The Way God Works

Deuteronomy 29:29

29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the way God works.  I know, not exactly the easiest topic to navigate early in the morning, but with so many unknowns in my life right now, it’s a relevant topic for me to try and grasp.

You see, there’s the often predictable ways that God works, the common laws that God invites us to so that we might live to our fullest.  You know, the 10 commandment type of laws, the principle of reaping what you sow, the maxim that if you eat at McDonalds everyday you likely will have health issues – these all fall under the rubric of God’s revealed will.

God wants me to be faithful to my wife.  God wants me to live with integrity in my finances and truth-telling.

I understand these because they’re as clear as day.

It seems like 75% of my decisions can usually fall under some simple, revealed guidelines by God so that I can best follow a wise course of action.

But oh, there’s that 25% that drives me nuts.  The secret stuff that God is doing that is out of my control and I have to – gasp – trust Him.

What’s crazy is that sometimes I can follow God’s revealed will to a tee, and somehow, I don’t end up in the place I thought I would be.

Has that ever happened to you?  You obeyed to the best of your ability, and now you’re in a place that seems worse off than before.

Illnesses.  Changes in the economy.  Other peoples’ decisions and behaviors.  Death.

The secret stuff can be pretty demoralizing.

And yet, God does some of his deepest work in the secret stuff.

I read recently from St. John of the Cross that the reason God works in secrecy and darkness is because if he didn’t, then 1) we would try to take control of the process, or 2) we would jump ship and stop the process altogether.

Yep, that sounds about right.

I want to be in control of my fate and I don’t like following another person’s direction.

And these are the very things that God wants to purge out of me.

I realize that with God, before “obeying”, there’s the issue of “trusting”.  The Christian life is not “obey and trust”, it’s “trust and obey”, and the deepest way we really learn to trust is when it comes to navigating through the secret stuff.

When there are so many unknowns swirling around me about my present, my future, and what to make of the past… When the road ahead seems bleaker than it’s ever looked before, like an endless desert with no sign of respite… When I suffer and grieve and get heartbroken… these instances are when the substance of “trusting” is really put through the fire.

St. John of the Cross also writes that whenever one endures suffering or questions or doubts God’s ways, he or she is to simply look to the cross and be silent.

That’s it.

Just look to the cross and don’t say a word.

Sounds a lot easier than it really is.

I suppose that’s where maturing trust first starts though – at a cross where we see a God who dies on our behalf.  We’re quieted by that truth, instead of wanting to take matters into our own hands.

It’s like God says, “You can trust me with the secret stuff because I love you enough to die for you.”

“So just relax.  Trust me.  It’s going to be okay.”

Ah yes, it really is going to be okay.

Romans 8:28, 32

 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose…  32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

Postscript: The reality is, so many others around the world don’t wrestle so much with God’s will because the lot that’s been handed to them is pretty narrow.  One of the luxuries of being in the richest country on the planet is the plethora of options before me, which is something I am so grateful for and intend to take full advantage of.  But yeah, it’s nice to get some perspective once in awhile about what others in the world are experiencing… and to look at the cross and be silent.


9 responses to “The Way God Works

  1. I was wondering why I’ve been so unhappy lately and can’t help but think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that I have a choice about life. I was thinking, had I grown up in S. Korea, I probably would not even have considered becoming a musician. I wouldn’t have dreamed that much. I would’ve followed a narrower path and maybe I would’ve been happy cuz I didn’t know any other way. Or would I have been… I don’t know. I guess, as you are suggesting, we have to just trust and do. And we’ll find out what God’s up to later on. But man, is it scary.

  2. I remember meeting a pastor in bangladesh, and he told me that people in his country do not suffer from depression. he told me that it’s really weird when he hears westerners talk about it.

    i’ve heard similar stories from people who come from other countries, often more impoverished, that just don’t struggle with this idea of happiness like we do in the west.

  3. Your postscript made me think of a class I had with Dr. Parrett… We had been reading about God’s will and after some discussion, he reminded us what a gracious luxury it was to even consider the question. For many of our brothers and sisters around the world, the burning question is one of livelihood and/or safety. But he shared his own belief that for some, the full exercise of God’s gifts and talents would begin in heaven… It was certainly food for thought and reason for thankfulness. Thanks, Drew, for sharing your thoughts *and* your P.S.

    • yeah totally…. sometimes I need to get outside of myself to get that perspective. talking to missionary friends is especially helpful! hope you’re well!

  4. This is one of the best posts I have read from you Drew. I specially like the part that says that if we knew what God was doing in the secret, we would jump ship. It is very sensible and it resonates a lot with me.

  5. Hmm… I left a comment here a few days ago, but it seems like it didn’t stick.

    Round 2.

    I love this post, and I especially love the post script. It reminds me of a conversation I had as a middle schooler nearly 18 years ago. I was frustrated to tears because I was so unsure what I was going to do with my life. I had no idea where I wanted to go to college, let alone what I wanted to major in (I was 12, but that’s like 30 in asian years). And when my janitor friend came by to talk to me, I expressed my frustration to him. The part of the conversation that stays with me went something like this:

    Alban: I don’t know if I should go for music… or engineering… or become a doctor… or what. I feel like I can do any of these things… but I don’t know what’s the right decision! I don’t want to screw it all up by choosing wrong!

    Janitor friend: It sounds like you have the problems of the gifted.

    And then he went on his way.

    It was a simple, humbling statement that hit me pretty hard. The fact that he was a janitor was not lost on me then either. The truth of the matter is, we have a lot of good gifts… and a lot of good paths. And with our heavenly Father beside us, who is FOR us, it’s hard to go wrong.

  6. Pingback: New Beginnings. | while waiting

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