“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways!” Romans 11:33 NLT
In 2017, George Barna did a survey where he asked about phrases commonly thought to be in the Bible. Among them were:
God helps those who help themselves.
To thine own self be true.
And this one that stumped nearly everyone surveyed:
God works in mysterious ways.
None of these are found in the word of God. But don’t feel bad if that last one fooled you. It comes from the famous English poet William Cowper who, in a fit of despair and deep depression, tried to end his own life. That gloomy night in 1763, he wanted to drown himself in the Thames (tide was too low), hang himself (the rope broke), and poison himself with laudanum (he couldn’t raise his hand to his mouth).
Finally, Cowper decided that he was supposed to continue to live for reasons unknown to himself. Later, he met another man who had experienced those same depths of misery and hopelessness and yet, had found profound hope in Christ. That man’s name was John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace. Newton encouraged Cowper to express his faith through the writing of a hymn. That hymn became the source of the phrase mentioned above. The hymn is titled, God moves in a Mysterious Way. Its first couplet is perhaps the most famous and endearing:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Recently in church, we sang the song, Way Maker. As a worship drummer, I enjoy playing the song but thought it to be somewhat simple and repetitious, not profound theology, to be sure. However, as we played and sang it that Sunday, the following line from the song became what is described as an earworm; ringing in my mind for nearly the next week:
Even when I don’t see it, You’re working
Even when I don’t feel it, You’re working
You never stop, never stop working.
It occurs to me (and perhaps not only me) that this is the quintessential essence of my faith. Verses like “We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor 5:7) take on new meaning with the understanding that God is always working even though he takes no time to explain it to us. Hebrews 11:6 takes on a deeper significance. Romans 1:17 bursts into our consciousness like a tidal wave of fresh understanding. We don’t always understand what God is doing, but He is always working. If He were to tell us, we wouldn’t believe it (Habakkuk 1:5). This mysterious part of our walk becomes especially meaningful when we suffer disappointment or even when tragedy strikes. Perhaps Joseph said it best: “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:19)
Trust the invisible God,