“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9).
We seem to completely ignore this passage of scripture.
As proof I only need to recall the comments made by Christians with regard to Hurricane Irma. Everyone seemed perfectly happy and willing to explain the mind of God in one way or another. For example, “God allowed Irma to happen so that we could learn to look past our differences in the political realm and be reminded that we’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.” While it is a lovely thought and the author may well have experienced that outcome, Isaiah seems to think it is rubbish.
Those that are quick to explain why their area was spared are no better. Any reason they offer runs counter to Isaiah and, perhaps more importantly, can be rather hurtful to those who did experience the brunt of the storm. Surely we aren’t going to suggest that God answered our prayers and ignored the petitions of those living on the Caribbean Islands. We can’t possibly think we’re in a position to know that God used the storm to teach some great lesson to them, a lesson we didn’t need.
We do this a lot. We explain God’s thinking in natural disasters, presidential election results, tragic deaths, and more. And we don’t have a clue what we’re talking about!
In fairness, I understand the need for this. Humans are uncomfortable, at best, with things outside their control or understanding. We ask “why” almost reflexively. We can’t handle randomness and chaos and so we generate some answer, any answer, in order to makes sense of the situation. This is what drives well-meaning Christians to tell parents who mourn the loss of a child things like, “God needed another angel in heaven.”
What happens if we take Isaiah seriously and quit pretending we know God’s thoughts and reasoning? It will almost certainly be uncomfortable. We’ll have to find a way to live with uncertainty, chaos, and not having an answer to every question. We’ll need to rely on our heart more than our heads and be content with not knowing. We may have to deal with the fear that comes with a loss of control.
But if we venture out into these rather uncharted waters there will be advantages. First, we’ll be in a better position to trust God similar to the way most people trust that the airplane will fly despite their inability to explain why such large structures are able to defy gravity.
Most importantly, God won’t be some being “up there” who is testing us or pulling the strings of the universe to get some desired result. If give up our need to explain God, we might well find that God is now beside us as we face the joys and sorrows of this life. God will be with us, guiding and comforting.
The good Lord gave me a rather techie, scientific brain. It hasn’t been easy for me to drop “why” from my theological vocabulary but it is one of the best things I’ve done for my spiritual walk in recent years. Perhaps you too are ready to take Isaiah seriously, We’re not God. Let’s stop pretending that we are.