My Sunday School class is currently studying wisdom. I've long agreed with Solomon about the value of wisdom, and been thankful for the Bible promise that God will give it to us if we ask for it (James 1:5). (There aren't many guarantees like that in the Bible!) I've always imagined God essentially waving a wand over my head, imparting the wisdom I need for each situation. But that's not how it works. Just like all other growth in the Christian life, gaining wisdom is a process, and that fact continues to confound and frustrate me. It also awes me, because it implies that God's ultimate goal for His people isn’t insta-perfection, or blind robotic obedience. If that were the case, He could give us all the wisdom and sanctification we need in one swoop. My default assumption is that God is primarily looking for maximum performance and efficiency in my life. But if He expects me to walk a straight line from A to B, why has He led me down a long, winding side road where I can only see the path directly in front of me? If He expects me to correctly interpret every word of the Bible, why won't He just download the knowledge into my brain, like Trinity in The Matrix?
When these frustrations start to spread and permeate my life, I feel like God is working against me, even mocking me. The only explanation is that the detours and struggles are supposed to be there. They're part of a process that makes us more whole and more human. That doesn't make sense if you believe in a God who's only concerned with results. But wisdom, knowledge, and "correct" living aren't everything. God cares more about our hearts and about us as individuals. He wants us to learn and grow in relationship with Him, and that takes time and work.
Years ago, during my divorce, I knew I had to go through all the grief and junk instead of avoiding or escaping it. I even posted a Ruth Graham passage about that, which I still think of often. But I didn't realize until recently that the principle applies as much to regular life as to a crisis. Sometimes we feel stuck in our day-to-day circumstances and become frantic to "get ourselves out" (and our culture encourages that attitude). But if your healthy efforts toward change are fruitless, there might be a reason why. My life isn't what I'd hoped it would be by this point, but it helps to think that God is behind that and has a purpose for it, instead of being disappointed in me for not making things happen. I'm trying to regain the open and trusting attitude I used to have – asking God to show me what He wants to teach me in this place, instead of constantly looking for a way out. Taking my discouragement and frustration to Him instead of trying to bury it under mustered-up thankfulness. God isn't worried about how slow my progress is or whether I fit the mold of the perfect Christian woman. He wants me to know Him more than He wants a trophy daughter. I have to keep reminding myself of that.