Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! (the apostle Paul, Romans 11:33 NIV)
When I was a child, I enjoyed applying my drawing skills to something called “connect the dots.” For those of you who are not ancient (like me), “connect the dots” was a group of dots on a page, that you would connect by drawing lines, following a numerical order (1 goes to 2; 2 connects to 3; etc.). Connecting all the dots would reveal a picture, hidden from your sight until all the dots were properly connected. It was really important to connect the dots in the right order! If you traced them out incorrectly, you would not see the intended picture (which was the whole point of the activity anyway!).
Reflecting upon the verse above, the apostle Paul reminds us that God’s paths are “beyond tracing out.” What that appears to mean is that God’s ways, His judgments, His knowledge, and His wisdom cannot be reduced to a spiritual version of “connect the dots.” In other words, God cannot be simply defined, or easily understood – even if we wish that He was.
Let’s face it. Many of us think we would like to have a “connect the dots” kind of god. We would often prefer a god that we can easily define… or manipulate… or control. We would opt for a god that permits us to “follows the dots,” who works strictly by a set of established rules, who follows a set formula that we can easily trace out to get what we think is best – consistently.
We might prefer a god of this sort. But, that is not the God of heaven. Scripture declares that His ways are not traceable. His paths are not so easily defined. He is often NOT what we think He should be.
This truth became prevalent just this week… We experienced a death in the family… we lost our trusty Honda Accord. She was totaled in a bizarre and horrible crash (all the family is just fine, thank God!). Seriously, though, my first reaction (once you know your family members are just fine) was: “why did God let this happen to us? He knows that we need that car, and we don’t have the immediate finances to replace it. We are supposed to be in His care, as His people. Yet, we have this immense loss and will have to work around the hardship of losing one of our necessary vehicles. Just where was God when this happened to us??”
Then you think about how God could have prevented this occurrence. He could have done something simple… like cause my wife to drop her keys before entering the car. Just the simple act of bending down to pick them up would have taken a few extra seconds… and she would have missed the accident entirely. Or He could have nudged the other driver and caused him to direct his attention her way (rather than not look in her direction!). There are so many scenarios that play out in your mind, as you try to make sense of what happened – when all along you thought God was watching over you.
That’s just it. In our humanness, we would often prefer a god that keeps us out of all trouble, prevents all harm, and makes everything just perfect in our lives. That’s what we think a good God is supposed to do. Truth be told, that’s what most of us believe God should do! Our faith seems to prefer a god in a box – a god who is revealed (just as we thought he should be) as we do all the right things, or say all the right words – as we connect all the dots.
We are surprised (often shocked!) when God doesn’t seem to fit in our box – when our connected dots don’t reveal the god we thought he should be for us.
But that’s just His point. A god that is so easily defined, so easily understood, so limited to human comprehension, is really not a god worth serving at all. A “traceable” god is a god just too small to be worthy of our attention, praise, or devotion.
This may not help as much as it should, but the fact that God allows “bad” things to happen to His people can remind us that He is, indeed, worthy of our devotion. We are simply not able to see things as He sees them, but He leads us to trust that He is in the midst of everything we go through – and He has something in Mind whenever He allows something to happen that shakes our little worlds. We must remember that He has not promised that He will keep bad things from happening in our lives – but He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). And really, in the midst of hard or tragic times, we do not really need a predictable god of answers – we need a powerful God Who surrounds us with His Presence and His love. A God Who is beyond us, yet with us, even when things don’t make sense.
We all like the verse: “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.” (Romans 8:28) Sometimes we forget that God “working for the good” is based upon the fact that things got a little “messed up” along the way. God is not surprised by what we are going through – and He is working out “all things” according to the riches of His wisdom and knowledge. That is His promise to us!
When we really think about it, we should all be supremely thankful for an “untraceable” God. He is a God fully worthy of our complete attention and affection – and He is able to hold us in Hands that hold all things in those Hands. That is His commitment to us… in spite of whatever circumstances we may face.