It’s been a long time since I’ve wept tears of frustration over the scriptures. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever done that… But I did Sunday night. Uncontrollably.
There are a lot of theological “issues” I can’t wrap my mind around, but most of them I can say, “I don’t know,” about, and leave them at that. For example, I can’t explain how to reconcile God’s sovereignty with man’s freewill. And I’m ok with that. This type of theological conundrum doesn’t necessarily affect me in the day to day. I don’t live and die by having answers or explanations about this and most other aspects of God.
But there is one issue in particular that doesn’t just stay in my mind; it creeps down into my heart and stirs up all kinds of emotion. It plagues me. Two or three times per year for the past decade this issue has crept up, and life circumstances have demanded I form an opinion about it.
And every time it comes up, I study this issue in depth, with all of my intellectual and spiritual might. And every time I come away still not knowing what to believe about it.
This would be ok if my life didn’t necessitate I have a conviction one way or the other. But it does.
Which sets the scene for Sunday afternoon. The issue. There it was again, front and center, screaming at me, “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE?!” I came home from church exhausted, but I pulled out my study Bible anyway and began to dig in. I read and reread all the passages on the subject I’ve read and reread countless times before. I considered context and historical setting and all the different possible ways to interpret what I was reading.
I spent a couple hours pondering, periodically throwing out a prayer to God, “Lord! What does this mean?!” And when I didn’t get a reply, I got angry. I was angry at Paul for not being more clear. But, really, I was angry at God for allowing Paul to be unclear. I mean, God knew when Paul wrote and when the canon was settled that I would come on the scene in 1983 AD and need some clarity on this subject. And He still chose not to give it.
I closed the Bible, and the questions began.
Didn’t God care about me (and a whole bunch of others) enough to be clear on this subject? Why didn’t He plan accordingly? Didn’t He understand the desperate place my soul was in? Why didn’t He lead me to understanding? Doesn’t He want me to have a solid view of this issue so I can honor Him in my decisions? How can He expect me to obey Him when His instructions about this issue aren’t clear?
There is a subtle lie behind all these questions. If ever I think God should have done something differently – like dispensed scripture more clearly, for instance – I am really saying I know better than God. If I were in charge, I would have been clear on this subject…
My anger mixed with depression. I got in the car and drove. Anywhere. Windows down. Music up. Waiting for the Lord to tell me something. He didn’t.
I returned home, put the kids to bed, and began to share with my husband my feelings of frustration. I angrily opened my Bible – the Book around which my whole life is centered – and I read a couple of perplexing sentences aloud. And then 10 years of uncertainty broke.
Right there on the tissue-thin pages of God’s Word, my tears fell. Hot rivers down my face, into my hands, washing away my anger, exposing the lies underneath.
I wasn’t so much angry as I was hurt. I felt like the Lord had let me down. It seemed like He hadn’t considered my very real need for clarity on this subject when he had decided all those years ago not to give clear directives about this topic.
While all this felt true, I knew it wasn’t… There has never been a moment in the entire scheme of eternity when the Lord wasn’t thinking about me. He knows everything about me. He knows what I need before I ask for it. He has never abandoned me, nor has He ever failed to plan for me.
Monday morning I awoke to an email from a friend who knew I was struggling, referring me to Proverbs 2.
My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding– indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:1-6 NIV)
Instantly, the lies that had felt so true the night before lost their power. I was reminded of the personal nature of our God. He hadn’t failed to plan for me when He had Paul write scripture; God promises to give me wisdom, knowledge, and understanding Himself. He will, undoubtedly, use the scriptures to do so. But, ultimately, as John wrote, it’s God’s Holy Spirit that will lead me into all truth (John 16:13). And this Proverbs passage reiterates God’s trustworthiness to do so.
Later that day, I confessed to the Lord the wrong posture of my heart the night before. And I felt Him say, “I wept with you.” I hadn’t noticed Jesus when I was sobbing Sunday night. But when He informed me He had been weeping, too – that His heart broke because I was heart-broken – I felt His love again. Jesus went on to say, “I would never want to do anything that would hurt you. Believe the best of me always. I love you so.”
While I haven’t solved the seemingly unsolvable scriptural issue at hand, my confidence is renewed that God will faithfully and lovingly lead me in my search for wisdom.
And He’ll lead you in your search, too.