|“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, |
neither are your ways my ways”
One of the more famous lines from the movie “Forrest Gump” occurs when Forrest speaks rather directly to his love interest:
“I may not be a smart man, Jennie. But I know what love is.”
I sometimes wonder if we really do know what love is. As believers in the life-transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are constantly receiving an outpouring of God’s love. His love heals our sin-stained souls and gives us a new reason for living our lives in obedience to His will and to His Word.
But, do we fully comprehend His love? I think not. Just like many aspects of our heavenly Father, His love and His ways are beyond our comprehension. We cannot begin to apprehend the many facets of this God who spoke a word and all creation came into being.
In fact, God talks about Himself through the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:8:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Just the other day, I posted some of my feeble thoughts about two dear friends who are struggling with the loss of their jobs. I received some startling private feedback on that post. At least five different individuals thought I was writing about them. In fact, the two ladies about whom I was thinking when I wrote that post are not even my Facebook friends, and so are likely unaware of that post. However, on at least two occasions, I had previously shared with them the substance of what I wrote in the post.
In that post, I suggested that God might put us in a position where everything we thought we knew about our own gifts and our own calling might no longer represent the pathway we should now take. In His infinite wisdom and inexplicable grace, God may want us to separate ourselves from our attachment to our past successes, so we could approach the new task He had for us with an openness and innocence that we might not otherwise be able to possess.
One friend took serious exception to what I wrote. I respect this friend though I increasingly do not agree with his point of view. As a result of my respect for him, I want to share with you my interpretive paraphrase of part of what that friend wrote to me.
You have described a God who is not a gracious and loving God, One who deals ever so gently with His sheep and leads them faithfully, even though they may not always stay on the path He has given them. Rather, you have imagined a God who treats these sheep in a shabby way by holding back His very best for them until they somehow are able to discern this new path that He wants them to follow.
He does this without giving them any indication why the path they had previously followed for years is no longer acceptable. His change of course seems abrupt and without reason. He will hold back His blessings and provision until they somehow grasp that He wants them to take a new road.
This is in contrast to the God I have long faithfully served and to Whom I have devoted my life to following. The God I know and love desires me to use the very gifts He has given me for His glory. He has shown me this by validating my ministry in His Name over and over throughout my life. He will not keep me penniless and dangling in the wind for no reason other than He wants me to follow some new path that I am supposed to somehow discover for myself.
I’m sure you can read the frustration in my friend’s words. Imagine how chagrined I was, particularly when I was not even thinking of my friend and my friend’s particular situation when I wrote my blog post. I actually wept over the way my words had offended this one so dear to me.
Having read my friend’s actual words many times over the past few days—and I assure you this friend was far more eloquent than my poor paraphrase above—I have concluded that my friend may have actually served to reinforced the certainty of my original assertion. Let me explain.
There is no question that God loves us with an everlasting love. He always wants the very best for us. He takes care of us to meet our needs for today and asks us to take no thought for tomorrow.
But, from my own experience, I can give testimony that in order to move forward in my own life, I had to break my dependent ties with my past achievements and launch out into uncharted waters, hoping against hope that God would again prove faithful in leading me along a new pathway.
Without intending any immodesty, I had a very successful professional career. It was cut short due to sudden illness that effectively sidelined me for the rest of my life. For a while, I was in shock. I tried to figure out how I could retain my professional standing and do the work for which I was uniquely equipped and gifted. But that was not God’s plan.
Once I let go of my past, God steered me in a new direction. But, it was not until I let go. (I cannot emphasize that more strongly.) It was not until I let go, that God led me into a new pathway of service to Him.
I am not suggesting that God always works in the same way He chose to work in my life. That’s the very point I’m trying to make. Namely, we cannot fully ever understand God, nor His ways, nor every detail of His will. We can only obediently follow whatever pathway He opens before us—a pathway that He step-by-step reveals to us in His unique way.
If He chooses to open a pathway to some new task by ending our long standing job, so be it. And, I do not say that lightly. I spent many, many sleepless nights trying to process what was happening to me. It took a long time before I simply closed the door on my past and yielded to whatever God had for me, even death.
I would not be writing this post today if I were still employed in my former profession. I have another dear friend who just wrote the most marvelous Christian novel I have ever read. I doubt if he would have ever written that spectacular book if God had not closed one door and, after quite a long period of waiting, opened another.
My advice that I tried to give to the two ladies who had lost their jobs was to at least consider letting go of the past—completely. And, in a state of total surrender to God, see if He did not have some new pathway He would open up once they let go of everything that had previously been exactly what He had wanted them to do for all the years of their life up to that point.
Just because God may want us to close a door on our past, does not in any way invalidate what He may have done in and through us during those previous years. It only means that He is God and we are not. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His purposes for us may, for a time, or maybe forever, remain a mystery to us.
I just don’t know because I cannot ever fully know or understand the God who loves me and whom I try to love back in my poor, feeble, and inadequate way. He only allows me to see His shadow as He passes by and protects me in the cleft of the rock. I cannot bear to look on His holiness.
But, God does reveal Himself in His Son, Jesus. In Jesus we see all of God we are intended to see. From Jesus we learn all about God we are intended to learn. And, God reveals Himself to us in His Word. The Bible gives us insight into the nature and character of God. But, I sincerely believe this is only a shadow of who He is. Because of that, we can only know Him to the extend He chooses to allow us to know Him. One day, when we cross into eternity, then we will know God more intimately than we can even imagine.
It could very well be that I am wrong and the God whom I love and serve would not act at all as I have described Him acting toward my two jobless friends. It could be that those paragraphs above from my dear friend, which describe a very different interpretation, are correct—especially when that friend takes exception to my description of what might be going on in the lives of those two ladies who have lost their jobs.
For all of us who believe on His Name, we can be sure of one truth: “Jesus loves us this we know for the Bible tells us so.”
For me, and I hope for you, that is enough.