Two and a half years ago, my wife and I decided to sell our house. We followed commonsense wisdom: we decluttered closets, upgraded appliances, and replaced old wallpaper with fresh paint.
Then we put our beloved house on the market. And nada. Well, not quite nothing. We had multiple almost-buyers, couples who claimed they would make an offer by the weekend. But an obstacle always cropped up, a pregnancy, an illness, a job change, and a declined loan.
We were bewildered. The price was reasonable (based on comparable homes), the house was gorgeous (no bias on my part), and the Ann Arbor real-estate market had taken off like a ballistic missile (houses often received multiple offers the day they were listed).
Where was God in the seemingly senseless delay in selling our house?
Last week we finally got a good offer which we accepted. My immediate thought was: God must have waited for the perfect family to buy, or else God was waiting until the right home came on the market for my wife and me. This morning I read,
“Just as you cannot know how a spirit comes into the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, so you cannot understand the work of the God who created all.” (Eccl. 11:5)
I thought: Is it possible for me to know even a fraction of the purposes of God?
The Old Heroes Never Knew
The book of Job begins with a series of tragedies. Most of its forty-two (42!) chapters deal with ignorance of God’s plan: Job continually asks God “Why?” and his friends continually offer stupid answers. In the book’s conclusion, God never answers Job’s question.
Some characters in Scripture, however, are given a hint of God’s plans, but their understanding of his rationale is a shadow of its true substance:
- After Joseph saves his family (and hundreds of thousands of others) from starvation, he says to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” (Gen. 50:20)
- When David realizes that God taught him fighting skills while he was a mere shepherd, he writes, “You trained my hands for war and my fingers for battle.” (Ps. 144:1)
- Esther wins a beauty pageant and becomes Queen of Persia, her people are threatened, and she realizes she was brought to the palace “for such a time as this.” (Est. 4:14)
Job never heard God’s purpose, while Joseph, David, and Esther got hints. But none of them thought for a moment that millions of people would be reading their stories thousands of years later. Did they have a clue of the hope their lives would bring us?
I think not.
For Our Own Good, God Can’t Tell Us
Imagine that God told Job: “You are about to undergo suffering. Be patient. It will only last six months. Afterward you will be blessed even more than beforehand. And you will be revered by millions of people for millennia.”
If Job knew of that future for his life, he wouldn’t have learned to rest in God; he would have rested his heart in that impressive calling. He would never have said God is enough; instead of finding life in God’s presence, he would have found self-fulfillment in his own glorious legacy.
Our purpose on earth is friendship with God, to be united with him for his purposes, and to believe that God knows what he is after. In God’s wisdom, he guides us one step at a time, so we walk in humility and faith, connected to him, never knowing his manifold plans.
I don’t know why our old house didn’t sell for two years, and I don’t know why we can’t find the next house we so desperately want.
The question for me is connection not purpose: Can I walk with God into the unknown?