Trusting When God’s Ways Don’t Make Sense
God was with us then, and as we stand in the furnace, it’s on us now to trust — trust that God is with us now.
All of us will have moments in life when we feel like everything is crashing down, and things don’t make sense at all. A friend once told me that you have to just keep pressing forward, when everything feels so unnatural, because we only have wisdom when we look at the past.
Well, what better past to look at than God’s word when you’re in the furnace! We will realize, that in the present, in any present, God’s ways simply won’t make much sense to us.
I’ve been reading through plans of the Bible app, and one of the ones that jumped out, to me, was “When God’s Ways Don’t Seem To Make Sense,” written by Pastor Bayless Conley. The caption immediately struck out to me: “You cannot put God in a box, but His ways always end up being better than ours. Learn to prepare for God’s ways of doing things.” This article is more of an attempt to walk through the phenomenon and the plan for myself, as much as it is my attempt to show others what the plan entails. It is a series of five devotionals that I hope will leave you with as much guidance as it gave me.
The first part of the plan, “Confounding The Wise,” walks through 1 Corinthians verse 1. Frankly, the plan is what it sounds like: God “turns conventional wisdom on its head with the people He chooses for His purposes.” Look no further than the apostle Paul, the author of most of the New Testament, who spent most of his life persecuting and killing Christians before becoming an apostle.
In 1 Corinthians 1:27–1:29, Paul may be as well speaking of himself as an example when he says: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
Pastor Conley goes on to say this of how God’s ways don’t make sense, and how he moves through the world with unconditional love and forgiveness: “God will truly confound the wise of this world with the pardon He provides.”
The next part of the plan expands on God’s choice of people, and particularly focuses on God’s choice of Paul as an apostle. in 1 Corinthians 1:15, he calls himself, in verse 9, “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But in the very next verse, Paul expresses gratitude: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” Pastor Conley expands that Paul was a persecutor so strong that he went to foreign cities to arrest, split families, and kill Christians. So it makes sense that many in the church didn’t accept and receive Paul when he was first saved.
But Paul being an unfavorable choice to be a vessel for God is what makes his story so special to pastor Conley: “I love that about the Lord. He uses the unexpected and those we might pass over to carry over some of His most important work.”
In the next part of Pastor Conley’s plan, we turn to the Old Testament and the story of Gideon, the Israelite judge and military leader who leads Israel to victory over the Midianites. When Gideon is first called by an angel to be a champion for Israel, he responded, in Judges 6:13, “Please, my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted… But now the Lord has forsaken us.”
Gideon, a hero of the Old Testament, in this moment doubts, and he doubts a lot. But Pastor Conley says that this doubt is an important part of every Christian and their faith: “Sometimes you need to doubt. Sometimes you need to question. In fact, a lot of times uncertainty is the seedbed from which faith grows.” So if our faith is in doubt, if everything seems to be crashing down and not making sense, Pastor Conley urges us to do this: “don’t panic. If you are sincerely looking for answers, God will meet you, and faith will spring from the answers you find.”
In the second to last devotional, Pastor Conley turns to the book of 1 Samuel to analyze the most important quality in who He chooses to do his will: Heart. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel visits Jesse’s house to anoint the next king of Israel, in which “the Lord said to Samuel. ‘do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” Jesse surveys each of his sons, except David, because his father “didn’t see enough potential in hm to call him before Samuel.”
David becomes king, anyway, because it wasn’t about what Jesse thought — it was about what God thought, and David, of Jesse’s sons, had the most heart. “Only God can see things in your heart that your father can’t see…that your teachers didn’t see…that the people around you don’t see.” At the very end of this devotional, Pastor Conley says that although talent and aptitude matter, heart is the most important part in who God looks for. He urges this to not give up hope, when others have given up hope on us: “don’t let someone else write your history before it happens.”
Lastly, the final devotional of the plan is the title devotional — “When God’s Plan Doesn’t Make Sense.” Here, we turn to the book of Joshua, and Joshua 6, when he is given a strange plan to conquer Jericho for Israel. “You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days.” Although we might think this was normal for Joshua to follow the word of God and march around a city for six days to win a battle mindlessly, the reality was that “it did not make any more sense to him than it would have to you and me.”
And this applies to all our lives, when everything doesn’t make sense, when everything feels unnatural, because “all of us will face our Jerichos.” Even when our circumstances don’t make sense, and God’s instructions don’t make sense, “He has had a lot more experience winning battles than we have,” and the best thing we can do is follow Pastor Conley’s words, not panic, and believe and trust in that plan.
If I had one thing to add to Pastor Conley’s wisdom, it would be this: look back at your life, from as recent as today to as far as the day you were born, and see what didn’t make sense then, that makes perfect sense now. Maybe the person you initially hated ended up being your best friend. Maybe the loved one who did terrible things when you were young changed and turned their lives around when you kept giving them chances. God was with us then, and as we stand in the furnace, it’s on us now to trust — trust that God is with us now.
Originally published at https://www.theodysseyonline.com on September 17, 2018.