“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
John Wesley once said, “Bring me a worm that can comprehend man, and then I will show you a man that can comprehend God.” God is incomprehensible. He cannot be fully known. We can apprehend truth about God, particularly that truth which God has chosen to reveal to us in ways that are understandable to us. But because there is an infinite gap between the Creator and His creatures, there is much that we simply cannot understand about God.
God’s ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours. Often we are not given the understanding to grasp the complexities of His ways and the purposes of His works. We can only exclaim with Paul: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33 ESV). We cannot fathom the unfathomable.
But this is where our human pride raises its hand in defiance: “What do you mean we cannot know? We live in the age of knowledge! We have progressed to the apex of human understanding. We are the kings of science and the gurus of technology. This is the information age – if we need to know anything, all we need to do is google it. We can search out anything that needs to be known, right?”
Wrong. “His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalms 145:3 ESV). You can’t google the higher thoughts and higher ways of God. There is much about God that is past finding out. We must humble ourselves to the great things about God that are beyond our understanding. We must accept by faith that which is truly unknowable about God and His ways. The infinite mind of God cannot be pigeonholed into the finite mind of man. It is futile to try to squeeze that which is great into that which is small. Steve Lawson (Made In Our Image, p. 43) recounts how Augustine learned this lesson:
Augustine, the great thinker and theologian of yesteryear, was once walking along an ocean beach greatly perplexed by the incomprehensible truth of the Trinity. Try as he might, he could not grasp the vast truth of the triune nature of God. Because he could not fully understand it, he was tempted to reject it. Augustine continued to walk along the shoreline until he came upon a little boy playing on the beach. As he watched the child, he saw him run to the ocean with a seashell, fill it with water, and then return to pour it into a small hole he had dug in the sand.
“What are you doing, my little man?’ asked Augustine. “Oh,” replied the boy, “I am trying to put the ocean into this hole.” Augustine smiled at the little boy’s faith in the face of the impossibility of such a task. Then it suddenly struck him that, when it came to God, he was guilty of exactly the same thing. “That is what I am trying to do with God,” the saint later confessed. “I see it now. Standing on the shores of time, I am trying to get into this little finite mind things which are infinite.”
Whether it be in the difficult doctrines of the Bible or in the puzzling providence of God in our lives, we face a choice: Do we reject what we cannot understand about God’s thoughts and ways? Or do we accept that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours and that He is good and wise in all He thinks and does? If we reject, we are playing god by elevating our own feeble thoughts and ways above God. But if we accept, we are submitting to God in humble trust that He knows better than us.
God wants us in the place of dependent faith. This does not mean that we turn off our minds. We may search Scripture diligently for answers and think deeply about complex issues. We may even struggle with the seeming paradoxes of life. But at some point we must realize that we cannot comprehend God much more than a worm can comprehend us. Then we can reach this conclusion by faith: In the things hidden from us, we will leave them to God; in the things revealed to us, we will be faithful to God.
“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV)