What if we are asking too little of God? What if we are answering life’s complex questions with our own simple answers, mostly because we expect Him to remain silent? Is it possible that God may actually be closer than we ever dreamed, but we’re missing Him in the noise of our own misguided understanding?
Life is complicated. Sometimes it’s a natural response to seek easy answers to difficult questions, but it’s not always the best solution, nor the wisest.
The Millennial Generation, to which I barely belong, is famous for wanting instant success, immediate gratification, and limited consequences for foolish choices. The ever-growing world of social media has made it easy to obtain instant news, insubstantial friends, and instant snapshots of places we’ve never been before, all while sitting and sipping an instant cup of coffee.
We’ve also settled for easy faith, effortless intellect, and elementary answers to complex questions about life, God, and the mystery of the human spirit. We don’t like to deal with pain in an honest manner because it makes us appear weak and fragile, desperately in need of God and each other. No, instead we resort to posting pictures and status updates that portray the finest versions of ourselves in order to gain the approval of others.
But sometimes life has a painful way of getting our attention and reminding us that breathing isn’t always simple.
The other day while at work I had the pleasure of speaking with an incredibly kind man in his late 70’s about his journey from Croatia to New York and finally to Charlotte. His story began as a fond remembrance, until suddenly it took a very dark turn for which I wasn’t prepared. Three years ago, after he and his wife relocated to Charlotte to be closer to their children, his wife died shortly after their arrival…She missed grandchildren that would be born, a new city left to be explored, and a new chapter of their lives yet to be written. As he spoke these painful words, tears began to fall from his eyes and I could sense extreme loss in what was such a broken moment.
The first response that came to my mind was to give a simple answer, to tell him that he’ll be alright; but I knew that wouldn’t be enough, so I kept my mouth shut and listened. I’m glad I did. This man loved his wife and wanted to share how much her life meant to him, how much he missed her, and how painful it was that she was no longer here.
As someone who has experienced my own journey through a very different darkness, I have learned that there is not always an easy answer to life’s heartache. As my newly made friend lost his words in his tears, I could only offer what I have received in my own dark place: a gentle embrace and the simple, yet true words that he is loved.
That was it. No self-help books, no cheap talk about moving on in life, and no pressure to get over the pain quickly. He was hurting and it was alright, he was allowed to grieve, to question why she was gone, and to share his pain. In that moment, God reminded me of our frail humanity and that we must remember that we are forever loved and that our lives matter.
We ask for simplicity when God often works in mysterious ways, far from the understanding we can grasp. But what if we began asking for truth instead of simple answers? What if we sought after wisdom as much as temporal success? What if we asked God to bring hope to others through our love and compassion, rather than offering cookie cutter catch phrases with zero substance?
In the Scriptures we are given a beautiful picture of how God answers the humble request for understanding that goes beyond simple, hollow answers to life’s most difficult questions.
“At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ‘Ask for whatever you want me to give you.’ Solomon answered, ‘You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?’” – 1 Kings 3:5-9
“The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for – both wealth and honor – so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.’” – 1 Kings 3:10-14
What if we began asking in humility that God would give us discerning hearts? What if we began to ask for truth, for justice, and for the understanding that only the Creator of all things can provide?
Are we only asking for simple answers and an easy resolution to the pain of life?
And are we only offering simplicity in return for the complex questions being asked of us?
Humanity is desperate for hope. We can be a generation calling out to God for discerning hearts, givers of love, and lovers of justice.