A man on the East Coast wrote me this week to say he’s losing his business. He wonders how long he’ll be able to hold on to his house. A woman in Nova Scotia emailed about her cancer diagnosis. A friend called about a custody battle that rages on. Someone in Iowa wrote about the likelihood her teenage daughter will do jail time for a stupid prank.
As if the headlines weren’t painful enough, our collective personal pain is worse. Jesus was right when He told His disciples to expect trouble in this life. It’s only a matter of how often and to what degree.
I recall one season of stress in my own life where, in the course of a year, I faced shingles, stage four melanoma, a major car accident at the hands of a drunk driver, the death of my dad and the untimely death of my 42-year-old best friend. It was not pretty.
At the time, someone sent me a magazine article on stress, urging me to take the accompanying self-assessment quiz. It ascribed points to 43 traumatic life events and then, based on your total score, showed how much you were at risk of serious illness. According to my score, I was dead.
I thought about that test in light of the heartache I’ve heard about the past few days. I realized the test failed to list the biggest source of stress, the stress of not knowing. Not knowing when your home will sell in a depressing real estate market, not knowing what a parent’s growing dementia will mean financially in terms of future care, not knowing if your toddler is autistic because the tests aren’t conclusive. In short, not being able to get answers that will explain things or tell you what to do or maybe offer solace or closure.
Wanting to know things (and its corollary, wanting to understand why) has been part of our DNA all the way back to Adam and Eve when God told the happy couple there were things they weren’t allowed to know. They were sure He didn’t mean it and it was all downhill from there.
I totally understand their curiosity. I want to know things, too. In fact, I ended up in two careers—journalism and consulting—that paid me to ask lots of questions! I bombard God with questions, too. I don’t think He minds as long as we remember He ultimately decides what we get to know. And He’s under no obligation to explain Himself. Ever.
Are you kidding me? That’s not what we want to hear. This is the United States of America! We ask questions! We get answers! Get somebody on the phone who can talk some sense into God! Has He seen what’s happening down here? WE NEED TO KNOW.
Ahh, the truth comes out. We’re not mad because we don’t have answers. We’re mad because we’re not in control! (Insert your own picture here of a two-year old throwing a tantrum.) MAKE GOD BEHAVE!
God says we don’t get to know everything because He’s God and we’re not and He calls the shots. It’s downright un-American. What are we to do?
I heard Gap Intl. executive Mitzi Hoelscher speak recently on breakthrough leadership. She mentioned the importance of developing the “willingness-to-not-know” muscle. For Christ followers, the “willingness-to-not-know” muscle is called faith. The muscle works even better when exercised with its companion muscle, surrender.
It’s not the kind of surrender that gives up on life or God. Rather, it’s the kind that admits to God we have a control issue. It acknowledges we don’t have to know all the answers because He’s sovereign and has it covered. It might even mean entertaining answers we had not considered.
Most of all, it means letting God do it His way every time, over and over, until those faith and surrender muscles get so strong, life circumstances no longer have the power to make us ill…or even kill us.
Adam and Eve did it their way and we all know how that turned out. History shows we haven’t exactly improved on their record since then. Time to grab a white flag and give ourselves up to the One who promises to get us through this mess and one day give us our answers if we just hang on till then.