Last month I migrated my website to a new design and a new hosting service. On a Saturday my old laptop died, on Wednesday my old website crashed, and on Friday my old email service stopped receiving emails. (Though, to my absolute bafflement, it could still send emails.)
I calmly fixed the dead laptop and crashed server. But when my email service went on life support, I crashed. I didn’t curse or shout, but I put on blinders to everything in my life, and I devoted myself to fixing that system! I panicked Friday night and sweated all Saturday morning. Then my email breathed its last. Now it couldn’t send or receive.
I couldn’t figure out what God was up to, but I finally prayed for help (perhaps a little desperately) and out of the blue remembered something I once heard on a retreat:
If the distance between the earth and sun (which is 92 million miles) was the thickness of a sheet of paper;
Then the distance from the earth to the next nearest star would be a stack of papers 70 feet high;
And the distance from one edge of the galaxy to the other would be a stack of papers 310 miles high.
And our galaxy is just a speck of dust in the universe.
The speaker concluded:
If there is a person who created and holds that universe together simply with his word—like, with his pinky—do we really think we can grasp even one percent of what he is up to in our lives?
God’s Mysterious Leading
My subconscious image of God’s guidance (if I think about it) feels sentimental, like it should be accompanied by Hallmark-movie orchestration and illuminated in flickering candlelight. I think of the shepherd leading the sheep to green pastures or Jesus calming the storm to bring the disciples safely to shore.
But God’s guidance is usually more terrifying than syrupy-sweet. Remember, the disciples went into that wild storm precisely because Jesus led them there: He got in the boat and said, “Let us go across to the other side,” and then he promptly fell asleep.
Sometimes God “leads us beside still waters,” but just as often he leads us into hurricanes:
- The children of Israel suffered as slaves in Egypt because God led them there.
- After Jesus is baptized, the “Spirit drove him into the wilderness.”
- When he heard Lazarus was ill, Jesus “stayed away two days longer.”
The fiery furnaces of life are the direct result of God’s plans. Which is a little scary.
We Can’t Know
We don’t know most of what God is doing, and in a certain sense, God can’t tell us. It’s not that God has quit speaking to his children, it’s that we are children and unable to understand the breadth of his plans.
Imagine telling your five-year-old to learn addition to learn multiplication to learn geometry to learn algebra to learn calculus to learn fluid dynamics to design a rocket that will fly to Mars.
We want information, maybe justification, at least explanation. We keep asking God what he is doing, and then we advise him with better ways to handle our kids, bosses, or politics.
I have no idea what God was up to when my laptop, website, and email died. Maybe to subtract from my self-reliance, maybe to teach the community-value of multiplication (thanks to my friend who fixed in minutes what I couldn’t fix in hours), and maybe I won’t know for years.
But if he holds all creation together with his pinky, and he loves me as promised, then I know he guides me somewhere good, even when passing through “the valley of the shadow of death.”
Whether we are in the desert, fiery furnace, or a rocket to Mars, God doesn’t call us to know where we are going, not nearly as much as to love the one who is guiding.