Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Be Careful What You Pray For

2 Chronicles 1:7-12

On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”
This inspired me when I was young. At some point in high school, I began making a habit of asking for wisdom, when I would stand out by the road on summer nights and pray as I walked with my head turned up toward the stars. I figured asking for wisdom was a worthwhile thing to do, even if I didn't necessarily know exactly what acquiring it would entail.

You can rarely tell immediately how God chooses to answer your prayers. But looking back on your life's path, years down the road, it is often evident. Now I can see clearly how God chose to answer my prayer for wisdom. And boy, was I unprepared for the result!

I encountered a personal crisis in the summer of 2009 when I read ahead in a philosophy book for a class I was taking. I became upset when I came to a question that I couldn't answer to my satisfaction. I put off thinking about it for a semester or so, but you can't avoid thinking about these things for long; it kills you. At best, you'll be perpetually bitter, at worst, you'll go nuts. The conclusion of the matter was that I spent countless hours researching theological topics on line in order to satisfy my need to know the answers. And now I have a much fuller understanding of these two verses, which constitute the "fine print" to any prayer you make asking for wisdom:

Proverbs 4:7 -- Seek wisdom, for wisdom is the principal thing. And whatever it takes, get understanding.
Ecclesiastes 1:18 -- In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.

I have a very personal knowledge of the truth of those two statements. They don't contradict. Wisdom is a good thing to get. The thing is, increasing wisdom is directly negatively proportional to your ability to be blissfully naive and ignorant. The more you know, the more there is to offend your sense of order, and what ought to be. One of the ironic and scary things I've noted, particularly with the help of Ken Ham and Todd Friel (who partially serve as watchdogs for compromise in the Christian Church), is that when you're ignorant, you don't know about false teachings and various evil things you should watch out for, which makes you more vulnerable. But when you know about them, you are less vulnerable because your knowledge is like a shield, protecting you from lies. It is a tragic thing that those most vulnerable to deceit are those who are least able to recognize it for what it is. And those who do recognize it do not need to fear so much for their own sake, but for others who remain susceptible. It's a fretful thing.

Another way in which I've found those statements to be true is that the truth about history is very uncomfortable. I've lived a very sheltered life by comparison to the rest of the world. America is quite literally an island, and has been isolated geographically from much of the barbarity in the rest of the world. Sadly, things seem to be changing. But those who are ignorant will be caught by surprise. Knowing about the dangers posed by enemy nations, false religions, foolish political philosophies and tyrannical governments give the educated person an endless source of things to be concerned about. Yet it is those who have the most to worry about that have less to be afraid of, because they will, by and large, be better prepared. I feel very sorry for those who are ignorant of the malevolent realities outside of their sphere of experience. But the truth is not hidden, and ultimately everybody has a choice to remain ignorant or to seek wisdom and knowledge. It's a shame that so many of us are content with so little.

There's much to think about, the more you learn. Getting wisdom and knowledge can lead to racing thoughts and vivid fears of the known, rather than the unknown, which keeps diminishing the more you learn. But in all your seeking after wisdom, remember the fundamental truth that the most basic of all knowledge is the recognition that God is the supreme authority whom we ought to obey and whom we can trust. Consider Proverbs 9:10 and Proverbs 1:7. They say that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge." The secret to having peace despite the increase in sorrow and grief that Ecclesiastes 1:18 describes, is to rest in God (Psalm 62:1-2).

As Ecclesiastes goes on to say, there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh. There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

In gaining wisdom, I've found that the Christian life is not marked by balance, but by rhythm. Some days are marked more by anguish over the world, some by haste to bring the Good News to them that are perishing, and some days are days of rest, when you consider the good things in life that God has given us and contemplate the bigger picture--that one day, all of these things which bring grief and sorrow will finally be done away with. I encourage you to persevere to the very end.

If you are not a Christian and would like to know peace in the midst of all the strife in the world today, I encourage you to consider this. I cannot make you convert, but I can point you to the only thing that can make us whole. Please read.

~ Rak Chazak

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