“I don’t understand it God”
I am not sure if I spoke those words out loud or if they were just the inward dialogue of my heart, but either way – I was at the end of myself and wanted answers.
My newly born baby girl was back in the hospital after only a few weeks of being at home. Amy and I were not sure what to expect, but all I knew in that moment was that my precious child was not where she was supposed to be. She was supposed to be at home with her family. She was supposed to be smiling into the face of her big sister. She was supposed to be resting in her crib surrounded by the one’s who love her.
Instead, she was in a plastic crib, connected to wires and tubes and crying for comfort from parents who were not able to do anything but watch and pray.
“God, I don’t understand…”
The secret things of God
One of the most difficult parts of surrendering our lives to Christ is surrendering control and even understanding over the “secret things” that are for God and God alone.
In the book of Deutoronomy Moses is preparing people for entrance into the promised land. He desires that they be a people who love God by walking in obedience, which will lead to great life and flourishing for generations to come. Yet, alongside the promise of blessings for obedience comes an even greater list of curses for disobedience. Chapter 28 is a long chapter filled with troubling pictures of great suffering, exiled people, and even canabalism.
This desolate picture of God’s wrath on sin and rebellion is hard to read and can cause us to ask questions like, “would a loving God really do something like this?” or “isn’t there another way?”
Then, as is often then case, God’s word reminds us of our limitations. We are creatures and not the creator. We are subjects and not the King. Therefore, we do not get to know everything.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy [29:29]
God is not saying we cannot ask questions or even lament over the troubles we face, but there is a limit to our understanding and God is not required to share with us anything, let alone the secret things. Read that last statement again – God is not required to share with us anything. If you are like me, then you bristled when you read that. Why? Because we live in a culture that believes we are entitled to whatever we desire. Yes, even Christians can fall into a false belief that God owes us something. Why else would Paul so eloquently write:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?” (Rom [11:34]-35)
Yes God is not obligated to reveal anything to us, yet while this can be frustrating – it can also be freeing.
It’s frustrating because we long to know “why”. After all, suffering and pain can sometimes seem arbitrary or unfair. I will admit these thoughts did cross my mind as I watched my daughter being wheeled back to surgery. She had done nothing to deserve this…right? Even with all our imperfections, my family had been striving after the Lord…right?
Why us? Why her? Why now? That is a secret thing to which I don’t know the answer. By the grace of God, she is now a healthy young adult but in those moments of waiting in the hospital, I could not help but cry out to the Lord for answers.
From frustration to freedom
While there is admittedly a frustration with not knowing – there is also freedom.
Imagine for a moment that God unveiled his sovereign plan before your eyes. In a moment you catch a glimpse of the infinitely complex layers of all existence. Pathways of joy and sorrow interconnect one to another with countless primary, secondary, and tertiary effects on countless souls for billions of people across all time.
To say that you would be overwhelmed is a vast understatement, yet it’s more than just the sheer volume of data that is too much for us to grasp. We also lack the emotional fortitude to carry it, the holiness to be unstained by it, and the perfect love to respond rightly to it.
While we long to understand the “why” behind God’s decisions – we are not equipped to carry the answer. The good news is that God gives us something much better than the answers to our questions.
We get God himself.
Trusting the keeper of secrets
There is freedom in submitting to God’s judgments about the secret things because in the end, we can trust the One who holds those secrets. He has not hidden from us but has instead chosen to reveal Himself to us through His word and ultimately in the person of Jesus. Therefore, we can rest in the secret things because the revealed things give us an understanding of the God who holds all existence in His hands.
Consider just some of that which has been revealed to us…
He revealed his character to Moses:
“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7
He revealed his sovereign care to David:
Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it. Psalm 139:1-6
He revealed his very power and glory in the person of Jesus:
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Hebrews 1:1-4
Therefore, rather than seeing what God has not revealed to us let’s look at what he has revealed. He is a God of great kindness and love. Throughout the narrative of scriptures, we see a God working on behalf of people, seeking their good, providing for their needs and ultimately seeking to draw them into his presence. This is seen most clearly on the cross, where the perfect SLamb of God endures the wrath that we deserved so that we could be set free.
With that image fresh in our mind, we can then ask the same questions Paul did in Romans 8:
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans [8:32]
If God would go to those great lengths to show his unsurpassable love to sinners, will he not also care for us now and provide all things for us into eternity?
The answer is yes – he will.
A Father’s Care
One last illustration comes to mind as I consider the secret things of God.
As parents, there are details of life that are not suitable for our children. A husband and wife may be struggling to make ends meet, but their 8-year-old son doesn’t need to be made to carry the fears of their future. The regular headlines of abuse, sexual confusion, and murder may fill a parent’s social media feed but their 8-year-old daughter should not have to be concerned about all the details of a world in distress.
Instead, as loving parents, we serve as gatekeepers to our child’s understanding of the world. We acknowledge that our kids are not made to be burdened with certain things and so we hold them tight and reveal to them the truth that will help them endure as they begin to experience new areas of life. Likewise, our Heavenly Father knows we are weak vessels (Ps. 1[03:14]) and so he hides the secret things from us while revealing himself so that we can know the truth and be strengthened to endure.
One day we will see it all clearly, but till that day we can trust our Father.
God is ok with our hard questions, but let us not grow bitter over that which God keeps secret when the riches of his goodness and grace are revealed to us in glorious splendor.
God is too good to be unkind, to wise to be mistaken; and when you cannot trace His hand, you can trust His heart. -Charles Spurgeon
Pastor of Church Communications
Mike grew up in North Carolina, moving to Lynchburg with his family to attend Liberty’s School of Divinity. He has been involved in Christian media for over 20 years and has a passion for using modern means to proclaim the ultimate truth of the Gospel.