Immediately after I decided I’d write a post entitled The Mystery, I received a regular email from a ministry I follow including a sermon on The Mystery of God. Then, a few hours later I got my Streams in the Desert daily devotional email discussing God’s mysterious ways. This, my friends, is when you know you are on to something.
What got me thinking about mystery is the state of my children lately. Even at 2.5 they aren’t always able to effectively communicate when something is wrong. I think my daughter’s probably getting her 2 year molars and I believe my son had an ear infection and was cutting his incisors, but for a while it was a mystery. There was fussiness, weird behavior, complete intolerance and impatience and random crying.
Not their normal behavior. I thought how much easier it’d be to know what’s wrong when they are older so they can better explain themselves. Then immediately I started thinking about God and about how big of a mystery He is. Sure, He gave us His word which is full and rich and full of answers and promises and explanations. But, if we’re honest with ourselves, God is a big ole mystery. And if He wasn’t, well then He wouldn’t be much of a God, would He? If we could understand everything about Him then He’d be just like us.
And what about how our children see many of our parenting decisions? Mysterious. Unexplainable. Unfair. Mean. I don’t think I treat my children in any of those ways, but I could see how sometimes they could think that. Why can’t they have french fries for 3 meals a day every day? Why do they have to nap and go to sleep… ever? They are a mystery to us. We are a mystery to them. God is both a Mystery and the Revealer of mysteries.
How do we do the spiritual life when there is so much we don’t understand?
(1) Get as much understanding as we can.
We obviously can’t understand everything about how God works. But, He does give us the Bible for a reason. I think that, in general, if we read His Word and study and take verses to heart, then we’ll be more prepared for life. Many things won’t make sense, but with some good studying and application of the Bible in our everyday lives, many more things will make sense. There are spiritual laws explained in the bible, basic cause and effect type stuff. When we have some of those under our belt things start to be a little clearer. Now, this doesn’t mean God’s ways and various circumstances in our lives aren’t mysteries, but simply that we will have greater understanding of the ways and means of the spiritual world.
(2) Acknowledge we’ll never have all the answers.
For a Type-A person, this is very hard. We type A’s pride ourselves on preparing, planning and generally knowing a lot about whatever it is we decide to know about. To acknowledge that there will be many things that we don’t understand or find explanation for is very difficult. I struggle with this all the time, but am doing better at just letting some things go. I imagine that I’m hanging on to a building and there is a safety net behind me, and that sometimes I just need to let go of the building so I can fall into God’s safety net. That requires trust. Believing in something when you don’t get lots of guarantees (other than the big initial guarantee) requires faith and trust. And if we had all the answers, we’d never need faith.
(3) Be persistent with God.
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 25:2, “It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them.” I think this verse lets us in on a little secret. God likes mystery. He likes to take us on a journey. This verse also shows us another thing. That it is a privilege and exciting adventure to discover the mysteries and hidden things of God. Now, I gotta say. Sometimes that’s exciting and sometimes it isn’t. Like when you’ve been praying and begging for something or to hear something for a while and there is silence. This isn’t adventurous to me. This is just annoying. But, it is part and parcel of the spiritual life and we should be sure to share with our children how persistence pays off. Just think about the widow (Luke 18:1-5).
(4) Learn to be content in the mystery.
Godliness is good. Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6). One can be godly and impatient, apparently. Well, that’s a relief. I have learned to be content in life in recent years simply because there have been numerous – upon numerous upon numerous – times where I’ve been put in a situation that isn’t what I’d like but is something I can’t change. When you are in an unchangeable situation that you are pretty sure God put you in, well, you either learn to be content or you fight it and are miserable. Or probably a mix of both for a while. Learning to “bloom where you are planted” helps you to live each season to its fullest without putting all your emotional energy into the future. Or the past for that matter. This is probably something that takes a lifetime, and then eternity, to fully master.
Romans 5:3-5 tell us that perseverance builds character. Character builds hope. Hope will help us to stay focused during the mystery because it leads us toward faith and trust. Perseverance is only built when it is required. I don’t think we’re born with huge stores of perseverance, but they are grown over time just like muscles. If we expect everything right when we want it then we will have extreme crises of faith when we are forced to wait or, even worse, never get what we desire. This is similar to persistence, but I think perseverance comes into play when we’ve been persistent and must keep pressing on. Can we stay with God when we don’t understand? Can we trust Him when the world is falling down? There’s only one way to find out.
I’m not a lover of mystery. I don’t even like surprise parties. In fact, in the 8th grade I could tell my friends were acting a little shady all week and we were all supposed to spend the night at my friend’s on Friday. I told them I was done and didn’t even want to go. Somehow they convinced me and you know what, it was a surprise party. For me. See what I mean? However, if there’s one thing my spiritual life has given me is the ability to roll more with the punches. I can’t say I’m always happy about it, but I can say that I’m learning to live in the mystery. What would there be to look forward to if it could all be predicted? God has prepared things for us we can’t even imagine. So sometimes, I don’t even try to imagine.
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