Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” ~Job 38:1-7 – NIV~
Enigmas & Intrigues
According to Forrest Gump, his mother was a “smart lady”. Her intelligence was forged by common sense; her observation about the workings of God was both profound and eloquent in its simplicity: “God is mysterious.”
We nod and nudge each other knowingly, while at the same time we reject her summation. In affluent North America, we want everything, including our theology, to come wrapped up in a nice neat package with a pretty ribbon and bow tied around it. Our quest to do so has no boundaries, which elevates our arrogance. We have come to believe that we have some measure of control over the random vicissitudes that befall us. We attempt to tame the supernatural and chafe at enigmas or vague conclusions. We grope around like blind beggars trying to reconcile vast intrigues that are shrouded in the eternal, and actually expect that the answers to all our questions will be firm and final.
When that is not possible, instead of acknowledging the incredible limitations of our humanity, we justify our ignorance by building elaborate defense mechanisms that maintain sugarcoated attitudes. We tend to forget about the hardness of this world because prosperity comforts or protects us from it. In fact, we go to extreme lengths to eliminate the harsh dirge-like minor chords of life, but in all of this we are misguided for we are not rooted in reality.
Like it or not, every life has sharp points and hard spots; every beautiful rose comes accompanied with its thorns, but we’d much rather have roses without thorns.
God is in the roses and the thorns . . .
It may be a difficult marriage. It may be chronic physical pain or hurtful memories. It may be depression, past mistakes or emotional baggage that wears us down. It may be a routine medical test result that comes back positive to turn our carefully constructed lives upside down. Life is often less than perfect; life is often less than fair. Nowhere in Scripture are we ever assured that life will be perfect or that life will be fair. On the contrary, we who seek to follow Christ are told just the opposite—Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
There are inequities built into life; there are plenty of joys to fill us with a sense of awe and gratitude, but no one is immune to complications or struggles. We, however, do not particularly appreciate the package deal aspect of life.
When dilemmas arise we either perform philosophical gymnastics or do what we can to polish off the rough edges to hold the ribbon in place. We attempt to keep the pretty bow knotted in every area of our lives, even our faith experience. At times our efforts border on the surreal.
We take the cross of Calvary and turn it into gold jewelry that masks or downplays the cruelty and degradation of its horror. The cross was a barbaric form of capital punishment. If the technology had allowed Jesus to be electrocuted, would people now wear diamond studded electric chairs around their necks?
We transform an inhospitable cave-like stable scene into an idyllic Bethlehem that lies still “in deep and dreamless sleep.” Joseph and Mary, along with much of the population of Palestine were in great upheaval because of the dictates of a foreign emperor, yet we manage to write off the adversity and injustice of it all. Give us the warm fuzzies and do not bother us with the cold facts.
Pretensions aside, if the puzzle of the gospel—God becoming man—teaches me anything it confirms beyond doubt that life is hard, life is tough, life is full of disappointments, misfortunes and betrayals. The good news is that God comprehends; God has first-hand knowledge of what it means to be fully human. Christ was born into a hostile world to bring redemption as spoken of all through the Old Testament. Jesus came in fulfillment of God’s promise.
When the pretty designs and scenarios we fashion inevitably become tattered by one vagary or another, we can rest secure in a sovereign God “who does not change like shifting shadows.” In Christ, God comes, God ministers, God cares, God saves and God keeps his word. Our hope and comfort is found in Christ because he is the light that shines in the darkness of our lives and no darkness can ever overcome the light of Christ.
The intensely straightforward truth is this: God is mysterious. Take some time to be in awe of who God is; embrace the mystery of the One who, while the morning stars sang together, laid the foundation and marked off the dimensions of all that we know.