The Secret Things vs The Revealed Things
A daily devotion to help you navigate lockdown
"Be present merciful god, and protect us through the hours of this day that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may rest on your enternal changelessness; through jesus christ our lord. Amen."
"The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever."
I once went to the home of a Croatian man whose wife had died as she walked to the shops to buy some shoes. When I arrived at his door (wearing my clerical collar) he ran at me and took my shoulders and shook me shouting "Why? Why? Why? Why?". He was absolutely distraught.
What do you say in that moment? There are two dangers. One danger is to say "I know why this has happened" and proceed to say something heartless or wrong. The other danger is to say "I have absolutely nothing to say" and to leave him to his grief and (what Richard Dawkins would call) 'blind, pitiless chance'.
The text above from Deuteronomy is the perfect alternative. It comes from Moses as God's people prepared to enter the Promised Land. He was telling them that (yes) there may be things that they don't know but (yes) they have certainly been given plenty to know. And in a pastoral crisis (or personal crisis) let me assure you that this balance is crucial.
We must admit that we are AGNOSTIC about so much of life. We just don't know why certain things happen - whether good or bad - and we have no slick answers for people who are going through such experiences. Why does a young child die? Why does a man or woman get cancer? Why does a building collapse? Why does a person leave their spouse? Why does a son or daughter lose their faith? There may be some clues we can point to but often we just don't know.
But we (who belong to Christ) are DOGMATIC about so much of life as well - and I mean dogmatic in the confident sense not in the strident sense. We are persuaded (from scripture) that there is a God of love and power and wisdom on the throne. We are persuaded that He is working through this fallen world for great and eternal purposes that will outweigh all the troubles - just as eternity outweighs time. (2 Cor 4:17-18)
Sitting with my new Croatian friend, the ideal visit would involve feeling with him a little of his grief, showing him a little of the love and sympathy of Christ and - when he is ready - telling him that I am AGNOSTIC about what has happened and that I'm with him in the sadness, then that I am DOGMATIC (sure and confident) that God is loving and powerful and wise and that all is not lost. On what do I base this confidence? On the historical Person of Jesus and the biblical promises of God.
So it is with all of us my dear friends. If we were to share with one another the hurts and losses and griefs and damages that have been done to us we would all be silenced. We have no easy answers. But we have also been given mercies and gifts and provisions and promises (in His Word) that cannot be ignored and should not be forgotten - in fact they are the anchor we need and will endure when all griefs and tears have disappeared.
I hope you will walk through this world with the balance of "secret things" and "revealed things" in your mind and heart. There is so much we don't yet know (and no-one else knows either) but there is so much we do know - especially the solid rock that Jesus lived and died and rose - to show that we are not victims of 'blind pitiless chance' but recipients of wise and powerful love
And in your care for others - don't fall into the trap of having to explain or solve their suffering or the trap of having nothing at all to say - but bow your head before the secret things and lift up your voice before the revealed things.
"Our great and gracious God - thank you that though we have so many things unanswered, we have so many things truly answered in your Son and in your promises. Help us to go forward humbly yet confidently and bring your love and truth to others. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
God bless and encourage you,