Painting: Age of Wisdom by Alphonse Mucha, 1938.
At one point, several years ago, I actually started a small home group and bible study called “Wisdom Seekers;” that’s how serious I have been over the years in my quest for wisdom. And yet, the truth has been here a along, in a single phrase : ask, but without doubt.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt . . . [James 1:5-6a]
It’s not that God would discourage doubt since it can mean a person is truly seeking for truth, particularly when that doubt surrounds a destructive lifestyle, an act of violence, or downward spiraling behaviors. That kind of doubt, the questions that give a person pause before repeating oneself. That doubt is healthy and could be life-changing.
But there are other kinds of doubt; and those of the believer who questions God’s sovereignty. These doubts are usually an inability to integrate one’s circumstances with faith or a tendency toward wanting to “run the show.”
Integration, in my mind, is a form of acceptance that God is God, no matter what is happening in our day to day lives, God is in the midst of it, there is purpose in it, and our journey has been so directed. This is a lot easier to talk about than live, particularly when it involves illness or unexpected trauma. I understand, for myself, this is somewhat theoretical. However, I do have experience in deep disappointment and that point of view is also lack of integration (lack of surrender to the moment). It could come out of the sorrows of a failed marriage, children making dangerous or troubling choices, etc.
The second, a controlling personality or sensibility, is equally dangerous (and I am guilty here as well), when we “disagree” with God’s plan and try to move things along. Old Sara (Abraham’s wife) is a prime example, when she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband to have a male child [Genesis 16], in an attempt to fulfill God’s promise for children as numerous as the stars in heaven. This “let me help God” syndrome is not wise. Besides scripture warning us that God’s way is usually not the human way [see Isaiah 55:8-9], the entire New Testament confirms that the new covenant is a paradox at best. It’s usually the opposite of what we think it should be (e.g. turn the other cheek, love your enemies, give the second cloak, an so on).
James (that is, the human brother to Jesus), writes that wisdom is available for the asking, given generously and without disapproval – in other words, don’t feel bad about asking for it. If you need help applying what you know about faith, about God, about love, about hope, about anything that God has spoken to you through scripture, through prayer, or teachings, then by golly, ASK!
And so, this is what I am doing today. I am asking God in public, “give me wisdom” for this day and every day, to speak well and with love, to stop judging others, to embrace truth, to pray for others, to give generously, to trust God in all things. Open the wisdom gates dear God, dear Christ., dear Holy Spirit. Pour it upon me that I might serve you well.
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