“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33-34
I often refer to it in counseling sessions, prayers, and conversations with friends and family members. The “peace that passes understanding” (Phil. 4:7) is Christian-speak that flows freely through my heart and mouth. Yet, it has always mystified me. How can peace be present without understanding? How can calm come through chaos, or serenity shine through sorrow?
Finding comfort in mystery seems counterintuitive. In the rational, horizontal plane we live on, it is. This world is no place for mystery. We long to dissect nature, events, even relationships, and analyze the pieces. The desire to pull things apart, pin them down, and label them accordingly, rules our flesh. We want answers to the hard questions and solutions to our problems. In my personal experience and in sessions, the pressure to figure out what to do or how to navigate seems to escalate. Our pragmatic selves want concrete steps to take, like “seven ways to get healthy in 2023.” We’re comfortable with quick-fix checklists, but we find no comfort in mystery.
The narrative line of God’s Word speaks volumes here. Peace that passes understanding can’t be analyzed through the scientific method. In order to walk in that peace, we have to understand the wide chasm that exists between God, the giver of mysterious peace and so many other incomprehensible gifts, and ourselves. When we accept the incalculable difference between the mind of God and what’s rattling around in our own feeble craniums, we learn to surrender our desire to understand. That’s where faith begins.
In the book of Job, we’re given a front-row seat to suffering, struggle, and acceptance. The unimaginable depth of Job’s misery has everyone scrambling for solutions. His friends throw out one proposition–that surely Job’s sin has caused the mess. His wife chimes in with a bitter action plan–why not just curse God and die? Caught in the middle, Job goes directly to God and asks the big questions. Why does he have to walk through this kind of pain and suffering? Why has this happened to him? What’s really going on?
God replies to Job with a series of questions that culminate in one truth; God is God, and Job is not. The Creator of all does not answer to his created ones. We are called to seek God, turn to him, and call on his name, with the assurance that he listens. He is not, however, compelled to give us answers. That would put God on the same plane as we are. Essayist G.K. Chesterton sums it up well; “God comforts Job with indecipherable mystery, and for the first time Job is comforted…Job flings at God one riddle, God flings back at Job a hundred riddles, and Job is at peace. He is comforted with conundrums.”1
Conundrums can be comforting when we accept how God works; through hallowed mystery, beyond our imaginations, in ways we’re simply not equipped to comprehend. God’s holiness, sovereignty, and activity lie beyond our understanding. They always have and they always will, despite human efforts to equalize them. When we land in that true, sacred place, we find peace.
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1 A Year with G.K. Chesterton: 365 Days of Wisdom, Wit, and Wisdom. Kevin Belmonte, Editor, 2012.
Crystal is a Christ-follower, wife, mother, counselor, and friend. She is passionate about connecting others with the truth of God's miraculous power and sustaining presence.