Written by Lauren McDermott

3/22/2017

It’s Like God Knows What He’s Doing


It’s a nonchalant phrase that rolls off my tongue. A true one, certainly; but I don’t often feel the weight of it. Sitting across the table from Courtland, I pause retelling my story. I often get asked how I ended up in full-time ministry. It’s a funny story, really—full of twists and turns. A failed shot at Hollywood, mental illness, an economic miracle, and a Jonah proxy… God took a collection of ill-fitting puzzle pieces, and turned them into a picture I’d never expected.

So, what does that have to do with our God being wise?

In chapter 40 of Isaiah, the prophet is feeling awe in view of God’s breadth of knowledge and power. He begins with the things we easily understand: God not only created the universe, but he also sustains it. He’s aware of every intimate inch of it. He doesn’t need Google Maps or your Bio text book to be well-versed.

But it doesn’t end there. As Isaiah lifts his eyes, he begins to share with us that God’s knowledge is more than facts. It’s real wisdom—born of true experience and clear judgement. He marvels:

“Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?” (40:13-14).

My first years of college were interesting, particularly in the spiritual department. As I gained independence from my family, I began to doubt that the words of Scripture were true. God seemed to be the opposite of wise! Given life as I experienced it, he seemed completely lacking in understanding. Why give him any thought at all as I decided my future?

So when a role in a popular TV show came my way, my path out of college seemed clear. Who cared that the content would contradict my Baptist upbringing. It would make for a more interesting life story.

After making the long drive to L.A., I found myself in an exciting world surrounded by people who would affirm what I wanted for myself. My pride, my sexuality, my aspirations of fame… So when it ended, I was confused and swimming in a sadness I’d never known before. A dream, now dead.

In retrospect, God showed me his wisdom that day. A place in show business couldn’t have truly fulfilled my desires—whether holy or worldly. As Tim Keller aptly explains, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear.” Had life followed my counsel, I would have quickly found myself in a place destined to feed my rebellion and waste me away; teaching me to use others for my own gain in the process. It was truly an act of grace when God took me away from that path. But why did it take so long to see it that way?

Isaiah makes another thing clear. God doesn’t just know the real nature of the world. He knows the real nature of us. The prophet continues:

“He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God’?”

I’ve been the person that Isaiah describes, thinking in darker moments, “God doesn’t see me anyway, I’m on my own.”

What is farther from the truth? As I continued away from Hollywood and back to University, I walked a path of discovery that seemed at first to be disjointed. It’s a long story; you can ask me sometime. But, on graduation day I found myself with a collection of odd skills, firsthand knowledge of the living God, and a choice ahead of me. God had been chasing me, so to speak. I had a ticket to grad school. But the ministers around me had been telling me for months to do something different, and it had been in my dreams too.

Give up professional school and become a missionary. A campus missionary. With InterVarsity.

Not exactly the lucrative decision which a portion of my family—that had funded my education—was hoping for. It was strange, though, the way that it called to something deep within my being. If I had learned one thing over those years, it was that often God’s way seemed less inviting at first, and turned out to be most fulfilling in the end. But why?

I can tell you why. Keller goes on to say, “…to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” He knew me. More intimately than I knew myself. And in our modern sociopolitical climate that preaches self-knowledge as ultimate, that is a hard thing to admit.

God’s wisdom doesn’t stop at an invisible fence surrounding your person. It continues into the depths of you: your heart, your dreams, your gifts, your future. As Meister Eckhart proclaimed, “God is closer to me than I am myself.”

It was on that fact that I banked my decision. Maybe it didn’t make sense, but if God was calling me into it, he must know something I didn’t.

“It’s like God knows what he’s doing.” That’s how I explain it—only because I rarely feel I have enough time or words to fully explain the way I feel seen by God. How he miraculously managed to weave my disparate interests and knowledges and history of suffering together into a profession perfectly suited to me. Both in my future and my present. It’s his glorious wisdom at work. And it operated on a level much higher than I do myself.

So let me end with words from Scripture (better than any I can find, for sure.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.”

Let’s trust him in that. When he calls us to walk on water, or take a risk for the sake of Christ, it’s not because he’s ignorant of the way the world works. He’s not crazy. He’s incredible, with wisdom we will never know, and grace we will never exhaust.

Step out of the boat. You won’t believe what happens when you do.

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Lauren is a campus missionary on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As a part of Reality Church Stockton for the past five years, she has served with the Music Ministry and in connecting college students to the local church. In her spare time, she enjoys challenging theological conversation, cats, and psychologically intense movies.