Can I even begin to grasp all the ways that my understanding settles in places that are profoundly shy of ultimate spiritual reality (i.e., God’s glorious truths)? And yet because I am often deceived, I fail to perceive just how wide these chasms can be. In fact, I may feel quite satisfied with the state of my understanding of things without even realizing how incorrectly satisfied I am. The truth is… I am too easily satisfied with lesser things. It’s as if in the process of making a cake, I manage to mix all the ingredients together and, after pouring the batter into the baking pan, neglect to put it into the oven and instead proudly place it on the table as the evening’s after-dinner dessert.
I am reminded of Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 13:12: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” I am faced with the fact that my understanding in this earthly life will never be complete. There will always be gaps in my knowledge and understanding. There will always be gaps in my faith. And despite all of my efforts, I will always carry around a certain degree of distortion in my view of God, others, and myself.
Yet there is never a ring of fatalism in the New Testament. Rather, there are prayers woven throughout for ever-greater understanding, ever-increasing Christ likeness, and ever-deepening intimacy with God. God drew me into life with Him by revelation. Do I remember? Do I realize the implications of this? He supernaturally unveiled the truth about Jesus Christ to me. And really, He continues to work in my life through supernatural revelation – “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10,11) Sometimes I act as if the work of revelation stopped after my conversion and left me in the business of intellectually working out the details of my faith by any means necessary: studying Scripture, praying, going to church, serving, being in community, getting good teaching, etc. Yes, these are all means of grace. But often I act like my salvation or acceptance by God is contained in my own pursuit of them instead of simply receiving what He gives and shows me by and through them. Why? I don’t really believe I’ve been left to my own devices in such a way. What soul dynamics are at work?
Well, for one thing, revelation is completely independent of anything that I do, feel, say, think, or want. It is not a goal that I can set. It is not a task that I can accomplish. Neither is it something that I can gain in return for a service that I offer. It cannot be coerced. It cannot be contained. I cannot set the conditions or terms of how it is given. Revelation is given only in accordance with the wisdom and good pleasure of a sovereign God who has complete freedom in how He decides to dispense it. I can only watch and wait for it and then receive it when it comes. So I must trust that God will bring revelation when He sees fit to do so. This means that I must take Him at His word and believe that He is good, that He loves me, that He is interested in the events of my life, that He will communicate with me at just the right time and in just the right way, and that He intends to finish in me the work that He started.
To wait expectantly for revelation requires me to be still before Him and to take on a posture of complete and unconditional surrender – a reckless abandonment. There is no cost-benefit analysis involved, no negotiating or bartering. I must choose to trust. I shouldn’t confuse choosing to trust with feeling trusting. They are entirely different things. One involves a laying down of the will, a dying to self. The other is merely a feeling with the potential to evaporate at the first sign of hardship. I’ve come to realize that choosing to trust God and to wait on Him can actually allow all kinds of distressing emotions to float to the surface: fear, anxiety, pain, impatience, doubt, rejection, self-hatred, anger, and more. And when God is or seems silent, the roar of those emotions can become deafening in the absence of His voice. But it’s never an empty silence. It is always a silence pregnant with divine purpose and goodness. This is the crucible in which I begin to see the impurities of my soul and spirit burn away. I begin to realize that I trust Him a whole lot less than I thought, that I understand Him much more superficially than I gave myself credit for, that my former joy was based on circumstances instead of my eternal relationship with Him, and that I am far more arrogant than I ever imagined I could be.
What I must realize, of course, is that in Christ, there is no place for despair. I read Paul’s prayer for such an assurance: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:14-19) It is at the center of God’s heart that we comprehend the infinite dimensions of His love. Not only that, but to be rooted and grounded in His love. He intends for us to grasp hold of such a love. And we should be filled with all anticipation, as we cannot even begin to imagine the ways that He might choose to bring about such knowledge. But the end result is GLORY: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:20,21) Reveal away, O God our Father!
Categories: Spiritual Formation