There are times in our lives when we are perplexed. We do not know what to think. Something really hard, painful and overwhelming has happened. We find ourselves asking, Why? We feel frightened, hurt, anxious, sad, forsaken, crushed, depressed. Doubts flood into our minds. Is there a God? Am I a Christian? Does he care for me? I can’t cope. Remember God’s word through Isaiah, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts’ (Is.55:8). Our thoughts are often worldly, materialistic, selfish and limited by the fact that we cannot grasp the whole picture. We fail to see the end, but only the point in the middle where we are struggling. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’ (v9). How limited is our vision! God takes everything in at once. He assures us ‘All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom.8:28) and ‘all things’ means all things. We view the wrong side of the embroidery and see no pattern but only a tangle of different coloured threads. God sees the full picture. Let’s look at some examples from Scripture to encourage us.
‘All these things are against me’
These were the words of Jacob when he was going through the blackest experience of his life (Gen.42:36). From a human point of view things couldn’t get worse, but as God saw it all these things were for him and the best day of his life was just round the corner. True, Joseph appeared to be dead. He had seen the blood-covered coat of many colours and had heard nothing more for twenty years. True, there was a famine in the land and they seemed to be in danger of starving. True, Simeon his son was in prison in Egypt. True, the lord of Egypt required his beloved Benjamin to be presented to him before Simeon would be freed and they receive any more food. True, their money was returned with their sacks so that it could be construed that they had stolen the food from Egypt. But, Jacob, lift up your eyes. Remember Joseph’s dreams. God’s word will not return to Him void. There is a purpose in all that has happened and you will discover anew My unconditional love for you. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
‘The arrows of the Almighty are within me’
Job cries out in distress (Job 6:4). He feels that he is a target. Does God not take pleasure in hurting him? The arrows surely are dipped in poison, and death is now in his veins and moving through his body. How else can things be explained from Job’s point of view? He had 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen and 500 she asses and in one day they were all stolen or destroyed in a series of calamities. Then he had news that his whole family of seven sons and three daughters were wiped out in a freak accident. His skin came out in boils. His wife told him to curse God and die. His friends accused him of some horrid secret sin that caused God to punish him. Everyone regarded him with contempt. Surely God hated him? But no, rather Job’s latter end was better than his beginning. He lived for another 140 years and died in glory and wealth and triumph. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
‘Call me not Naomi, call me Mara’
Few women experience the grief through which Naomi went. She left Judah in a time of famine to sojourn in Moab with her husband and two sons. But her husband died in that foreign land. Her two sons married but before long they too passed away. She returns a poor widow to Bethlehem. ‘Call me not Naomi (pleasantness), call me Mara (bitterness): for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty … the Lord hath testified against me and the Almighty hath afflicted me’ (Ruth 1:20-21). Any bereavement is hard on flesh and blood, but think of Naomi’s treble. But the journey to Moab was not in vain. She brought back someone who would be better to her than seven sons, one of God’s precious elect saved from heathen darkness to be a mother of our Saviour. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
‘How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?’
The Psalmist certainly felt forgotten and forsaken (Ps.13:1). God does not seem to know what is going on, or if He does know He does not care. Surely God is hiding from him! His enemy is exalted over him and prospering. The Psalmist feels he cannot go on. He trusted in God and nothing happened. His prayers are not answered and there is no deliverance. Yet in the last verse the Psalmist cries, ‘I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me’. God had not forgotten him. Deliverance came at last. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
‘I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul’
David feels that surely Saul will catch him one of these days (1Sam.27:1). He has had so many near escapes it must be just a matter of time. Saul hates him and is determined to destroy him. But David is the Lord’s anointed. Samuel has prophesied concerning him that he will be the next king. God’s word never fails. Surely God has kept him up till now, can keep him and will keep him. But David doubts. He uses his own wisdom and goes down to the uncircumcised Achish king of Gath for safety, but it is almost the end of him. When Ziklag was burnt and the women and children taken captive David’s own men plotted to kill him. In great danger, David had to encourage himself in the Lord. He eventually became king. He must, because God said it. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
‘I had great bitterness’
Hezekiah was deeply troubled (Is.38:17). Isaiah had said to him, ‘Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live’ (v1). But he thought, I am still only a young man, I have no family, I have tried as best I could to serve God and here I am cut off in mid life. A dark cloud of depression came over him. He turned away from man, faced the wall and prayed. God in His good plan gave him another fifteen years. My thoughts are not your thoughts.
‘Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?’
John the Baptist was perplexed (Mt.11:3). He was in prison, never a comfortable situation. Things did not work out as he expected. Art thou the Messiah? Why do you not deliver me? Why am I suffering so much? My thoughts are not your thoughts. Jesus was indeed John’s Saviour. However frightened, perplexed, depressed you are, remember God knows what He is doing. His word and promises will not return void. Your ways are not His ways, but be sure of this, all who trust in Him ‘shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace’ (Is.55:12).