Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
Isaiah 40 has been a beacon of light to me during 2020. In the ESV bible, the title of this chapter is Comfort for God’s People. From a historical perspective, the author did have an immediate audience in desperate need of strength and endurance. Well that describes how I’ve felt since the spring of 2020 – in constant desperate need of strength and endurance.
There are multiple portions of Isaiah 40 that spoke powerfully to me. It was no surprise though that one of the main truths that carried me throughout the year is the greatness of our God and the fullness of His knowledge. Isaiah 40 was a reminder that there is absolutely nothing that God does not know. Unlike me, He does not need anybody to teach Him anything. The psalmist describes God’s understanding as infinite or beyond measure (Psalm 147:5) He who put the stars in their place surely does not need my opinion on how to run the world. (Yes, there were times when I made suggestions). My role as His child, is to trust my Father who lacks nothing at all.
There is something (or someone) else in my current situation that God used to deepen my faith in the fullness of His knowledge. As some of you know, my husband and I are taking care of an elderly parent who has dementia. My mom is definitely still the kind and pleasant woman she has always been, but her thought patterns are very different now. There are days when her mental framework is very fragmented, able to process only bits and pieces of information. She may ask about something totally random, like a classmate from her high school days or a dish from our native land. Every now and then she would insist on doing something that is no longer safe for her and these are the waters we tread carefully. Overall, I find myself becoming more selective of what I relay to her, not because I’m keeping any truth from her but simply because she no longer has the full capacity to handle what she could handle before. I have to consider, will this be helpful to her or will this confuse and overwhelm her?
One night it suddenly occurred to me, that this must be what it looks like as far as the fullness of God’s knowledge and the fragments of mine. I am His creation and child, to whom He has graciously imparted everything I need for me to love Him back and live for Him daily. As 2 Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godlinessthrough the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence”. But compared to His knowledge, mine are bits and pieces, like an unfinished puzzle.
I frequently find myself telling my mom things like, “It’s okay, you don’t have to think about that anymore.” Or “You don’t have to worry about this. I’ll do this for you.” Or “Let me take charge of this so that you don’t get stressed about having to remember.” Similarly, I know that God also gives me only what I can handle. He does not withhold out of cruelty but out of love. Because in reality, there are times (perhaps many times) when I do not know what I do not know.
The only appropriate response to this truth is humility. Humility that leads us to surrender the bits and pieces that we hold and worship Him whose greatness Isaiah proclaimed. Humility that creates that holy discontent – that thirst, that draws us to drink of the Living Waters (John 4:14). Humility that opens the eyes of our hearts to the truth that nowhere could strength and endurance be found apart from Him who endured the suffering that should have been ours (Isaiah 53:4).
There is one book that I read twice in 2020 and I highly recommend it. The title is “Awe: Why it matters for everything we think, say or do”, written by Paul David Tripp. My husband and I read through it together while traveling in New Zealand in February (right before the lockdown!). I picked it up again and studied it throughout the fall, via weekly zoom meetings with a group of ladies from our church. In this book, the author presents Isaiah 40 not only as comfort literature but worldview literature. And I can see why, because the greatness of God and the fullness of His knowledge ought to be THE focal point, THE lens through which we view all things – suffering included. How foolish of me to settle for distorted lenses that exalted the bits and pieces that I know.
I pray that we would face this new year with God-given lenses of faith. I plead for grace to lay aside our fragmented perspective of what normal should be or how the world should look in 2021. After all, the source of all comfort, the source of all strength and endurance remains All-Powerful, All-Present and All-Knowing. He is unchanging and He is my Father who is Sovereign yesterday, today and tomorrow. Happy New Year!
To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name;
by the greatness of his might
and because he is strong in power,
not one is missing.