God's ways do not always make sense to us.
I've heard it said that if we knew all that God knew — "if all were known" — we would both understand his reasoning and make the same decisions that he does.
There is an appeal to this argument that is a good-natured nod to God's basic common-sensibility, and a tacit call to trust the deep wisdom of God.
However, let's think about the implications of this line of reasoning and perhaps expose why it might be a bit ridiculous for us to assume that this would be the case.
We tend to think that if all the facts were laid on the table, we could understand the ways in which God works. We could somehow grasp the "Why?" behind the things that happen to us — things that just don't seem to make sense. We could unravel the mysteries of the pain, suffering and evil in the world. If we could just know, then we would understand the answers we so easily demand from God.
But let me suggest that there is much more to the story than a mere intellectual understanding — more than just seeing "all the cards on the table." There are at least three things that keep this kind of understanding from being possible.
First, we have a capacity issue. If all of God's "Why?" cards were laid on the table, we simply couldn't handle it. Our minds would explode. The sheer amount of information would drive us insane. I can barely handle it when two or three of my kids are talking at the same time! How would I ever be able to grasp all that God — in his infinite all-knowingness — grasps in a moment?
We are creatures, not the Creator. There is a fundamental difference in our capacity.
Secondly, we have a compatibility issue. Not only is our capacity for understanding different, our ways are different. As God made clear through the prophet Isaiah: "[M]y 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). And in Psalm 50, God clarifies one of humanity's major mistakes: "You thought that I was one like yourself" (Psalm 50:21).
Saying "if all were known" assumes that God is limited to human-like rationality in his decision making. That he's basically human, just with a larger capacity (see point 1). But the deeper disconnect — according to Isaiah 55 — is that our minds don't run on the same kind of software as God's. For all we know, all of our knowledge about God is nothing but shadow puppets reflected on a wall. Kid-speak. We should be amazed that God lowers himself to speak to us at all!
Finally, we have a care issue. Deeper than our ways and our thoughts being different from God's, our hearts are different from his. How? First of all, we are tied up and bound with all sorts of sin and brokenness. We are fallen and less-than-whole. As loving, kind and compassionate as any one of us might be, our hearts simply do not share the same love, affection, care and concern that God has for all of his creation.
In the end, I'm convinced that "if all were known" is not the correct response to God's mysterious and often perplexing ways. As Job learned, the overwhelming divergence between the human and the Divine should quickly drive us to a place of humility and silence. Job was a man who had everything but lost it all. In his suffering, he cried out to God and asked, "Why?" God responds to Job — asking if Job has the capacity, compatibility and care to govern the world as God himself does — this is what happens:
"Then Job answered the Lord and said: 'Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further'" (Job 40:3-5).
So perhaps instead of rationalizing our way into divine wisdom, it would be best for us to cover our mouths, bow our heads and our knees, and humbly worship our Great God.
All cannot be known. Perhaps we should stop trying and simply worship.
Mike Phay is the pastor at First Baptist Church Prineville. He can be reached at 541-447-7717.
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