Sometimes it feels like life is coming apart at the seams. Nothing is going right and you have no idea why. The most natural thing to do in those times is to start picking up the pieces and patching them like crazy.
But sometimes God’s great grace for us is allowing the pieces of our life to break apart and it’s just then that he gives us an unexpected gift: unknowing.
We live in a time and place where we have access to so much knowledge. We can “know” just about any fact with the click of a few buttons. Our generation has been told from birth that we can be what we want to be, and that we can do anything if we just put our mind to it. By the time we are making decisions for ourselves, we pretty much know what we want and may even think we know just how to get there. It’s easy to get so wound up with expectations, in what we “know” life is supposed to look like, that when things don’t go our way, we are stunned.
So how should the reality that we are followers of Christ impact our seasons of earthquake + tornado? Jesus never promised us a smooth path, and the journeys of our Scriptural heroes do not match the “you can do anything” mantras we’re taught in childhood.
Where did we get the idea that things would go perfectly? And why are we so disappointed in God when they don’t? I’ve never found it very helpful to get into the arguments of what God is allowing vs. what He’s causing. We just don’t know. But what we do know is that Jesus said in John 16, “In this world you WILL have trouble.” Trouble is a guarantee, but so is his promise to help us overcome and find joy in the midst of fear, doubt and uncertainty.
The gift of unknowing is something we can only receive when we are in trouble, “in the dark” or when we just don’t know what’s going on. The 16th century monk, John of the Cross called it “luminous darkness”. That seemingly contradictory phrase offers clarity. When things are dark, we realize all that we don’t know, we are much more likely to look to our Savior for peace, comfort and wisdom. And in looking to Jesus, we finally find ourselves in a more luminous (light-filled) place than we could have ever worked out on our own.
Jeremiah 4:3 says, “Break up the unplowed ground and do not sow among the thorns.” Jesus, in Mark 4 reiterates that same principle when he says, “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” When the earthquakes come and the soil of our life is getting thrashed, what if we actually considered it joy (James 1) that the hard ground is getting tilled up?
Maybe those earthquake times are just what we need to shake things up, to pull those thorns, and to get back to a place of dependence on God. Maybe Jesus knows something that we don’t. Perhaps the darkness is an invitation to trust him in new ways, which is actually a really exciting gift.
Letting go of what we think we know looks something like this: The next time a tornado comes swirling through our lives, and the lights start flickering, let’s do the spiritual work. Let’s say, “Bring on the earthquake. We’ll pull up some weeds. We can even find joy in sitting in the dark for awhile. Let’s adjust our eyes to see the light that only our God can provide.” This life as a Christ-follower isn’t always safe or predictable. But, getting comfortable with the occasional darkness in our own lives gives us so much grace to step into the darkness others may be sitting in. And isn’t that what Jesus did for us? Ask yourself, “Is my greatest desire to be safe and comfortable, or is it to become more like Jesus?”What do you think his greater desire is for you?