Have you ever thought about how God works in such mysterious ways? That’s such a widely used phrase, isn’t it? And it’s true.
Should we spend time in Ecclesiastes to confirm? What a difficult book! We spend time ruminating over the grimness of life to an extent that we might feel discouraged after reading it! And yet that is exactly the opposite of its intent.
We must recognize the difficulty of passages like Ecclesiastes 11:5 – “Just as you don’t know the path of the wind, or how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman, so also you don’t know the work of God who makes everything.” That’s not fun to read for many of us! Why?
The desire to understand the world around us is what motivates human progress from a technological, medical, scientific (, etc.) perspective. If there is an obstacle to thriving in life, we seek to understand the obstacle so that we can find the best technological advances to overcome. If someone is sick, we seek to understand the sickness so that we might heal them. If we don’t know some detail about the world, even simply for curiosity’s sake, we invest ourselves in understanding it so that we don’t feel powerless or at the mercy of nature.
Humanity, and especially modern western cultures, rely so heavily on knowledge. We grade our children on their memory over facts and figures. We base a person’s pay, and sometimes societal standing, on degrees that they have earned even if the education doesn’t apply to the line of work that they are currently in. God forbid – there are even times within the Church that we believe our salvation comes from the number of details from Scripture that we can hold in our heads. It becomes less about the blood of Christ and more about the amount of time we have spent studying.
Unfortunately, I have always been built to lean far too heavily into the intellect. When I can understand what’s going on around me – if I can process it like a puzzle – then I can feel comfortable. However, if I can’t determine how something works, I immediately collapse in fear and anxiety! I over-intellectualize the world around me in a very damaging way.
But this book of Ecclesiastes! It helps me see that wisdom and knowledge, as well as every other human resource, is necessarily limited! Our own reliance on what our brains can comprehend becomes our own little gods we hope will lead us to safety. However, we are so much more than our minds. We are holistic beings which involve emotions, experiences, insecurities, and so many other things like predispositions to shame, fear, aggression, regression, perfectionism, etc.
This may speak to what goes on in your mind when you know something to be true, and yet you act as if it’s not. “I know that I have friends and family all around me but I feel so isolated.” “I know that God is in control and leading my life, but I am so afraid that I’m completely lost and ignoring His voice.” “I know that I’m a sinner and will make mistakes, but whenever I see how imperfect I am, I feel further and further away from God and that He could never love me the way I am.” Have these things ever welled up within you? They certainly have within me.
So, we ask ourselves, “If knowledge is the point, where, then, is the mystery!?” We’re built to experience a sense of awe. We’re built to stand before our Creator and get lost in His power and majesty. And it is not meant to give us dread. It’s meant to inspire worship and trust.
There is much in the world that is a mystery to me. I don’t understand such a vast array of what I come into contact with. Just this morning, I listened to a podcast and I can’t quite comprehend how my ears take in reverberating sound waves and my brain translates it into data brings joy to my life and even makes me laugh. For that matter, what is a laugh? What is it about a person that enjoys someone else’s thought or a circumstance so much that noise erupts from our mouths to show approval like this? I drove through the snow and watched as flakes drifted to the earth and cling to branches and blades of grass, creating a beautiful landscape out my car window and I found it beautiful. What is it in me that enjoys a visual like this? I can’t understand it.
But I like it. Regardless of the mystery, I like it.
And that is how it is with God as well. I don’t understand His work, but I like it. God works so far beyond what we can fathom, so we can’t believe that we will be able to grasp what He’s doing in our lives. I’m incredibly finite and there’s not just peace, but a deep gratitude and enjoyment that I can trust in Him despite my questions.
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes is right. I don’t know how bones develop in the womb of a pregnant woman. However, Matthew Henry reminds us of something important. “We doubt not of the birth of the child that is conceived, though we know not how it is formed; nor need we doubt of the performance of the promise, though we perceive not how things work towards it.” Just as I don’t know how children are formed from non-existence, I don’t know how God works. But I do know that He’s made promises to me in the Scriptures. And I cling to them, regardless of whether or not I know how He will accomplish them.
So let us lean into the “fear of God” and trust in His mysterious work as this is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). Let us not be tempted to believe it’s the other way around and that wisdom unlocks trust in Him. Life cannot be about self-sufficiency or our own wisdom, our pleasure in the lives we live, the wealth we have amassed, or any sense of justice or integrity we call to within ourselves. It can only be about our eternal Father who is worthy of our trust, even when we can’t understand what He’s doing.
Love you all,
Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff