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Pointers along the way #180

When we can't understand
- Jacob Ninan

There is no Bible scholar who understands it all, or who can be absolutely certain about everything he understands. Many times it is not just that we can't understand something, but also it looks as though something in the Bible can't be true when we look at our experience. This poses a dilemma to those of us who believe in the inspiration of the word of God (2Ti.3:16). We know it has to be true, but we aren't able to figure out how it could be true. Some people take a strict posture and refuse to face up to the sense of unreality that strikes them on their face (Ro.3:4). Their sincere desire to glorify God is clear, but it doesn't stop the sense of unreality that gnaws inside them.

I am not thinking of problems which can be attributed to errors in copying from old manuscripts or in translation, which are comparatively easy to understand. But think of how God is declared to be a a very present help in times of trouble, when we can't see Him anywhere (Ps.46:1). If we call on His name He has promised to answer us, and we can't seem to get any answer (Ps.91:15). Such occasions seem to strike at the very roots of our faith. It looks as if He has failed us at the very time when we needed Him the most. We know it can't be so, but we just can't seem to understand what is happening.

One comforting thing is that even the godliest of persons, who lived closely with God, have had many such experiences, and come through! So it is not that just because our faith is being tested we have to give up. But at the same time these occasions are not easy to handle at all. Most often they call for much struggle, seeking God and searching our hearts. We learn many valuable lessons through such experiences and our faith comes out stronger (Jas.1:2,3,12).

Another way to approach this is to stoically say that after all we are only human, and we can't be expected to understand it all. This is fine as far as it goes. But it doesn't go far enough. This can satisfy us if we are sitting in an armchair and writing essays, but not when we are in the midst of spiritual storms.

Perhaps we can learn something from the way we learn subjects like maths. We begin by counting, and then go on to arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and so on. Each lesson is based on what we have already learned and become certain about. If we find calculus difficult we don't begin to question our multiplication tables!

Even in our spiritual battles, when we can't understand something that is happening to us, we don't have to think that what we have learned earlier is wrong. We don't need to question if there is a God, etc. We can tell ourselves, "OK, I can't understand what's going on. But I know God loves me. I know He has forgiven me, I know I am His child, I know He will bring me through", etc. "I don't know many things, but this I know!"