It’s easy, when we are newly aware of our need for wisdom, to become overwhelmed with what we don’t know. We ask God for wisdom, but then can be discouraged because we still don’t know what to do.
But God’s timetable is not ours. He always has a reason for not giving obvious directions, and it is always kind and loving. Today I’m thinking through some scenarios I’ve experienced and observed that follow this pattern.
First, I’ve discovered that God likes us to actually want what we’re asking for. He wants us to seek for wisdom like treasure (Proverbs 2), but our requests are often casual and easily distracted. “It would be really nice to have wisdom. I wouldn’t feel so lost all the time.” We pray for something and forget that we even asked for it. When I am stuck again and still don’t know what to do, I remember that I asked for wisdom before and I still need it! Another sign that we do not yet value what we are asking for is our actions: I say I want wisdom, but I get discouraged too quickly looking for it, because it doesn’t come easy.
It helps me in these times to consider my own children and their requests. Have you ever been given your child a gift or experience that they really didn’t value? Awhile back some neighbor children had these scooters that wrote with chalk when you stepped close to the back. Lee and I laughed when our children said they wanted one. We were not surprised that after a few weeks of watching their friends, they stopped asking because those scooters were not as exciting as they once thought they were. Over the years, I’ve learned that waiting to see what requests are regularly recurring gives me a better sense of what to look for for Christmas or Birthday presents. An offhand request might be simply because they saw an advertisement for a toy or item, but if I keep hearing about the item, I get a better sense of what is really important to my children.
In a similar way, when God doesn’t give wisdom, I feel it. I’m motivated to think about it more, to look for it more. I try to figure it out. I can’t forget it when I’m regularly at my wit’s end. I have to come again to the throne of grace and find the help I need. I read my Bible more faithfully, and when I read it, I’m looking for answers. I want wisdom more desperately. All my hope is in you, God! Where are the answers you promise? I am forced to consider whether I actually believe God will give good gifts, as he has said.
And He said to them, “Which of you shall have a friend, and go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has come to me on his journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; 7 and he will answer from within and say, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give to you’? 8 I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will rise and give him as many as he needs.
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 If a son asks for bread[d] from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:5-13
Because of Scriptures like these, I suspect that most of the time when I’ve asked and searched for wisdom and felt like God didn’t give it, God actually did give wisdom and I didn’t recognize it. Perhaps I thought wisdom was like knowing the future, or at the least a definitive answer to my questions. How could wisdom be so tentative? Maybe I’m not alone in not always recognizing wisdom. Sometimes I’ve noticed when my friends are discouraged about not having the wisdom they’ve been asking for, I can see that they’ve actually been acting wisely. Maybe we need to be encouraging others more, and maybe we need to be praying that when he gives wisdom, we’ll know what it is!
We learn wisdom inductively bit by bit: here is the beginning of wisdom, and here is another part. This is yet another part of wisdom. And so on, until we really do know what wisdom is. The next time you read Proverbs, put wisdom in that framework, and you may find wisdom making more sense. I’ve long wished Solomon had given us a systematic theology of wisdom, but alas! God has a different plan for this lesson. I like to wonder what the advantage is in simply giving us tantalizing details and metaphors. One day I’ll ask Solomon about this!
If we believe God’s word, then we trust he’ll give us wisdom when we need it. If he hasn’t given us wisdom yet, there’s a reason. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about a few more reasons we might feel like God isn’t giving us the wisdom we are asking for.