The Write Place- Curtis Bruce Kessler

August 26, 2011

I Don’t Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbkessler @ 10:40 am

Psalm 10:1 “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

How often do people pose questions to you that are hard or tough to answer? What about questions you don’t know the answer to? You respond with a simple I don’t know, right? I don’t know. Try saying that out loud. “I don’t know.” Feel any better? When I was a young whippersnapper such a response would have seemed like an admission of total failure and by all accounts undignified. Thankfully age and many valuable life-lessons have opened my eyes. I now understand that admitting I don’t know to a question is both humbling and challenging. Obviously, there could be many questions posed that I might know the general answers to but not know the fine details. For example, I may know that cell-towers relay electronic waves to my smart-phone but how I am able to watch video images and receive crisp detailed pictures are beyond my grasp. I know the basics but not the intricacies. I know enough to know I don’t know! Something else- there are circumstances in which an admission of I don’t know can be an answer that is not only appropriate but just plain right. This is especially true regarding the issue of pain, suffering, death, natural catastrophes, loss, and God. Let me explain.

Let’s say a friend approaches you with questions about God. Your friend wonders whether or not He exists. Your response might be at first simple and basic. Your first response might be to say here friend, look at this rose, look at the mountains, here, notice the stunning design of the nervous system in a human being, look at the stars and planets, or look here friend at this undeniable work of history and evidence called the Bible. But, what will happen when your friend’s questions turn more difficult? For instance, “How could God allow 6 million Jews to die such horrific deaths?”; “Why won’t God heal an amputee?”; “Why did God allow a tsunami to send thousands to their graves in Japan?”; “How could a loving, caring God allow someone like an Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, or a Jeffrey Dahmer to exist?”; “Why wouldn’t this God eliminate these despicable monsters before they ever harmed an innocent victim?” You can be certain that many well-educated, well-intentioned, and Biblically armed men and women will attempt to answer these questions with great theological prose. Even though these questions beleaguer the soul and cause the mightiest of men to cry in despair we are really no better off than Job. Job as many of you recall suffered in ways beyond our comprehension. Yet, he reveals dramatically the complex inward struggle we all face stating, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.” ESV Job 13:15. In the end the answer to one of life’s most difficult and challenging question is amazingly simple- I don’t know. By no means is this answer a negative statement but is one of affirmation.
Think of the question “If God really exists why not kill the bad guys?” This may seem like a really cool question but there are flaws in the logic behind it. Imagine I were God (heaven forbid). Lot’s of people would immediately be in serious trouble. Many would be on my ‘short list’ for immediate termination like terrorists, communists, rapists, murderers, child molesters, and drug dealers. But that is only the beginning. I have a much longer list! Look out bums, the guy who almost ran me over, those who have mistreated me or for that matter anyone who slighted me in the least. You see the problem, right? I simply cannot be God. Praise the Lord! I don’t have the moral or holy authority. I lack complete disclosure and absolute knowledge. I simply don’t know. Isaiah 55:8-9 “8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” The thoughts and ways of God are higher. Easily said but hard to fully grasp since we are human. We want to understand, have things spelled out in easy terminology. We don’t want to be surprised by the unknown. Spiritual life is not so neatly packaged. Why did God allow Pharaoh to kill babies? Why allow Herod to murder babies around the birth of His Son, Jesus? Why does God allow the savage murder of innocent unborn babies here in America? Some of the answer lies in the fact that we have been granted free-will. Even though God’s perfect will is in heaven we have been bestowed a powerful gift on earth. Our gift is expected to be a submissive will but we are permitted to act recklessly, rebelliously to make immoral decisions. This allows us in a fallen world to cheat, steal, lie, kill, hurt, or do no good.
Yet, life we know throws a mean curve ball in the face of those who are submissive and seeking the right moral choices. These are the moments when “I Don’t Know” affirms ones hope. Listen- “Then Job answered the Lord and said, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 42:1-17. Many times, the not ‘knowing’ confounds and befuddles us. It’s that preverbal itch that cannot be scratched. Yet, out of this complex struggle we understand what C.S. Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: Harper One, 2001), 93.

Godspeed, Bruce

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1 Comment »

  1. I was recently asked a question to which I would have been much better off replying, “I don’t know.” Thank you for encouraging me to embrace that answer when it IS the answer. I pray for greater wisdom and humility that will lead me to that conclusion more often.

    Comment by Craig — August 26, 2011 @ 1:19 pm | Reply


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