I just want to know. It was so much easier when the coronavirus quarantine orders were black and white. I didn’t go into a store for ten weeks; groceries were delivered. I went by myself to my OB appointments—face covered in a mask and hands covered in sanitizer. We declined weddings, parties, and dinners with friends. Sunday worship service, Bible study, and small group was relegated to a thirteen-inch screen sitting on our ottoman. My daughter still doesn’t understand why she hasn’t touched a swing set in more than three months.
Now, as our communities are beginning to reopen and people are bursting to get out of their homes, I feel uncertain about our family’s path forward. At first, I felt alone in this—everyone but me seemed to know what the right thing was for their family. But as I shared my insecurity, I saw that we were all in the same boat. My friend wasn’t judging me for my family taking a socially distanced picnic; she was wondering if she should have done the same. I wasn’t being looked down upon for cancelling a girls’ trip; the other girls were wondering if they should go in the first place. We all are being tossed about by constantly changing recommendations by medical professionals, politicians, and Facebook know-it-alls. Who do we listen to? What are the right answers?
I don’t know.
None of us like to utter those three words, especially during this time of global pandemic. We want to have the latest statistic, CDC recommendation, or facts about a vaccine. I’ve bookmarked websites on my phone that tell me which vaccines are in which phase of testing, even though I have no clue what the jargon means. We want to know more so that we will know what the right thing is for our families and our community. But the truth is, none of us can know what the absolute right path is—except for God. The Creator of all, even the smallest particle of the coronavirus, knows exactly the composition of a potential vaccine, how exactly the virus is spread, and whether wearing a mask does anything.
Even better, God promises wisdom to every faith-filled believer, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). Yet sometimes when I come to God in prayer, instead of asking for the wisdom that he promises, I am actually asking for his knowledge. To ask for God’s supreme knowledge is like kicking a vending machine to get out a free bag of snacks. I don’t really want him; I want to independently come to my own conclusions with knowledge that is out of my reach. But God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t guarantee us full knowledge, but instead he promises wisdom to those who ask in faith.
What is the difference between asking God for knowledge and wisdom? Wisdom requires dependence. It requires us to be content in the gray areas of life. It requires grace, humility, and trust—none of which are promoted by our polarized, instantaneous culture. It doesn’t take long to scroll through your social media feed to realize that most posts are lacking those three elements: grace, humility, trust.
As sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we are constantly reaching for the forbidden fruit to be like God. We believe the serpent’s lie that more knowledge equals more freedom, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). We want to touch the tree of knowledge so that we can be in control. We reach for the forbidden fruit so we can look down on those who do not know as much as we do. We taste its juices in hopes that we can be confident we’re making the right decisions. Yet instead of giving us freedom, our pursuit of knowledge only leaves us alone and ashamed, because we can never really know enough.
Instead of handing knowledge over, God has invited us into relationship with the all-knowing Creator. He promises that as we walk with him, as we renew our minds through Scripture instead of social media, that he will lead us in his wise will for our lives. While our lack of knowledge might frighten us, we can be comforted that our God does know everything. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The hard part is that godly wisdom is going to look different for each of our families. We all have different medical, social, and professional facets to our situations, so God is going to lead us to re-enter society after shelter-in-place orders in different ways. That doesn’t mean that I am more/less godly; it means that my all-knowing God knows what is best for me and what is best for you. Instead of giving me the knowledge that puffs up to judge everyone’s decisions, he’s imparting humbling wisdom that reminds me that I am a child dependent on him.
When there was a disagreement within the Corinthian church about whether it was appropriate to eat meat left over from pagan idol worship, Paul reminded the church that there is something greater than knowledge—love. “This ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3). While we may be tempted right now to assert our convictions over others on social media, boasting that we feel confident that we have listened to the right experts and applied the best reasoning, what we should be clinging to instead is that our loving God knows us. He knows our neighbor who disagrees with us, and he is leading us each in wisdom according to his perfect knowledge.
Instead of responding with fear, impatience, and pride, we can look at others who have differing opinions and convictions with grace, humility, and trust. It’s okay to not know everything when you are in relationship with the God who does. In fact, David found comfort in the fact that God knew more than he ever could, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). Instead of reaching for that which we can never obtain, leaving us without peace, we can hold tightly to the God who gives us peace that surpasses all our understanding (Philippians 4:7).
So find freedom to go to Walmart or have your groceries delivered. Attend Sunday worship service in the church building or continue to connect virtually. Get your hair cut or continue to let it grow. Whatever choice you make by faith in the wisdom God gives you, you can trust the unknown to our all-knowing God.