Resting in the Mysterious God

Resting in the Mysterious God August 18, 2022

Can we ever entirely figure God out?

I’m thinking the answer is no. And I’m perfectly alright with it.

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“The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

It’s a phrase we are all familiar with.

Although it isn’t explicitly found in Scripture, there are certainly countless stories in Scripture of God acting in a way that seems confounding, such as calling Abraham to sacrifice his son (Gen 22), drawing Israel into an impossible situation at the Red Sea (Ex 14), having the Hebrew army march around Jericho a bunch and get real loud (Josh 6), or choosing a young shepherd boy to face off against a seasoned warrior giant (1Sam 17).

In each of these Bible stories (and many, many others), God brings His people into a strange situation, only to use that strangeness to display His awesome power and deliverance and redemption.

Surely the greatest picture is in the cross itself, “foolishness” to the world, a place of shame and weakness and death and defeat, but actually the means by which God would display His great strength and victory (1Cor 1.18-31).

None of it makes sense to human thinking. God regularly uses unlikely vessels and does unlikely things through them.

So certainly, it must be said that God works in mysterious ways. His thoughts are higher than ours, His ways are different than ours (Isa 55.9). We see from a ridiculously limited perspective, and so His plans seem strange to us at times.

He is mysterious indeed.

And yet, we also believe in a self-revealing God. God has chosen to make Himself known to us.

He reveals Himself to us through His Word (Lk 24.27; 2Tim 3.16-17).

He reveals Himself to us through His Creation (Ps 19.1-6; Rom 1.20).

He reveals Himself to us by His Holy Spirit (Jn 15.26; 16.12-15; 1Cor 2.10-16).

He reveals Himself to us through Jesus, who is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Heb 4.1-4; cf Jn 1.18). To see Jesus is to see God.

God has made His Gospel known to us, revealed His great heavenly plan to us, shown us who He is, unveiled Himself to us, where previous generations longed to know what we get to now see (Mt 13.17; Rom 16.25; 1Co 2.7; Eph 3.9).

So certainly, God is knowable. He has made that clear.

So which is it? Is God mysterious? Or is He known to us?

The answer, as with so many matters of the faith, is not one or the other but both.

Maturity regularly calls us to hold seemingly competing truths in tension with one another.

Even with all of this revelation, human beings are still mortals attempting to understand an immortal God.

We are a mist that appears for a moment and dissipates (Jam 4.14); He is from everlasting to everlasting (Ps 41.31).

Any human attempt to comprehend God is going to fall short. Finite brains cannot fully grasp the infinite.

The apostle Paul had encountered the risen Christ, and by His power and grace had healed the sick, raised the dead, battled demons, been caught up into Heaven and witnessed “inexpressible” things, and had the God-breathed Scriptures breathed through him (Ac 91.-19; 16.16-28; 19.11-12; 20.7-12; 2Co 12.1-10; 2Pet 3.15-16).

As far as humans go, it’s safe to say that Paul knew far more about God than most.

And even so, Paul’s confession was that, as a human on earth, he still only knew God “in part,” (1Co 13.9).

Here on earth, Paul acknowledged he didn’t know everything there was to know. There were elements of God that remained mysterious to him. Only in eternity would the fullness of God be revealed to him (1Cor 13.9-12).

Only in eternity would Paul truly know everything.

So there remains a mystery to God for those of us on earth, even for those of us who know Him very well.

For we who have walked with Jesus for a long time, there are still times when the Lord confounds and confuses us.

We should not be alarmed or distressed by this.

As the Lord made very clear to Job, He is God, and we are not (Job 38-41).

The Creation is not on the same level as the Creator, and the Creator doesn’t owe an explanation about everything (or even anything) to His Creation.

But even so, God has chosen to draw near to us, to reveal to us what we need to know, and to invite us into communion with Him.

This communion calls us to “grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Pet 3.18).

We are on a life-long journey of pursuing Him, of growing in our understanding of who He is, even in the mystery.

And on the points where we don’t understand, we can both search for more, while also being at peace in the not-knowing.

Sometimes I fear that our attempts at developing elaborate theologies and studies and doctrines are motivated by a sense of fear and/or control.

“If we can just master these Scriptures/this theology/this doctrinal statement, then we’ll really have a handle on who God is!”

Certainly we must wrestle with Scripture, and commit ourselves to solid theology and sound doctrine, of course.

But surely God is nonetheless greater than our understanding at times, greater than our theologies and statements, and that is OK – in fact, it is amazing to think of a God that great, and even better if we can find peace and rest in those times of not knowing and not understanding.

I can never study enough to master Him entirely.

I am hungry to know the Lord better. But I can be at rest in the times when I don’t comprehend.

Even if I don’t understand God or what He is doing or who He is fully, that’s alright.

He knows who He is, and He knows what He is doing. And I trust Him.

And so the biblical declaration “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46.10) resounds deeply.

We can actively pursue the depths of knowing Him, and rest peacefully in the mystery of Him, all at the same time.

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