The treasure chest bulged between its straps and strained against its clasp. I paused, my eyes wide, and savored the moment. There was no lock on the clasp, so I heaved open the lid. It clanged back as gold coins spilled all around. I reached in, burying my arms in the treasures yet never hitting the bottom of the chest. I scooped out as much as I could hold and fell into a nearby chair. The chest remained full.

When we open our Bibles, we lift the lid on a limitless treasure trove of greater eternal value than any pirate’s booty—treasures we understand and enjoy now along with treasures we won’t understand until Heaven. What sort of treasures, you ask? Treasures of wisdom and knowledge, of perfect judgments and plans. The Apostle Paul knew about these treasures. The thought of such treasures struck him so that he paused in the middle of Romans to declare,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  –Romans 11:33

Note those two exclamation points. Paul doesn’t usually get excited in his writing. Romans, especially, is thoughtful and ordered. But as he considered God’s plan for reconciling the Jews to Himself, Paul realized He would never understand it, and (This is the great part!) he didn’t need to understand.

Depth

At the far end of the Mariana Trench, the ocean is 6.8 miles deep. At such depth, every aspect of life is different. Using special equipment, scientists have explored it, but they have yet to understand it.

God’s wisdom and knowledge far exceed the depth of the Mariana Trench, extending infinitely. Yet Paul says, “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). The depth of God’s wisdom isn’t intended to distance us from Him but to draw us toward Him.

Our inability to understand
the nature of God pushes
us to trust Him.

I remember venturing deep into Carlsbad Caverns. At the deepest point, I thought about the yards of rock above me, and my knees started shaking. Without knowing how it functions, I had to trust the rock above me to stay in place like it had for a thousand years. In the same way, our inability to understand the nature of God pushes us to trust Him.

Riches

 We like to think of riches exclusively in terms of financial wealth (property, assets, bank accounts), but a person may be rich in friendships or laughter…or, as Paul says, wisdom and knowledge.

Unlike worldly riches, which may be destroyed by natural disasters or stock market crashes, God’s riches are so expansive they will never be exhausted.

I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.  –Psalm 50:9-10

The Treasure of Wisdom and Knowledge

God applies perfect wisdom
to all His plans and judgments.

We might define wisdom as the application of knowledge to experience. God, who has all knowledge and has seen and experienced everything in every time is the source of all wisdom. God generously gives wisdom (see James 1:5), but He also applies perfect wisdom to all His plans and judgments.

How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.  –Psalm 104:24

The Creator knows everything about His creation. Both tangible and intangible facts are His—from the origins of the universe to the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7)—nothing escapes His notice.

Job got a hefty dose of his own ignorance (in the best sense of the word) compared to God’s ultimate knowledge:

Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?  –Job 37:14-16

For further thought: List one or two things you don’t know. (For example, I don’t understand how electricity works.) Add the most complicated subject you can think of (maybe quantum mechanics?). Sit back from your list and try to wrap your mind around how God’s knowledge and understanding of these subjects exceeds all the brightest scientists and philosophers combined.

The Treasure of Unsearchable Judgments 

Every day, judges and juries decide the fate of the accused, declaring them guilty or innocent. Sometimes, despite the hard work and sincerity of everyone involved, they make mistakes. Or sometimes, after twenty years, a new piece of evidence arises and changes everything.

Trust that God is right
even when we can’t see how.

Imagine a judge who knows all the facts and sees into the hearts of all the accused. He (or she) might render a judgement which makes no sense to outside observers. Such is God. He doesn’t need to explain Himself to us, but He always decides rightly. The challenge for us is to trust that He is right even when we can’t see how.

The Treasure of Untraceable Paths

We were hiking on a friend’s property, trying to reach the top of a ridge. He trudged ahead confidently, but I couldn’t see the path. If I had been alone, I would have gotten lost. Perhaps an untraceable path doesn’t seem like something to celebrate, but when you are following someone who knows the path, you don’t need to know the way.

We can’t see into the future. We can’t trace the path God is laying out for us, but we can celebrate because we’re following the One who cuts the path (Proverbs 3:5-6), and we’re learning to trust Him along the way.

Conclusion

We all have questions that haven’t been answered, pains that feel pointless. Paul longed for the salvation of his fellow Jews (Romans 9:2-3), but he couldn’t see God’s plan to accomplish it. He could have chosen to reject his faith or to lean into the mystery of God.

He chose to lean in.

It becomes easy for us to reject God when we can’t understand Him or His actions. We may be tempted to close His Word and let it get dusty on the shelf. With this verse, Paul calls us to lean in like he did:

to release the inexplicable,

to delight in the indescribable,

to trust his judgment and the path he has cut.

Like a bulging treasure chest, when we come to His Word expecting a treasure, we will find it.

For prayer: Lord, I confess that sometimes I come to Your Word expecting nothing more than a dry, empty box. I confess my doubts about Your wisdom and sovereignty. Help me draw closer to You in my doubt instead of pushing away. Help me delight in Your inexplicable nature and perfect judgement. Help me relax into your understanding when I can’t even begin to understand You. In Jesus’ perfect Name, Amen.

When we can’t understand, we learn to trust, and that’s more valuable in the long run. My #understanding is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Can you see why this is my favorite Bible verse? My brain wants to define and understand, then God calls me to enjoy the mystery. In what indescribable aspect of God’s character do you delight? Or what part of this verse really strikes you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “We Don’t Have to Understand Everything

  1. Love this post! It reminded me of a Thomas Merton quote I have been rolling around in my mind for weeks, trying to figure out what I want to say about it.”You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope”

    Liked by 2 people

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