My children have reached the age when they become perpetual question machines. It’s as if every experience opens up the possibility of ten thousand new questions they couldn’t have conceived of before. Their hunger for understanding is innocent. Their curiosity drives their inquisitiveness.
There are times when I do not have answers for their questions. There are times when my answers are not enough. And sometimes, I do not answer their questions intentionally. They are not mature enough to carry the burden of knowledge for certain things. And they often get irritated with me when there is no satisfactory answer.
Even as adults, there are limits to what we can know and understand. Wisdom also teaches us that there are limits to what we need to know and understand. “What exists is beyond reach and very deep. Who can discover it?” (Ecclesiastes 7:24). Not accepting this reality often reveals sinful pride, and attempting to sinfully push beyond these boundaries often leads to despair.
Thankfully, the Teacher of Ecclesiastes is a steady guide for those who want to grow into wisdom. As a friend of mine often says, “We do not have to learn from our own mistakes. We can learn from others’ mistakes as well.” In the pursuit of ultimate wisdom, the Teacher turned his thoughts to learning, exploring, and examining wisdom. The Teacher was on the endless pursuit of investigating all that could be known. Sounds a bit overwhelming, doesn’t it?
What did he discover? He discovered that in the vast majority of situations and relationships, he was unable to fully comprehend life. In the end, even the wisest man in all of history could not figure out all of reality.
Interestingly enough, he uses the metaphor of a seductive mistress to exemplify his quest for ultimate knowledge, realizing how prideful and foolish he was to assume that he could scale to the heights of becoming all-wise. There is a certain childlike humility that comes with realizing that even our God-given wisdom has limits. Only God is all-wise. No human being possesses the capacity to fully understand His plan and program.
There is good news, however! Scripture teaches us that Jesus is the true wisdom of God; in Him God has provided us with salvation from our own sinful pursuits and the seductions of this world. The one who humbly admits their own limitations and needs is the one who is truly wise, for they are ready to lean on Christ.
Even more, like a loving Father, God has revealed all that we need to know for a life of godliness. His sacred Scripture is not exhaustive; there are certainly things that remain a mystery. However, the answers He has given us are more than sufficient to allow us to trust Him and obey His commands.
It can be difficult to trust God over our own limited knowledge of circumstances. It seems counterintuitive to walk in obedience to His commands when by all appearances, we think we can take the situation into our own hands and follow our deceptive hearts. How sweet is the benevolence of God when compared to the bitter death of pursuing understanding without Him.
Written by Matt Capps