I have spent a great deal of time trying to understand God, to categorize Him, to come up with a theology that will allow me to predict His response to any given stimuli. I have failed. I’m not sure if it’s because God is simply unpredictable, or because we humans are too small to comprehend the systems He employs in his decision-making, but God has never been successfully pinned down, mapped out, or dissected. He resists systematic study.
Accepting that fact may be the first step to a life full of freedom and joy. Finding that you can love him anyway–in spite of his un-readiness to be summed up–well, that may be the clincher–the guarantee of a joy/peace/rest-filled life. In John chapter 6, Jesus feeds 5000 people. And then he tells the people that most of them are only following him because he fills their stomachs. He tells them that if they want real life, they must eat his flesh and drink his blood. Most of the 5000 people find this hard to accept and take off.
So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:67-69)
I don’t think Peter had any more of a clue what Jesus was talking about than the rest of the 5000 did. But he did understood one thing, the thing. He knew that He had nowhere else to go. He knew that no matter how enigmatic, how incomprehensible, how confusing or even frustrating this Jesus guy was, there was no one else. He could have certainly found physical sustenance elsewhere, but nobody else but Jesus could feed his soul. And so he stayed.
At the end of the book of Job, after God speaks to Job–but notably does NOT explain Himself or His actions to Job–Job says:
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.
God doesn’t explain Himself to Job–He gives him no laundry list of reasons for all the catastrophes he has allowed in Job’s life. And yet Job, after he meets with God, realizes that he doesn’t need an explanation–he needs God Himself. And so Job takes back all his questions and accusations. God, YHWH, is enough. In fact, He is all.
It happens that God restored Job–He gave him more riches and more family than Job had before all the devastation that befell him. But I am inclined to think that God would not have restored Job if Job had not seen that he didn’t need riches or family or even health to have a life fully worth living. All he needed was God–His presence–to make life abundant. And without God, none of the rest would have mattered–none of it would have filled or truly satisfied him. I think God loved Job enough to take everything away from him, to free him from the false belief that there is anything material–whether food or a comfortable home or even the affection of family and friends–that could satisfy his soul. “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
In the first book of The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis relates a conversation between the children, who have just arrived in Narnia, and Mr. Beaver, who is a faithful follower of Aslan, the great lion. The children have never heard of Aslan before and are concerned about meeting a lion face-to-face. One of them asks if he is quite “safe.”
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
When once we accept that our God is not safe–that He is unpredictable, unable to be mapped or categorized, that He is really and truly incomprehensible (except where He chooses to reveal Himself to us)–but that He is also good, utterly and thoroughly and unchangingly good–it is then and only then that we can begin to truly rest, to truly experience the peace and joy and fullness that God intended for us. It is then that we begin to truly live.