I always find it fascinating, hearing from those who have read my book, “Light through the Cracks“.

Frequently, I hear something along these lines: “Wow! If God has done it for these people, maybe he can do it for me and my loved ones too?”

But I also sometimes hear this: “I just don’t get it! If God did it for these people, why has he not done it for me and my loved ones too?”

The first of these reactions focuses on God’s goodness and sovereignty; it is filled with faith and expectancy. The other one often comes out of a place of hurt, doubt and disappointment; it is filled with lament and pain.

Neither is inherently wrong, but I have to address them differently – while reminding people that my aim is to focus on ‘how’ God breaks in when life turns tough, and to leave the ‘why‘ to others with rather more expertise in this area than me1.

But I also want to honour those who ask me ‘why‘. So, this month, I’ve been giving fresh thought to a lovely little Bible verse, which I long ago memorised, but rarely bring to mind.

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  • A lovely little verse

Deuteronomy contains the longest sermon in the Bible and, tucked in, right near the end of it, is this:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

(Deuteronomy 29:29)

The context of this verse is that God’s people are on the verge of emerging out of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and entering into the Promised Land.

Moses is speaking to them for one last time, knowing that he will soon go to be with the Lord. He is reminding them that there are two ways to live, and the future of their nation depends on which one they choose: Will they obey God and experience his blessings? Or will they disobey God and experience the opposite?

If I was standing in that vast crowd, listening to Moses, I’d probably be wondering what the future might hold: Which way to live will we follow? What will happen to our nation? What kind of world will our children and grandchildren inherit?

It is against this backdrop that Moses says:

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

(Deuteronomy 29:29)

The truth of this verse is so simple, but let’s unpack it a bit:

  • “The secret things belong to the Lord our God”

There are some things that belong to God; things that he keeps secret; things that we will never understand. It’s not our job to try and pry open a door that God is keeping closed.

This means, as Christians, we should expect to face questions in life, for which we don’t have the answers. In these situations, it’s absolutely OK to say, “I don’t know”.

This includes many of the ‘why’ questions: Why has this illness happened? Why did my loved one have to go through that dreadful event? Why did God take such a precious person so prematurely? Why, God, why?

When I get asked these things, my response is often, “I don’t know”.

The reality is that the secret things belong to the Lord, and our faith in God shouldn’t be shaken because of the fact he keeps some things hidden from us. There will always be things in life that are baffling; things that are unsettling; things that make no sense. But we mustn’t let these things frustrate us or lead us into despair.

Faith in Jesus bows before the mystery of the things that God has kept secret. It trusts him in the middle of the ‘not knowing’.

  • “The things revealed belong to us and to our children forever”

By contrast, there are some things that God has revealed; things that we can grasp; things that make sense. These things belong to us. They are things that God gives us, so that we will faithfully follow him, even when we find ourselves perplexed by the things that make no sense.

They are revealed to us, so that we remember God’s goodness and sovereignty; so that we stand firm through every circumstance of life. It is why the Bible says, “We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

It means that when painful things happen, when we are asking all the ‘why’ questions, and when we have no answers, we can know that: “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) And: “Our troubles are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Faith in Jesus stands firm on the promise of the things that God has revealed. It trusts him in the truth.  

  • Learning to discern

As we learn to listen to God, searching the Scriptures, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and speak to us, that’s when we will our ability to discern between the secret things and the things revealed.

Our recognition of God’s truth will grow. Our love for God will deepen. Our understanding of God will increase. Our faith in God will be stretched and strengthened.

I think it’s safe to say that we will never be shown all the secret things that belong to the Lord, but we will be shown exactly what we need to know, at the right time and in the right way, when we need to know it.

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of his law.”

(Deuteronomy 29:29)

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As you ponder this ‘thought for the month’ reflection, I’ve got three threads of thought for you to consider:

  1. What things has God revealed to you, as belonging to us and our children forever? How did you discover these? What would you recommend to other people do to find them?
  2. Equally, what things have you discovered to be ones that are secret, because they belong only to God? How did this make you feel? How have you handled the ‘not knowing’?
  3. Finally, if you have read my book, which of the two responses most resonates with you, and why? Did it fill you with faith and expectancy for what God could do? Or with lament and pain for what he hasn’t done yet?

As ever, constructive comments are welcome below!

(Please note: This is my ‘thought for the month’ reflection for April. You can find all my ‘thought for the month’ reflections here.)

Photo from Manfred Richter via Pixabay.

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  1. There are plenty of other authors who have written really good books about ‘why’, some of which are listed in the ‘further reading’ section at the back of my book. ↩︎
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4 Comments

  1. Reminds me of when my eldest was three, he said something that stuck with me so deeply and has held me through many challenges since. I’m not sure he realised the profundity of his comment (!): ‘Mummy, you don’t know the answers to the ‘why’ questions. Daddy doesn’t know the answers to the ‘why’ questions. Only God knows the answers to the ‘why’ questions’

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      What profound insight from a three-year-old! Thank you, Anna, for sharing this amazing memory.

  2. I was reminded of the man whose sight Jesus healed. He didn’t know who Jesus was, or whether he was a righteous man or a sinner. But he repled to the questioning Jews, “Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      Thanks Arnold! This is an insightful parallel. I’m sure we can all learn from the man in this story – so when we’re confronted with things we don’t know, let’s respond by stating the things we do know.

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