I Don’t Know

I remember the day when I walked among the stacks of books for the first time.

It wasn’t my first time in a library, of course.  I was “a regular” at our local public library.  As a teen, I had logged volunteer hours shelving the books in the children’s department and had become a mini-expert.  I knew exactly how much space we needed for our Berenstain Bears collection and for the rows of Dr. Seuss.

Eventually, I graduated to having my own back room in the library where seasonal books were kept in storage to be rotated out through the year.  It was my own personal responsibility to put away Christmas and pull out the books for New Year’s Day.

Yes, by the time I graduated from high school, the library was a comfortable place that I could navigate with ease.  I had long since exhausted the classics aisle, toting books home every time I clocked out of a volunteering session.

Then there was the day I strolled into the Undergraduate Library at the University of Maryland (UM) for the first time.  (Yes, Undergraduate Library, as opposed to the Graduate Library, the Art Library, the Music Library and others.)

Everything about UM was overwhelming.  There were as many students on the college roll as there are people in the county where I now live.  The buildings shot up floors upon floors and I had to ride a shuttle bus to the center of campus and still hike 15 minutes to my first class of the day.

I had a panic attack the first time I ate lunch in the dining hall during the noon rush.

Considering how large everything was, I should have been prepared for the size of the library.  I wasn’t.  I walked in and sucked in my breath.

I had one thought. Just one.

“I don’t know anything.”

(For those parents of teens who believe they know everything, let me encourage you.  A trip to a university library might be in order.)

You just can’t stand there surrounded by multiple floors of huge volumes and endless aisles of more books than you thought any author ever published and then books about those books, and books about the books about the books and think, “I know everything.”

Instead, you have the concrete physical proof that of all there is to know in the world, you actually know very little.

Sometimes life has its way of humbling you in the same way.  You may think you have a good grasp on God’s character and an intimate knowledge of His Word.  You may think you’re savvy to the ways of the world and an expert on life.

Yet, at some point you have to admit, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know why this happened this way.  I don’t know what God is doing.  I don’t know what the next step is or what’s in the future.  I don’t know how to help her or guide him.  I don’t know how to be the best wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend.

Maybe that’s when we’re closest to getting it right anyway.  Admitting that we don’t know allows us to trust God for the answers.  Humbly confessing our limited understanding frees us from slavery to independence so we can freely depend on our all-knowing God.

As Job sat among his friends listening to them debate philosophical questions of righteousness and God and sin and punishment, he must have realized the limits of human understanding.  It was simply inexplicable why God allowed his kids to die, his property destroyed, and his own body ravaged by painful disease.

And that was a better answer to the crisis than giving speeches from a makeshift podium and sounding like you had God all figured out and jammed into a manageable box.

At least that’s what God said. When He spoke, He pelted Job with questions:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?”
“Who determined its measurements?”
“Who set the limits of the sea?”
“Have you decided when morning should begin and told the sun when to rise?”
“Have you seen the bottom of the ocean?”
“Do you know where light and dark begin and end?”  (Job 38).

What can we say other than, “I don’t know?”

That doesn’t mean we don’t study God and pray to know His ways.  We delve deep in His Word and ask Him for wisdom and understanding.
But at the end of each day, we keep it all in perspective.  No matter how much we know, we don’t really know.  We cannot begin to understand as God understands.
Ultimately, the one truth we need is:
“Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3 ESV).
We don’t know; but we know God does.  That is enough.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

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