posts all about my faith, I still have my doubts— but I have a stronger desire to believe than the enemy clearly has to take me down.
What we don’t believe will or could happen may be exactly what God has in store for us. Did Job really expect to go through all he did? I’m willing to bet not! Through the process of all Job goes through, he doubts God’s goodness. Job doubts his worth, wishing he’d never been born. Job falls into misery and despair in the midst of all the loss and afflictions he endures. Job is confused and angry wondering why God would allow this or what he did to deserve it. Yet he was taken through day by day, and what I think is interesting is something Tim Keller once pointed out:
So when things don’t seem to be going the way you might hope, or whatever God’s spoken over your life just doesn’t seem possible… wrestle with that doubt. Wrestle with God as Jacob did with one of His angels and then named the descendants of Jacob accordingly– the Israelites. That wrestling process is going to look different for everyone. Personally it most often comes in my racing and intrusive thoughts that I’m constantly having to examine and/or replace with the Word and its hermeneutical contexts. I’m still reading Faith: A Journey for All by President Jimmy Carter, and just came up to a part where Carter expresses some of the doubts he faced after leaving the navy and even more so after losing Georgia’s gubernatorial election in 1966. While Carter was third in the governor’s race, the man that topped him and another opponent, Lester Maddox, was “an avowed segregationist” who “proudly displayed [the] political symbol… a pick handle that he used to drive potential black customers from the door of his restaurant in Atlanta.” But the thought that Jimmy mentions that I think we’ve all had at a time or two in our lives is this: how could God let that person get what I would’ve been better for?
See, it would make sense that God would want to heal racial tensions (as demonstrated by Jesus going to the Samaritan woman at the well as Jews and Samaritans of the time were two races at odds with one another). In fact, I’d argue that He does want that– He wants His children to be one Church, and one body, meaning every member works cohesively no matter how different… that’s how we were designed to work anyway. But because the world and our flesh is corrupted, that isn’t always the case.
But let’s go back to the question that we so often seem to ask ourselves when we don’t get the position or the relationship or the anything we strived so hard for:
How could God let that person get what I would’ve been better for? What I would’ve used more wisely? What I worked so hard for?…
And before I elaborate at all, let me just drop this gem here that does most of the elaboration for me:
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.Romans 3:21-24
I think Paul makes the point here pretty clear: you may think you’re better for the job, but you’re not. God’s plan is the best plan, because He’s after more than just solving the problem. He’s after more than just the surface-level healing we’re so often after. He’s after more than the quick fix. God is more than a band-aid on a bullet hole. He is the God of redemption, and redemption is not something that can only be done in part. He is the God of salvation, and being saved is not something that can only be done in part. He is pure and righteous, and as James points out in his epistle, “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”
So while it grieves Him to see us all at odds with one another or it may not be His favorite thing to allow such people as Maddox to hold power over arguably “better” people as President Carter (even though I don’t agree with many of his actions in office), it would grieve Him more that we weren’t given the opportunity to seek and find Him as many are driven to do when things are not ideal. It would grieve Him more for us to be eternally separated from Him at the end of time. It would grieve Him more that He did not try to love us, to make Himself known to us, or to save us from ourselves. In fact, if He didn’t allow many of these hard things as a means to seek and to save more people, I’d argue it would go directly against His very nature because God is love. And while love is indeed patient and kind, it is also [from a broken, human perspective] a difficult thing to live out. Love is a lifestyle, and at the core of that is God Himself doing a sanctifying work within us Christians so that we might live with Him forever in heaven. It’s too easy to lose sight of that bigger picture– that He is looking to bring all to salvation and make peace within each of us that allow Him to because He sees the deeper root of all our issues better than we ever could.
And I think that’s why, although I struggle deeply with having the faith to do this, we need to step out into things that don’t make sense just a little more often. I like the practical. Though I’m not great at it, math is in many ways something I appreciate because it doesn’t change. I could have remained with my former interest in STEM but I didn’t. In part this is because I simply realized I was a bit better with artistic endeavors such as writing, but in part I think I appreciated the mildly abstract that could form from such concrete experiences in my life. Among those concrete experiences now is my walk with Christ. He is solid and reliable and does not change, and yet there is this beautifully abstract element to Him. Perhaps this abstract quality is merely the limitations of my human understanding in trying to comprehend such a great God, but regardless it’s beautiful and something I love to explore in my study, worship, and prayer here with you.
And I encourage you to pray and seek Him in some of those things that might not make sense to you. Not everything will come to fruition the way you imagine it will, and I think that’s one of the most beautiful things about God’s plan. Though it seems our sin leaves us with no way of redemption, though the disciples had gone into hiding knowing the Messiah was dead, He rose again and in doing so brought us redemption. Now that’s an ending I don’t think anyone would have expected– hardly anyone did it seems, even with all the scriptures prophesying how Christ would die, and that He would not stay dead. And this is Truth spoken over you. God’s word is as good as done so even when it seems that things aren’t going great to you, don’t lean on your own understanding of the situation, the human point of view is not only limited but (on this side of eternity) largely tainted by sin. God’s point of view is greater; it accounts for even the smallest details we wouldn’t think matter and ties it all together perfectly for the good of those who love Him and respond to His call. Trust that. Trust Him. He won’t fail you, even if what He’s asking you to do doesn’t make sense to you or anyone else. God’s been at this for a long time (like, literal eternity kinda long time). He knows what He’s doing. Trust Him, and lean into that– into Him.