I Just Don't Understand...
by Sarah Phillips
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
Proverbs 3: 5- 7 are often the first words that rise out of my memory bank in dark moments. The reason this scripture resonates so much with me has to do with these six words: lean not on your own understanding.
At Salem Web Network, managers give new employees a book called Strength Finder 2.0. The book is designed to help you identify and maximize your top 5 strengths in the workplace. I scored highest in something called “Intellection.” A person who scores highly in this category loves to think – so much that he or she finds reasons to think just for the joy of thinking.
I chuckled at these results. Friends and family have described me as “cerebral” on more than one occasion. Thanks to this strength, I’m really good at thinking through complex issues. I get energy from analyzing many aspects of life. Others come to me when they want a thorough, thoughtful perspective.
Why am I so drawn to thinking? Ultimately, it’s because I want to understand. I am like an adult version of my four-year-old nephew, always asking “why?” and “how?” -- especially on matters I feel have eternal significance.
Unfortunately, this drive to understand can easily morph from my greatest strength into my Achilles’ heel. Why? Because there are some things in life that even the greatest minds cannot understand.
I was on a forum recently where, in response to recent headlines, someone asked, “How can a man kill his wife, kids, and then commit suicide?” People debated back and forth. But no answer seemed to satisfy.
I had a friend call me recently, devastated over his girlfriend’s unexpected decision to break up with him. He wanted to know why. She never gave him an answer. And I couldn’t either.
On some level, we all want to understand, don’t we? Daily, I receive emails from hurting readers that go like this:
“I am so unhappy with my spouse. Help me understand her!”
“I don’t understand why my child does these things. What have I done wrong?”
“I can’t seem to get a job. I just don’t understand God’s will for my life.”
When I encounter things that are really difficult to understand, my first instinct is to rev up my God-given gift for thinking to try to figure it out. This is when things start to go bad. I think if I can understand it, I will be okay. I ruminate on the issue, mentally chewing on it over and over again, losing sleep in an attempt to find peace through understanding.
But when the mental gymnastics don’t produce results, my irrational emotions kick in. I melt into a puddle of tears (flowing from eyes with dark circles thanks to too many sleepless nights). It’s a lovely sight, and one that may be familiar to you.
That’s usually about the time my brain is empty enough to hear a still, small voice whisper:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
You see, contrary to popular belief, our peace doesn’t really flow from our understanding, and in fact, God never promises we will always understand. Instead, our peace flows from a God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55: 8).
Accepting that we won't always understand may feel frustrating at first, but ultimately, it's offers you and me relief. We may not understand, but God does, and He will not abandon us. Look at the promise that accompanies this verse, should we surrender our lives fully to Him: and he will make your paths straight.
What a blessing. I don’t have to have it all figured out. I don’t have to obtain all the answers. I don’t have to lie awake sorting out every last detail. I can trust God, my Heavenly Father, to take care of the stuff that doesn’t make any sense to me.
This is the beauty of being Christian. We aren’t the biggest, most intelligent beings out there. God, the original Genius, is.
At the end of time, we will understand – clearly – because God will show us. And there will, no doubt, be some surprises. Until that time, we have a God smart enough to handle the most confounding problem, loving enough to earn our heartfelt devotion, and trustworthy enough to offer us genuine hope for our futures.
So if there’s something about your life right now that you just don’t understand, that’s causing you pain and fueling your fears, meditate on Proverbs 3: 5- 7. Turn it around in your mind. Memorize it. And sleep well tonight.