When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path. (Psalm 142:3)
I read in Oswald Chambers this morning a great thought about the surprise of God and “The Graciousness of Uncertainty.” Of course, he was right, as he usually is. He wrote:
Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all the time. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief about Him. Jesus said, “Except ye…become as little children.” Spiritual life is the life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. (Oswald Chambers)
Chambers had a way of bringing spiritual matters down to the level of life, of pointing out profound matters of faith in simple language, of setting complex spiritual attitudes before us in plain ways so that we know how to respond. We should embrace the unknown with “breathless expectation” because of God, rather than with dread and fear. That is stated in brilliant simplicity.
Chambers’ weakness is that he did not, in my opinion, have a very strong pastoral heart. God gifted him as a spiritual mystic with great insight, as an incredible man of faith and preacher on the subject of spiritual renewal. Our faith is incredibly enriched today for having his writings available to us.
Yet there is the point of helping others experience the life of Christ. While we should look at the unknown with anticipation, hardly a single one of us does. And, even more to the point, did not Christ himself struggle with the cross? Is the only spiritual response possible constant delight? Is there no place in an obedient and spiritual human heart for consternation, disquietude, and perturbation?
This is the tension of being a believing human being in this world. We seek to follow Christ, but sometimes he seems to vanish from view, and we have lost sight of him, and in that moment the evil of the world seems overpowering. As David wrote of himself, so it is true with us, that often our spirits are overwhelmed and we cannot see beyond the circumstance. Then it is that the simple biblical creeds speak to us – Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, ascended, coming.
In the overwhelming moment, then it is that we come back to the truth that God knows our path. When we cannot see ahead, when even his footprints vanish from view, then it is that we need to look up. Some children delight with adventure, but are usually poor about responsibility in the daily routines of life. Some children take comfort in the routine, but complaint about facing the unexpected. These are the personalities that God has given us, and who is to say if one is better than the other? They both are, and that is that.
And among Christians differences persist. There are Marthas and Marys, there are bombastic “Sons of Thunder” around us, and there are quiet skeptics like Nathaniel. Some of us are steady and sure in our work, plodders in the things God has given us. Others are enthusiasts, capable of seizing the great moments. But which we are does not really matter. The question is whether or not we have allowed God to make progress in our souls, and not whether we sporadically measure up to some standard upon one instant only. God’s Spirit is shaping us into the perfect human, the character of steadfast love and undying faith, unbending commitment to the eternal yet coupled with attentiveness to the simple, earthly, and mundane – the character of Christ.
There is great therapeutic value in knowing and stating the truth of Scripture. When we feel overwhelmed by circumstances, when the right path seems lost in the fog of the day, then it is we need to turn, as David did, to the truth that God knows our path. Stop a moment to praise him, to thank him, to worship him, and do not be overwhelmed with the matters you do not know. Leave them in his hands. There is no conflict in knowing the Bible and following the Spirit – he is, after all, the Author of the Book.