Most of us don't deal well with mysteries. We want to know as much as we can know about whatever we can know it about; we want to be sure.
An oncologist I was working with a few years ago said something similar. He was debating whether a certain test was necessary or would be beneficial, but then he said, "Persons of faith always want to know. They'd rather just know what they're dealing with; they want to be sure."
Doesn't that strike you as a bit odd? Persons of faith are those most likely to want to know, least likely to be able to deal with not knowing. It's odd because so much of our faith is, as Hebrews says, based on things unseen. Things we can't verify, can't be for certain about, but somehow know that we know even though we have no way of truly knowing except to believe.
Proverbs puts it a little differently, but it's the same thing - God has His mysteries; He always has and always will. And in this thing we call faith, it's God's job to have mysteries and our job to pursue them.
But we must understand that if God always has mysteries, even if we pursue them, we will not be able to figure them all out. That would mean He wouldn't have any more, and we wouldn't have anything else to pursue. So God seeks to disclose to us that which we will never understand, and we seek to understand that which we will never know.
This is faith.
No wonder it's hard.
I think we've gotten less tolerant of mysteries in our modern times. Maybe it's just because these are the only times I've lived in; I don't know. But we're asking the same questions today that persons - persons of faith and persons of doubt - have been asking about God since the very beginning, and we are less satisfied with the answer of mystery.
We ask why bad things happen to good people; persons have always asked that. We ask why evil triumphs; that is a question in the Bible itself multiple times. We ask why we never feel settled, why life isn't satisfying, why we constantly ache for more; it's the agony of the human experience. These are the questions we have asked over and over again and in previous generations, it was enough to simply understand that God is good. If we trust in that goodness, we don't need to know the answers; we know the Answer.
Today? Today, we ask those questions and...without an answer better than mystery, we question whether God is even good. We question how He can be good without answers to our questions. If there's anything about Him that we don't know, we don't know how He could be good.
But here's the truth that lies on the flipside of that, what we don't often consider: if there's nothing about God that we don't know, then how could He be God?
If He's not bigger than our wildest imagination, not more powerful than our dreams, not more gracious than our aching, not more expansive than our horizons...if He's small enough to fit in our minds, how can He hold us in the palm of His hand?
We need the mysteries. We need the things that are still bigger than us. We need some things we can only trust, only hope, only believe without ever knowing. It is God's place to have them, and it is our place to pursue them, knowing we can only ever get so close.