Through a glass darkly

Published on 30 Jan 2019

Can we embrace everything that happens to us as the will of God?   Can we give wholehearted thanks for the good things which happen?   Can we accept and endure what is difficult, grateful even for our troubles?   God is watching over us but also teaching us.  The divine plan is coming to fruition and in the meantime some are suffering for the sake of a great good which God can see but we, for the moment, may not. This lack of present understanding is part of what is accepted in obedience to God.  Now we are seeing a dim reflection. Not knowing why life is so difficult is part of what is offered to God. Bafflement can be part of a prayer for endurance of whatever the trouble is. We want to help others as much as we can but we do not always see the sense of what the other person is going through.  

A lesson in how to treat each other

This is the love described in 1 Corinthians 13. We think of that hymn to love as a lesson in how to treat each other and it is.  However it is also helping us to love God. Love is always patient; it is never boastful or conceited; does not take offence and is not resentful’ delights in the truth, is always ready to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

To endure whatever comes.   We hope that in our life there will be plenty of joy and plenty of cheerful hope.  However all have our share of endurance.  The ways of Providence are difficult to fathom sometimes, and we can feel acutely the need for the promised enlightenment that will come at the end of time.  Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror, as through a glass darkly, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Love is patient and long-suffering but sometimes it cries out for explanations. The will of God must often be embraced without full understanding. Nevertheless, the love which can trust in that way may also deeply desire enlightenment.  If we understood better, would we not serve better and love more?

Knowing our limits

The will of God is always to be found somewhere in every situation. The knowledge that we have is imperfect. God may not have wanted everything that happens: but what God wants can be done in it all.  Is such a thought undermining God’s power? Not at all. It only undermines a tendency of some of us to want to apportion blame rapidly after any mishap.

It is hard to know sometimes whether this particular thing is the will of God, however, and we must in all humility acknowledge that we are, for the moment seeing only a dim reflection; we are peering through a glass darkly. There are limits to our understanding. We do not know what God might be requiring of us. This is true both when we are discerning the whole direction of our life and when we are battling each day to know what to do in the ordinary things which happen.

We have been thoroughly found out

Beside our own partial knowledge we try to set God's understanding of all things. In particular, we strive to take account of God's complete knowledge of us, and his insight into our soul. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect, but then (at the end) I shall know as fully as I am known.   We are known through and through, and this is reassuring even though it makes us blush to have been quite so thoroughly found out. 

It always sounds a little condescending to say of a person that someone else knows best for him or her. However God does know best, God does know what is good for us.  But acknowledging that God knows best is not to shrug off our responsibility to discover for ourselves what is good and right. God knows best, but sometimes, even here, we have to know something also.  The Lord is willing to share knowledge with us: understanding of things; knowledge of ourselves.  This wisdom comes slowly.  It is not that God is reluctant to share his perspective.  His is a kind of understanding that doesn't come quickly to us. We are very different.


Wisdom and love

Wisdom comes sometimes out of confrontation with difficult situations: also out of a prudent decision to postpone the confrontation. 

Jesus' knowledge of us was acquired partly by being destroyed by us. Nevertheless, even for him, there was a right moment for facing our destructiveness, and another moment for preparing to do other things first.  He slipped through the crowd and walked away. 

The Lord is not afraid of us even at our most capricious, and he does not shrink before our destructive hatred.  But, at the beginning of his ministry, there were other kinds of knowledge to be got and shared before he came to that tree of knowledge on Calvary where he showed us how much he loved us. 

Jesus and those of his disciples whom we know and admire demonstrate love in their acceptance of God’s will and in their wisdom and in their patient endurance of the challenges which they do not yet fully understand.

There are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.