When It Doesn’t Make Sense
Perplexed, but not in despair (2 Cor. 4:8).
A few Christians seem to move through this world on an ever-ascending scale: health, success, happy family life, serene old age, and a glorious exit. But with most of us life does not follow the Alger pattern, and with many it goes exactly the other way, through disappointment, pain, grief, broken dreams, and often into sinister situations that simply do not make sense. These days we are listening to ever-increasing stories of tragedy and heartache, and no superficial pious moralizing will meet the need nor soothe the heart. There is no use denying it, there is much that doesn’t make sense, and thousands of saints are not only perplexed but in despair.
The text finds Paul in straits, “put to it but not put out.” Some things are given us to know (Matt. 13:11) but some things are not for us to know (Acts 1:7), and, unfortunately, we fail to learn much we could know by trying to find out what we cannot know. The little boy who couldn’t understand why God put so many vitamins in spinach instead of putting them all in ice cream was learning early that things just don’t work out as we would do them if we had the universe in charge.
Some things just don’t make sense, but we may be perplexed yet not in despair. The way out is not by explanation but by revelation. The Bible does not give us explanation for some of these riddles, but it does supply revelation.
Because things do not make sense to us does not mean that they don’t make sense at all.
Joseph told his brethren that they meant it for evil when they sold him into Egypt but God meant it for good. It didn’t make sense to Joseph or to Jacob, who said, “All these things are against me.” But Jacob was mistaken, for all things cannot be against us if all things work together for good. We have often used the well-worn illustration of the hand-sewed bookmark. On the reverse side one sees only a meaningless tangle of loose thread-ends, but on the front side one reads “God Is Love.”
Because some things do not make sense to us now does not mean that they never will make sense.
Many things that God does we know not now, but we shall know hereafter. One does not eat flour or sour milk or salt or soda. But when these are properly mixed and baked awhile they come out Southern biscuits. There are happenings and events that are very disturbing when we try to digest them by themselves. But God mixes them as part of His recipe, and when they come out of His oven in the light of eternity we find that they were part of the “all things” that “work together for good.”
There is a higher viewpoint from which things which don’t make sense to our ordinary reasoning can make sense to our spiritual understanding even now.
The highest lesson God wants to teach us is to “trust Him regardless.” If everything made sense to our understanding we would need no faith. If everything worked out in storybook style we would become complacent and spoiled. God wants to bring us to a higher plane, where He Himself is our portion and reward, where we can sing,
Now Thee alone I seek;
Give what is best.
…God allows things that don’t make sense, that baffle and perplex our ordinary understanding. We may never be able to understand them here. But we can do one of several things about them. We grow bitter and resentful, sulk and grumble, and murmur, “Is the Lord among us or not?” We can grit our teeth and “tough it out” with a stiff-upper-lip stoicism. We can resign ourselves to the inevitable and go around with a martyr spirit. But there is a better way. We can accept it as one of the methods God uses to bring us to walk by faith and not by sight. While we still may not understand it with our heads, it makes sense to the higher understanding of our hearts