Jumping to conclusions

Businessman jumping over gap

Why would God … ?

Three simple words, one inescapably perplexing question. It gnaws at all of us from time to time … maybe even more than from time-to-time. Our son just wrestled with it the other day when he was stressing a little about whether or not he will get into the college he’s made his first choice … “why would God make this Christian college the one I want so bad and not allow me to get accepted?” In more severe settings, we ask similar questions … “why would God allow the horrific massacre in Nice, France?” “Why would God let my friend have cancer?” “Why would God allow my friends to lose their house?” The frequency or commonality of our asking the question isn’t the issue, nor is the fact that we ask it. The mistake we often make is jumping to conclusions to provide an answer on our own.

This week I read the gospel of John (John 1 – 21). In John 9:1-7, Jesus reminds us of the folly of jumping to conclusions …

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

Check out how Jesus’ disciples jumped to conclusions in this situation. It’s not too different from what we do at times. They saw that the man was blind and jumped to conclusions that he or his parents sinned in order to cause him to be blind. How about us? Have we ever jumped to similar conclusions about someone? Come on now, let’s be honest. I’ll give you a hint … think of the last homeless person you saw. What were the conclusions you jumped to?   They must have been a drug addict or alcoholic, right? I mean, isn’t that the only way people become homeless? NO! (for a good lesson in this topic, read Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski) By the way, when you jumped to conclusions on that, you’re in good company with yours truly included.

Jumping to conclusions happens in the gap between what we understand and what we don’t understand. Our tendency as humans is to try to find ways in our time-constrained consciousness and perception to cross the chasm of our ignorance, to connect dots that aren’t even there. We look to superimpose context we don’t even have to provide ourselves understanding we don’t have the ability to provide. Only God can do that. God has the context, and He has the comprehension we don’t. In the absence of our understanding we’re better off allowing God to fill the gap, not us in our vastly limited and flawed knowledge.

You’ve read what I’ve said before … God knows the end from the beginning. He knows your heart, your past, and His plan for your future. He knows why you’ve done the things you’ve done, how He’s going to use them to prepare you today for tomorrow. And He knows the same things about me, about our family, our friends, our neighbors, people in Sudan, Indonesia, and Scandanavia. And He knows about how every one of our lives interrelate, affect, and are shaped by each other. In God’s purview, none of the circles representing our lives are acentric. They all have a common center.

But that is not to say that we can understand the concentricity of the circles. To assume so is to jump to conclusions. It’s like the example in the passage above from John 9. Jesus’ disciples judged that someone in the man’s life (him or his parents, for instance) must have sinned, causing his blindness as a punishment. They jumped to conclusions as to the concentric nature of the circles, but also they jumped to conclusions about what the center of the circles was. They assumed that sin was the cause and the purpose of his blindness. They were wrong. Jesus tells us Himself, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Jesus knew what His disciples didn’t, and He knows what we don’t. We meet new friends, we get stuck in traffic and miss appointments, we get ill, we get declined from colleges, we go through financial struggles and lose houses, people in far-away countries starve, wars get waged, etc., for a variety of reasons. Most of the time we jump to conclusions and prognosticate why it all happens. Jesus would probably tell us, though, “it’s so that the works of God can be displayed in them.” That is, “it’s happening for a reason that I understood, understand, and will understand (and carry out) in the future.” Friends, we think we know, but we don’t know. Only God does.

And …

Only God can take these situations and not have to jump to conclusions because He already knows the reasons and the methods by which He will use the situations for our ultimate blessing and His ultimate glory. He did it for the blind man in John 9, and He did it for countless others through the Bible, not counting innumerable situations that weren’t catalogued in scripture. God has His reasons, but they’re His reasons, not ours. He has perfect knowledge of things past, present and future. But we don’t. To jump to conclusions is to put ourselves erroneously on equal footing with Him, but the problem is unlike Him, we’ll be wrong.

This week, let’s ask God to equip us more not to jump to conclusions, but to allow Him the room to work and in His time reveal His means and purposes to us. Otherwise, we might miss His blessing us beyond our expectation and imagination (like helping a blind man see) and accomplishing His end objectives in and through all of us.

Soli Deo gloria!