about that bitter wisdom

I pray for wisdom a lot. Often I get it, and no, there’s no boasting or self-righteous there. Scripture tells us if we ask for wisdom, we’ll get it. What I’m saying here is: God is true to that promise. He opens my eyes, usually through reading the Word. And I love it, I really do. It’s one of my favorite things about walking with him, learning more about his ways. Maybe I’m a little like Eve that way, wanting to know what God knows.

Only problem with that is God knew Eve couldn’t handle knowing what he knows. None of us can. Not without his guidance and discernment coupled with wisdom. And that’s what I’ve been running into lately—wisdom I don’t know what to do with. I didn’t realize until just this morning that it’s the root of much of my bitterness.

Pride used to be at the root of much of my bitterness, that self-righteous indignation of, “How could you do that to me or him or her?” And God’s been really working on that pride, massaging that knot away. So for a while the bitterness dissolved too.

Then he allowed me wisdom. He opened my eyes to parts of Scripture and the way the world reacts and defies Scripture. And oh man, what a horrifying thing. When I say “wisdom” I don’t mean 2+2 or how to react in a moment of crisis. I already knew those things. This is seeing Scripture clearly, black and white, and then running head-on into the gray of the world. Doesn’t seem like bitterness would be the common response, but it is, at least for me. It’s a case of knowing too much. The real frustration is when people don’t respond to that Scripture the way I want or expect them to. It’s like slamming my head and my heart into a wall simultaneously.

This is all what God said to me this morning when I was confessing sins and asked him what I need to work on. And when I prayed about it, he reminded me of John 2:24-25 and Oswald Chambers.

I used to read the My Utmost for His Highest devotional for years, every day. I kept several copies in my car for a while to give to people randomly. It’s still the best devotional I’ve ever found. There’s some newfangled translation out now, but I can’t get into it. It’s like The Message. Anyway, I had to do some searching, but I found it, the very thing I read once a year for several years. It’s the beginning of the May 31st devotion:

Our Lord trusted no man; yet He was never suspicious, never bitter, never in despair about any man, because He put God first in trust; He trusted absolutely in what God’s grace could do for any man. If I put my trust in human beings first, I will end in despairing of everyone; I will become bitter, because I have insisted on man being what no man ever can be – absolutely right. Never trust anything but the grace of God in yourself or in anyone else.

He nails it exactly. I want other people to have the same wisdom and then fix it themselves. I forget it isn’t us who fix ourselves but rather the grace of God working in us. After all, when we try to fix ourselves is when we get all mixed up and screwed up in the first place. I’ve been accepting wisdom from God without trusting him to work it out. How ironic, considering God’s beautiful timing even with this devotion. Only he knew Oswald Chambers would speak it, over 100 years later I would read it, and several years later I’d need it. God’s word is a light to my path.

So what do I do practically, on a day-to-day basis when all I can see is what everyone is doing wrong instead of what God is doing right? I can’t even control myself always doing the right thing, much less everyone else. I think that’s what ol’ Oswald is saying here, that last part: trust God, and focus on letting him work in your life. It’s a little like telling me to mind my business or keep my eyes on my own paper. Not that I shouldn’t point out wrongs when they come to light. After all, God’s chosen to give me particular wisdom for a reason. But dwelling on those wrongs, that’s the problem. Jesus didn’t repeatedly harass people to follow him. He told the truth and walked away.

I was reminded of another Oswald devotion, and I’ll end with that. He says it much better than I ever could anyway. This one’s from July 14th:

Never look for right in the other man, but never cease to be right yourself. We are always looking for justice; the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is – Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.