Two and a half years ago, my wife and I decided to sell our house. We followed commonsense wisdom: we decluttered closets, upgraded appliances, and replaced old wallpaper with fresh paint.
Then we put our beloved house on the market. And nada. Well, not quite nothing. We had multiple almost-buyers, couples who claimed they would make an offer by the weekend. But an obstacle always cropped up, a pregnancy, an illness, a job change, and a declined loan.
We were bewildered. The price was reasonable (based on comparable homes), the house was gorgeous (no bias on my part), and the Ann Arbor real-estate market had taken off like a ballistic missile (houses often received multiple offers the day they were listed).
Where was God in the seemingly senseless delay in selling our house?
Last week we finally got a good offer which we accepted. My immediate thought was: God must have waited for the perfect family to buy, or else God was waiting until the right home came on the market for my wife and me. This morning I read,
“Just as you cannot know how a spirit comes into the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you cannot understand the work of the God who created all.” (Eccl. 11:5)
I thought: Is it possible for me to know even a fraction of the purposes of God?
The Old Heroes Never Knew
The book of Job begins with a series of tragedies. Most of its forty-two (42!) chapters deal with ignorance of God’s plan: Job continually asks God “Why?” and his friends continually offer stupid answers. In the book’s conclusion, God never answers Job’s question.
Some characters in Scripture, however, are given a hint of God’s plans, but their understanding of his rationale is a shadow of its true substance:
- After Joseph saves his family (and hundreds of thousands of others) from starvation, he says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:20)
- When David realizes that God taught him fighting skills while he was a mere shepherd, he writes, “You trained my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” (Ps. 144:1)
- Esther wins a beauty pageant and becomes Queen of Persia, her people are threatened, and she realizes she was brought to the palace “for such a time as this.” (Est. 4:14)
Job never heard God’s purpose, while Joseph, David, and Esther got hints. But none of them thought for a moment that millions of people would be reading their stories thousands of years later. Did they have a clue of the hope their lives would bring us?
I think not.
For Our Own Good, God Can’t Tell Us
Imagine that God told Job: “You are about to undergo suffering. Be patient. It will only last six months. Afterward you will be blessed even more than beforehand. And you will be revered by millions of people for millennia.”
If Job knew of that future for his life, he wouldn’t have learned to rest in God; he would have rested his heart in that impressive calling. He would never have said God is enough; instead of finding life in God’s presence, he would have found self-fulfillment in his own glorious legacy.
Our purpose on earth is friendship with God, to be united with him for his purposes, and to believe that God knows what he is after. In God’s wisdom, he guides us one step at a time, so we walk in humility and faith, connected to him, never knowing his manifold plans.
I don’t know why our old house didn’t sell for two years, and I don’t know why we can’t find the next house we so desperately want.
The question for me is connection not purpose: Can I walk with God into the unknown?
To nurture connection with God into the unknown, and to develop a conversational relationship with God, I suggest you read Hearing God in Conversation.
After all, what did God save us for? To know him personally.
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First off, congrats on the sale.
Secondly, love that you went to Ecclesiastes. Maybe it was your scheduled reading, more providence there. Anyways, love how it leads to probing thoughts.
This is a gem. Quote-wall worthy:
“If Job knew of that future for his life, he wouldn’t have learned to rest in God; he would have rested his heart in that impressive calling. He would never have said God is enough; instead of finding life in God’s presence, he would have found self-fulfillment in his own glorious legacy.
Our purpose on earth is friendship with God, to be united with him for his purposes, and to believe that God knows what he is after. In God’s wisdom, he guides us one step at a time, so we walk in humility and faith, connected to him, never knowing his manifold plans.”
Thanks Sam for sharing your gifts with us!
Samuel C. Williamson
You know, of course, that I’m always writing to myself first. And I have to remember that it is God’s mercy that keeps him from revealing all his purposes.
Yes! Hard though it always is to wait… I have “non tua, sed te” as my phone wallpaper to try and remind me “we desire not thine, but Thee”
It’s hardest to trust when you see your kids having to wait and struggle… praying that they will hold on tight enough to see the fruits of relationship with God as sweeter than easy answers, and not let go too early…
thanks for another good word Sam!
Samuel C. Williamson
You just made my day: “non tua, sed te”… “we desire not thine, but Thee”
Oh my goodness. How perfect is this. After a frustrating week of a series of days full of the ‘not-serious-but-just-plain-annoying-things-that-just won’t-go-smoothly-no-matter-what’ daily grind, I couldn’t find relaxation anywhere. As I read your article, I felt a sense of peace and calm literally flow through my whole body. I am going to “share to save” this to my timeline. The way things work in God’s Plan, I feel sure that others who might not see this otherwise will be blessed by it as I am. Keep writing!
Samuel C. Williamson
Thanks for your encouragement.
I love your description of what gets me down most: the ‘not-serious-but-just-plain-annoying-things-that-just won’t-go-smoothly-no-matter-what’ daily grind.
May you be filled with his grace!
Gadol! Sam very glad to hear the good news and what you shared is so true.
João M. B. Simões
Hi Sam. You’re one of my heroes. This is a good word to ponder. I think it takes a measure of humility to go through a trial and not demand answers.
When my mother was diagnosed with cancer, my dad was all hands on deck in his support for her and his optimism. He told me later he was almost certain God would heal her.
So when she passed, he was confused.
The thing that was a lesson to me was dad’s attitude. Yes, he was devastated, (I saw him cry for the 1st time in my life), he was confused and depressed. But he was not angry at God. He simply quoted David (I think), adding this to mom’s tomb plaque. ‘The Lord has given and the Lord has teen away, blessed be the name of the Lord.’
He loved my mom and they had 47 years of a great marriage. He felt privileged that God saw fit to place my mom in his care through his marriage vows, and now felt God was taking his ‘angel’ back. He hoped he fulfilled his purpose well.
We, his kids wholeheartedly believe he went above and beyond the call of duty, and I was quick to tell him, mom told me so many times.
Samuel C. Williamson
You tell a great and inspiring story of your father.
We are so quick these days to point out all the faults of our parents (thus blaming them for our problems), and we forget all the things they did right. Thanks for publicly honoring your father.
Another great post, Sam, much to be pondered over — thank you! I find it incredibly hard to COMPLETELY rest my heart in God and not in some soothing little promise for a better future (a cold drink after an hour or a better home after five years)…
Thanks for the constant challenges!
Amen! Amen! Amen! (again!)