Knowing In The Unknown
~by Bridget Depew
Disappointments. Life is chock full of them.
The ups and downs of life can be nauseating. It’s no wonder the phrase, “a roller coaster of emotions” was coined. The excitement of the emotional highs and sudden drop to the lows are enough to literally make your stomach turn at times.
At an amusement park, the roller coaster takes its sweet time hauling you to the highest heights, but that plummet to what feels like your certain death takes only a few seconds. Isn’t that the case with life as well? It takes blood, sweat, and tears sometimes to get to a place of at least contentment. You work and strive. You hope and dream. And it seems like it’s taken forever to achieve that sweet spot of contentment, dare I say, happiness and joy. But in a moment’s notice, it can be gone. People disappoint. Things fall through. And in a flash, the working and striving, hoping and dreaming all seem for naught.
At an amusement park, after the ride, you get some time to recover (unless you’re with your children). You can find the nearest bench, have a seat, and just give your mind and stomach a chance to catch up and finally settle from the mayhem. This is where life and amusement parks differ. Our fast-paced society yields very little time for recovery from the roller coaster of emotions. Life stops for no one. Bills stop for no one. School, kids’ sports, and work projects stop for no one.
How do we manage the ups and downs of life and all the pressure and frustration that society and “adulting” drop on our shoulders without recovery time?
The quick and proper answer is that we pray. The longer, more drawn out answer is a bit more nuanced than that.
Prayer doesn’t erase our problems. As sure as the sun will rise in the morning, there is a sovereign God strong enough, capable enough, loving enough to bear our burdens. But those burdens aren’t erased. We’re given just enough strength to handle them, but they’re not taken care of for us. We must learn to tap into that strength and utilize it in order to conquer the battles we face.
How do we do that? Can I be honest with you? I haven’t quite figured that out yet.
Friends, sometimes 40 years of being a Christian cannot fully and properly prepare you for the battle God allows us to face and the subsequent heartache He allows us to feel when we lose that battle. You can attend all the church services and memorize all the Bible verses; but you encounter the perfect storm of life’s hardships, and it can feel like you’ve met your emotional and mental end.
Here’s what I do know and here’s a three-point sermon you won’t hear from most pulpits:
- We don’t have to have all the answers—and to a lot of life’s questions, we never will.
- It’s ok to crumble and not know when you’re going to get up.
- It sometimes feels like God is not enough.
Ok. So before I’m chastised for apostasy, allow me to expound.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither 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.”
I don’t know about you, but I take a certain comfort in that. I don’t want the infinite God of the universe to be confined to my finite, little box. I don’t want to fully understand Him. The moment I’ve got God all figured out is the moment I abandon my faith. Because knowing everything about God doesn’t require faith at all.
In my many years of battling uncertainties and struggles in life, I’ve finally learned that it’s ok to not be ok—to not even know when I’ll be ok. Many of us are fixers. We like to know how to fix our problems and when. And many times we can and do! It feels great, doesn’t it? Until we can’t and don’t. Then we feel like we’re failing at life. We want to know when the pain will be over. We want to know when we’ll finally be able to stand up under the stress, head held high. I’ve learned, however, that not knowing any of that provides a certain sense of freedom and yes, even control. Stick with me here. Giving ourselves permission to feel the weight of the troubles that plague us and accepting that we will get up in our own good time can be freeing—empowering even. Why? Because society tells us we need to get moving—yesterday. But we’ll get up when we get up. And whenever that is, is ok—as long as we eventually do.
And lastly, God doesn’t always seem like enough. Many times we feel we need God plus—God plus friends—God plus family. The truth is, we don’t need anything other than God. But in His omniscient grace, He has provided us the plus. Most of us have family and/or friends to whom we may turn for consolation and encouragement. It’s ok to have feelings. It’s ok to feel like God isn’t enough—as long as we know that He is. Because inevitably that family member or friend won’t pick up the phone or respond to that S.O.S. text for help. But God always responds. Always. Not always when we want Him to or how, but He always does. That’s not a feeling. That’s a fact. There’s a certain “knowing” we can have in the unknown.
Things won’t always go as planned, Friends. But God always goes as planned. He goes as He plans. And sometimes His plans aren’t ok with us. But trust that “…for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”