Most of us, when our hearts or spirits are troubled, think that the answer to our pain is understanding. If only we could know more than we do right now, if only we could learn that little piece of elusive information that would bring it all together for us and shed new light on things, if only we could understand what's happening beneath the surface of what seems like what's happening, then perhaps we wouldn't ache so much. Perhaps we wouldn't hurt so deeply.
So we spend our lives in pursuit of knowledge and understanding, even wisdom, and truly believe that if we had just a little bit more of any of these, life would just not be so hard.
But that's not, unfortunately, how wisdom and knowledge work. Not in a fallen world, not in a world marked by sin and selfishness. Not here, not now. The truth is that wisdom and knowledge do exactly the opposite for our pain than what we hope they will do: they deepen it. They intensify it. They magnify it so that what we thought was beyond what we can bear becomes unquestionably beyond what we can bear.
Thus, we weep.
This is truth according to God's Word itself, although I will say that from personal experience, I can confirm the words of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes. Here's how he says it, in Ecclesiastes 1:18: For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Another translation says, With a lot of wisdom comes a lot of heartache. The greater your knowledge, the greater your pain. Yet another translation says, For the greater my wisdom, the greater my grief. To increase knowledge only increases sorrow.
This is tough for most of us to swallow because in the depth of our ache, what we most often find are unanswered questions. We have this human longing to know what we do not know, thinking that it is the unknown that causes so much of our grief. But the truth is that whatever can be known leaves us more grief-stricken than what we cannot know.
Here's why: the more you know about anything in this fallen world, the more you understand about how the human heart beats in its own depravity, the more you recognize sin and selfishness...the more you realize just how far we are from where we ought to be. The more you see clearly the fallen world, the more you see clearly the unfallen world and the promise of God that it was never supposed to be this way.
The pain that comes from this kind of wisdom is too deep for words.
And it ruins everything, really. It turns what our sinful hearts desire on its very head and makes it almost impossible to seek the kind of resolution we dreamt so often of having. Because here's what's so troubling about the fallen world that we live in: no matter how deeply we dig under depravity, we only find more depravity. It builds upon itself and deepens and worsens as each generation gets further and further from God. The only answer this world can offer to its aches is a deeper ache, a clearer vision of just how wrong things have gone.
Every time we cry out, it wasn't supposed to be this way, we dig deeper into the problem and find out it really wasn't, but it is, because it wasn't, but it was, because it wasn't, but it was, because it wasn't...and all the way back to a tiny little fig that ruined everything.
Once you begin to see that, you can't un-see it. Ever. And the very thing that was supposed to soothe your soul, that was supposed to heal your heart, rips it all the wider open until all you can do, as the Preacher said, is grieve...and ache...and long. We long for the day when God sets it right again, when these wounds are healed, when the world is made new, and when our souls are restored from all that the troubles of this world have done to them.
And we long for the very thing that God Himself told us all along was worth longing for, to know the very thing He told us was worth knowing....to be still and to know that He is God.