Maybe you’ve had a situation in your life that’s made you genuinely question God. A family member with a terrible illness. A broken relationship. A job opportunity that seemed perfect, but didn’t work out or brought you a lot of misery. Whatever the specific details, it’s just hard to see what God is/was up to.
Or maybe it’s something else, like a news report of refugees fleeing war and unrest. They need food and shelter. People are dying, including children. How could God allow these things to happen? Isn’t he good? Isn’t he powerful enough to prevent these things?
It could be an issue with something else you’ve been taught about God that’s simply tough to understand. How can God be three distinct persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and still be one God? How does that work?
The truth is, there are many things in life related to God and his ways that are, to say the least, difficult to wrap our minds around. And that can lead to searching questions. And those questions can lead to uncertainty, frustration, and, in some cases, even fear and anger.
So what do we do when find ourselves in this kind of situation?
There are any number of points we might make in response to each of the above scenarios. For example, we could explore at length what the Bible has to say about God’s sovereign control over his creation, the nature of evil and his relationship it, our human responsibility, and so on. We could look at what it reveals about his nature as the Trinity. Etc., etc. We could likely shed a good deal of light on all these issues, but I will frankly tell you that we wouldn’t be able to answer every question we might have. Eventually we will wade into water too deep to see the bottom of.
So, in this post at least, I want to approach the issue from a slightly different perspective, by asking you an important question: shouldn’t we expect God to be hard for us to understand? If you and I could always get to the bottom of what God was about in any given circumstance, wouldn’t we be dealing with a pretty simplistic God?
Here’s what I mean. We’re regularly stumped by all kinds of things, from technological malfunctions to calculus problems to why a coach called a certain play in the Super Bowl. And the reason we’re in the dark is often because we simply don’t have all the experience or information we need to understand the situation. What’s more, there are times that we may not have the mental horsepower to crack the problem (forget calculus, what about long division?).
All this we understand and usually make a certain degree of peace with. But if we expect the thoughts and actions of, say, a toddler to be occasionally unfathomable—and trust me, anyone who spends much time around a toddler will—why would we always expect to understand the one who created and governs everything, seen and unseen, in the entire universe?
In fact, if we could always see all the way through what God was up to, he’d be something far less interesting and complex than a toddler. He’d be more on the level of that toddler’s read aloud books. And that wouldn’t exactly be someone I’d want in charge of governing the universe toward a good end.
I don’t bring this up to be cute. Rather, I hope that it helps us to adjust our expectations in light of reality. If God is the God the Bible reveals him to be, we should expect to be perplexed about him and his ways at various points in our lives. To assume that it will be otherwise means we’re either giving ourselves way too much credit, or giving God not nearly enough.
That doesn’t mean we won’t still have questions. You need to look no further than the Psalms to find plenty of plaintive cries to God in the face of confusion. But like David, it may make us more comfortable in confessing “such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (Psalm 139:6)