I am guessing that one hundred percent of us can admit to being confused about something - anything - at some point in our lives. Have you assembled Ikea furniture? Confusion. Road trip with a male driving? Confusion. Tried to help your kids with homework? Confusion. We all have our own list. We all experience the bewilderment of confusion. Sometimes the explanations and guides intended to help us just amplify the confusion. We want to apply our common sense and experience. We think there is a better way, a quicker short-cut. How often does the “better way” turn out to be the wrong way? I confess that when I try “a better way” it usually proves I should have followed the directions or listened to Sharon.
Anyone besides me guilty of this? We assess a situation and it just doesn’t make sense. So, we try to force sense out of it by applying our own wisdom and discernment only to be left more bewildered. Life’s like that. Life in the Kingdom of God is like that! Peter thought he could solve the problem of Jesus’ arrest by swinging a sword (Matt. 26:51). Aaron thought he could resolve spiritual unrest by building a golden calf (Exodus 32). Both these individuals thought they were doing a good thing. They weren’t. They were confused - and made the situation worse.
Here is a list of things that don’t make sense:
- the fastest doesn’t always win the race (Eccl. 9:11);
- power and strength won’t always save you (Psa. 20:7);
- the greatest is the least and the least is the greatest (Luke 9:48);
- God places limitations on our work for Him (Acts 16:7).
Wait. What? How can that be true? God limits our work for Him? Surely God wants His Kingdom to be established! Surely He wants all people to come to faith! Shouldn’t we “attempt great things for God and expect great things from God” (William Carey)? It can be confusing. Like the problems we may have with assembling furniture or doing a road trip we struggle with our perceptions. We think we have it figured out. But we don’t because we aren’t God.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:9 NAU)
Things are not always as they appear. It is a life lesson we all learn. We learn patience. We learn there is more than one side to a story. We learn about perspective. And as we walk with God we learn that His way of doing things is frequently confusing to us. That is why Solomon warned us, “God is in heaven; you are on earth. Let your words be few” (Eccl. 5:3). In other words, we need to be careful to presume to understand or speak for God - unless it is something He has clearly revealed about Himself in Scripture.
Our culture preaches a message of accomplishment. Success is measured by what we do. Renown American author William Zinsser put it this way (On Writing Well. 2006; p253):
“We are a culture that worships the winning result: the league championship, the high test score. Coaches are paid to win, teachers are valued for getting students into the best colleges. Less glamorous gains made along the way—learning, wisdom, growth, confidence, dealing with failure—aren’t given the same respect because they can’t be given a grade.”
Life in the Kingdom is not based on merit but on grace. It requires humility, not accomplishment. It emphasizes the non-empirical, unseen reality of God and His love, grace, holiness, and justice (Heb. 11:1). Kingdom dynamics value the long-term, delayed satisfaction, not the immediate, self-gratification. And God is working to accomplish His plans and purposes, established before He created the world.
While what God does and how He does it may confuse us we need not be confused with who God is. We will never “understand” Him, but we can know Him. Our relationship with Him is not conditional on understanding. It is completely dependent on His love and grace - both in infinite supply.
This is not a call to passivity, “Oh well, there is nothing I can do about it anyway so why try?” No, we are stewards, God’s image-bearers entrusted with responsibilities that require decisive action on our part. This is, however, a sharpening of our ability to perceive the hand of God in events around us. To know He is working is not dependent on our ability to explain what and how He is present. Here’s the bottom line. God is the source of all things, including resource and limitation. In His infinite wisdom He has determined what resources and limitations best accomplish His purposes. An abundance of one or the other is neither evidence of His approval (i.e. “blessing”) or disapproval. If our heart is passionate to walk with God we can embrace the confusion. We can rest in the assurance that He IS engaged. He is not limited by the assembly instructions or non-existent “short-cut.”
“Confusion” will never make the top ten list of character qualities for which we must strive. But if it is a description of our inadequacy to understand God, and willingness to let God be God, then it is to be embraced. Bring on the flat-pack furniture!