(Originally posted March 2017)
There’s nothing like a cool August morning on Lake Groton in northern Vermont. You just can’t beat waking up in a lakeside cabin, grabbing a cup of coffee, and walking outside to take in the crystal clear view of green mountains reflecting in undisturbed waters.
One morning last summer, though, the view was anything but clear:
Thick, heavy fog had completely covered the lake surface, making it impossible to see the other side – or even the lake itself!
When I first walked outside, the only things visible were the dock and chairs. But as the morning went on and the warmth of the sun evaporated the mist, things began to appear.
With every minute that passed, more was visible. The trees became greener and the blue of the sky was increasingly revealed.
After about an hour, the last of the low-lying clouds retreated and our view was fully restored.
Isaiah 44:22 says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” This verse is such a fascinating picture of God’s work in our lives! The disorienting sinful nature we are born with continually clouds our judgment, leaving us in a fog when it comes to right and wrong. And not only that, it also obscures our view of God and His work in our lives.
But because of His great love, we who were once “strangers,” unknowingly “alienated from God” and “darkened in [our] understanding,” have had our eyes opened so that we might be “reconciled” and, therefore, “brought near”*. When our sin is “swept away” by the blood of Christ, our view of God is no longer hindered by its haze.
The thought that I – a tiny little human – could somehow be given a even glimpse of the splendor and majesty of the God of the Universe boggles my mind! Unfortunately, though, it’s hard to be content with a glimpse because I want to see it all – I so want to understand God and mostly, I want to know exactly what He’s doing in my life. But like the clearing of the mist, God’s revelation of His work never happens all at once.
In Mark 8:22-25, there is a story of a blind man whose sight was restored by Jesus:
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”
Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
Notice that Jesus’ work in the blind man’s situation happened in two stages. He was given sight, but at first he could only see partially. It was in Jesus’ continued work where the man’s vision was fully restored and he could see everything – including his Healer – clearly.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
God’s work in our lives is often exactly that – “unsearchable” and “beyond tracing out”. This is frustrating for us, but He doesn’t work like a television show where all the pieces come together, the answers are revealed, and the mystery is solved in an hour or less. Sure, we hear stories of people looking back and seeing clearly how God worked in a situation, but that doesn’t mean that’s a guarantee for us. There may be many things we never understand.
In Isaiah 44, prior to the verse mentioned above, God goes into detail describing the exact sin His people, Israel, were guilty of:
“The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.”
The idols God’s people had chosen over Him were gods made with human hands – they were gods originating in human minds whose ways fit into human understanding.
As author Peter Scazzero describes: “God is immanent (so close) and yet transcendent (so utterly above and far from us). God is knowable, yet he is unknowable. God is inside us and beside us, yet he is wholly different from us… Most of the time we have no idea what God is doing.”** If we’re going to call Him our “God”, then we must come to terms with the fact that He is not required to work only in the realm of our human perception!
Looking back, that morning at Lake Groton was anything but disappointing, because even in the fog, the view was still worth looking at! The process was beautiful and in rushing it we would have missed out on an amazing experience.
Clearly, God is more interested in the process than the product because, as Jesus illustrated in His healing of the blind man, the process involves the greater thing. The experience of His loving touch as He continues His work in our lives will always outweigh the lesser product of our understanding of it.
*Ephesians 2:12, Colossians 1:21, and Ephesians 4:18, Acts 26:18, Colossians 1:22, Ephesians 2:13
**”Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”, p. 129