One of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog each week is it lets me attempt to make sense of my world. I try to wade into the thoughts, books and confusion of my mind and articulate what it is I’m thinking about.
But – in all honesty – 99% of my waking moments I am perplexed about life. I don’t live my life with the attempted clarity of my blogs, but instead am in an electric quagmire of questions, doubts and competing thoughts.
In one minute, I want to rejoin the ministry. I harbour dreams of working in the church again – helping with pastoral care, crafting sermons and helping build community.
In the next minute – literally – I fantasise about getting lost in the walls of the academy (I know. My fantasies are pretty boring). I think about long lectures, months of reading, sweating over articles and essays, and striving to be a top professor in an institution.
Then, I’m thrust into a world of practicality. How will I bring in money? What will be the smart move for the small Suisted family? I daydream about working a 9-5 in the Waikato, bringing in a reliable income, working in a small business.
But why the Waikato? Perhaps we should be moving to Northern Ireland. Or maybe to America.
It sounds farcical – but it’s true. I jump between the present and a fictitious, ever-changing future – never sure where I’m going. Or worse – where I think God wants me to go.
See, the will of God is a tricky subject. It’s easy to write a sermon, or provide advice for someone seeking to know God’s will. But it’s a total other challenge when it’s your life you’re worried about.
I mean – I’ve taught on how Gideon’s use of fleeces was an example of a lack of faith – not an example for us to follow. And yet – when confusion sets in – it’s tempting to seek signs in everything, to over-read every situation, and to live in an energy-draining, mind-rushing state for weeks on end.
Which is all to say – I don’t often think as clearly as I pretend.
And – when I talk to my friends, and we scratch beneath the veneer – I notice I’m not alone in this.
Many of us are wondering whether we’re on the right path in life. Many of us are checking out Seek for new jobs, doubting our current occupation, and living between the desires for a life of wealth or a life where we give all our money away and live by blind faith.
It gives me comfort that this feeling – although it feels unique in a world pretending to have it all together – is surprisingly common.
I also love a few words the Apostle Paul wrote, many centuries ago. Although ripped wildly out of his context, Paul writes how he and his companions are, “perplexed, but not in despair.”
I like that. Paul acknowledges he doesn’t really know what’s going on all the time. He doesn’t know where he’ll be going next. He’s unsure if he’s sticking in his current place – making tents, imprisoned, or pastoring the church – and not even sure why he’s in this place. At times he wants to go places – but God doesn’t let it happen.
And in all of this – Paul is perplexed, but he’s not in despair. He’s confused, but he’s trusting. I really like that. The two are not the same.
It’s OK to be perplexed, but trusting. It’s OK for me to not know what’s going on, but to trust God is working behind the scenes. It’s OK to be frustrated, unsure and perhaps even a little doubting – but to have a confidence that behind the doubt, God is good and in control.
Perhaps this week’s post is a little perplexing in of itself. Maybe it doesn’t have a healthy dose of clarity, or even much of a point!
But that’s OK. The oft-quoted wisdom of Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages me to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. He doesn’t promise to show us where the path goes – or even the next step.
And yet, I don’t doubt that at the end of this life, we will be able to see how God guided us through the perplexity and confusion – making sense of the mystery, and directing our feet – stumbling though they may be – in the direction home.