“God knows what he is doing.”
It’s a simple, powerful, true phrase. The problem is that so often I never arrive there in my thinking.
Recently I heard a powerful message from H.B. Charles, Jr from Romans 11. After exploring the mysterious providence of salvation and divine initiative in chapters 9-11 the Apostle Paul ends with praise: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Prov 11:13). Very simply, H.B. summed up the text by saying “God knows what he’s doing.” When we reach the end of human understanding, when we look up and acknowledge that God’s understanding is unsearchable, then we break out in praise.
And yet, so often, I don’t break out in praise. I’m stuck in anxiety and worry. Why is that?
Where I start: “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Often in life I’ll come to the place where I’m not sure what the best path forward is. As a husband I’m not sure how to best love my wife. I’m not sure how to navigate a difficult conversation with my 7 year old son. I’m not sure how to lead our staff forward in a certain area. My own knowledge and planning come up short.
This is hard because this is so often the truth. We don’t understand ourselves or what next step to take, much less where our lives are going or should go.
Or I get stuck here: “I don’t know what they’re doing.”
There are places in all our lives where our next step doesn’t seem up to us. We feel stuck in the grip of someone else’s choices or decisions. Maybe we’re in a conflict, trying to resolve it, anxiously wondering when the next blowup will occur. Maybe our job and vocation are in someone else’s hands and we’re not sure they’re very capable hands. Maybe we keep checking texts, wondering what someone else’s response will be to us.
You begin to see that so much of life is out of your hands and in the hands of people and things around us—family, bosses, church members, the IRS.
Maybe I begin to look up a little: “I don’t know what He’s doing.”
If we are Christians we know we must look up from our circumstances to the Lord. We know God is in control. And yet, we’re often look down and see circumstances that seem out of control: a car accident, an unexpected breakup, a sudden unemployment, a stubborn child, a large medical bill. How could this happen? Why is this happening?
In Romans 9-11 Paul is not laying out the 1,000 reasons God is doing what he is doing. Rather, he mainly is arguing that God is doing it. The Gentiles are being grafted in to the people of God. Some of the ethnic people of God are not truly God’s people. To be sure, we see some of the reasons God is doing what he is doing. We see glorious glimpses of God’s plan in places like Isaiah 60 where the Gentiles will come in and make God’s house and people even more glorious. And yet these are profound mysteries, brought about by God’s sovereign will.
But Paul does not end this section lamenting that he does not understand fully what God is doing. Rather he rejoices.
This is freedom: “God knows what he is doing.”
Paul declares God’s actions “unsearchable” and his ways “inscrutable.” We are finite humans created by an infinite, omniscient, omnipresent God. God’s plans could not be fully comprehended in every respect by humanity.
And yet, in acknowledging this there is so much freedom.
A few years ago we flew for several hours in a plane with a 1 year old child. The kid only knew this: We put him in a giant metal tube that made his ears hurt, that he could not escape, where he could not play with everything around him, and we did this for hours. What he did not understand was this: We were taking him to Hawaii. In just hours he would be playing in the sand, clapping his hands at the waves. I was taking him someplace good. He couldn’t understand the mysteries of air travel or FAA regulations that kept the plane from crashing. But I did and that was enough.
God knows, and that is enough. Before launching into the long Romans 9-11 mysteries and what he does not fully know Paul declares what he does know: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God’s promises that what he is doing is for our good and for his glory. This has been proved over and over through redemption history and in our lives. There are many places to see it.
Rejoice, Christian, when you don’t know what you’re doing. Rejoice, when you don’t know what others are doing. Rejoice, even when you may not know what God is doing.
Rejoice, because God knows what He is doing.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36).