Today’s devotional reading starts out with this statement: “The only thing that can bring unfailing joy to the soul is to understand and know God. Everything for us depends on what He is.”
Pondering this, I thought of the unhappy Christians that I’ve encountered in the past few weeks. Some of them seem to live as if God is cruel and wicked, not good and loving. Everything that God has provided for them is never enough. They are dissatisfied and grumbling.
This makes sense if God were really a bad God. After all, a child born to an alcoholic would find little joy in life for fear that parent would ruin everything at any minute. Nothing they have or own would mean much if it could be destroyed or taken from them by booze and careless living.
It would be the same for me if I thought I was under the dominion of a god who is mean and selfish. I’d think of myself as helpless and hopeless. I might even think that everything I am and have is more important than knowing such a deity. My ideas about life, my money and possessions, everything I am and have would take priority over knowing the true God.
But this is not so. Jeremiah 9:23-24 remind me of what the Lord says, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight.”
Any dependence on my own ideas, or on any power that I may have, or the money in my bank account melt in comparison to the wisdom, power, and wealth of knowing God. He is wiser than I am, even at my best. He is far more powerful, governing my life and all that happens to me in goodness and love. He owns all things and gives me whatever I need, exactly when I need it. None of my resources measure up to Him.
I didn’t always know this. Most of my life, up until I was nearly thirty, was spent without hardly ever thinking of God. My delight was in myself, what I had, and whatever I thought was good about me. Then Jesus came in and gave me eternal life. He describes what this means in John 17:3 as He prays to His Father, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Knowing God through Jesus Christ changed everything. Oh, of course I didn’t know that in the beginning of my relationship with Him; I hardly knew Him at all. However, as the years go by and as I spend time in His presence, I am getting to know Him better. I know now that all that I gloried in back then is totally worthless compared to knowing Him. I also know that He wants the best for me and I can trust Him with my life and the events of life. He loves me and has great plans for me. He is wise, and good, and powerful. His resources are unlimited.
I look back with sorrow on the times that I’ve grumbled and been unhappy with my lot in life. I regret not seeing the hand of God in all things. I better understand now His purposes in allowing such things to happen to me and can thank Him for the tough times.
What made the difference? I think it is simply this—I now know Him better. He isn’t mean; He wants the best for me. Sometimes the best can only come when I’ve learned hard lessons. Sometimes the best comes when I’ve learned to trust Him during the worst.
Like the father in yesterday’s story (who loved his baby girl no matter how little she cared about him), God loves me and cares for me like that father cares for his child. I don’t always understand some of the things that He does or that He allows in my life, but I do know that He is not mean, cruel, unthinking, or worthy of any griping and whining on my part.
Instead, He asks me to trust Him and rejoice always. I’m starting to see that the only way I can do that is by truly knowing Him.