Isaiah 55 reminds us that God operates on a different level than we do. He says in that chapter, “My thoughts aren’t your thoughts; My ways aren’t your ways. As heaven is higher than the earth, so are My ways and thoughts to yours.”
I think we get that at some level. I mean, all you have to do is look up at the night sky to get a clear vision of the fact that God doesn’t think or act in the same way we do. And because He doesn’t, there is an intrinsic element of mystery associated with our relationship to Jesus—simply because He’s God and we’re not.
And most of the time, we’re okay with that. Most of us are okay with a little mystery in our lives, and so we don’t necessarily have to know the in’s and out’s of predestination, or the final days of the universe, or how God’s sovereignty works with our free will. We accept that those things are mysterious, and get on to the business of living.
But then there are those moments—some of them only once-in-lifetime—when mystery ceases to become a concept or idea and starts to become tangible—when mystery collides with reality.
Those moments go by other names that we’re all familiar with—cancer, car accident, job loss, death, disease, poverty—it’s those moments, when we’re confronted with some kind of tragic moment in our own lives, when we stop thinking about mystery and we start wrestling with mystery.
We ask questions like, “How? Why? When? Why me? Why them?” We try to reconcile the plan of God with circumstances that seem like they’re spiraling out of control. We try to reconcile the love of God with the pain of life. And in an effort to do so, we engage mystery. We enter hand-to-hand combat where we try and reconcile what we know to be true with what we are experiencing.
It’s the same wrestling match that Job had to deal with. The classic story of Job, found in the Bible named after that character, was that God and Satan entered into a cosmic discussion regarding the faithfulness of this one man. The enemy’s charge was that Job’s faithfulness was built squarely on circumstance, and that if all of his blessings were taken away, then he would surely abandon God. And in a very short period of time, that’s what happened. Job lost his wealth, his family, his health, and even his friends.
Much of the book of Job records Job’s friends trying (unsuccessfully) to help deal with the mystery of what happened. Their arguments were based on logic. There had to be a logical reason for all the bad things going on. Job insisted there was not, and eventually he took his complaints to the source. He wrestled with the mysteries of the universe… the mysteries of God. And he eventually found himself confronting the author of mystery with these questions.
Confronted with these charges from Job—charges that called into question the wisdom of God; questions asking about the nature of evil and suffering; inquiries into the mysteries of the divine mind—God responded to Job, but he responded in an interesting way.
God did not respond with answers. He didn’t crack the door on the mysteries of heaven. He didn’t reveal the nature of Job’s testing, or the good that He would bring out of it. In short, God never answered, “Why?” In the Book of Job, the answer to Job’s questions is God Himself.
This is what God did – He reminded Job of who He is; His power, His creativity, and His wisdom. He answered Job out of the whirlwind with Himself. And there is truth in that for us.
The end of mystery isn’t answers, per sey – at least not answers in the way we think of them. The end of mystery is God. When we have those moments in life that force us to wrestle deeply, painfully, anxiously, with the mysteries of the universe, the end we come to is God. In that, we also see the value in engaging mystery.
We don’t press hard into mystery so we can find answers; we press hard into it so we can have a more intimate relationship with God. He’s the One at the center. If we engage mystery, we may not ever know the “why;” but we will know the “who” even better.