I don’t know about you, but for our family, the year 2020 was a year of unknowns…
The novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, was (and is) full of unknowns,
Whether classes would be in person or online was (and is) unknown,
How our economy would recover was (and is) unknown,
Whether our country would remain divided was (and is) unknown,
How long the lockdowns and masking will be mandated was (and in many places is still) unknown.
Your personal list of unknowns in 2020 (or 2021) is potentially endless as well. None of us really know what’s ahead for us. I want to share a brief anecdote that I pray will give you encouragement when it comes to “the unknowing” in life.
I’ve shared with you recently that we are in the middle of trying to figure out what is going on medically with our older daughter. Since these most recent health issues have surfaced, she has been to the clinic on her college campus, her primary care physician in the town where she goes to university, her pediatrician here at home, a rheumatologist, and a functional medicine doctor and chiropractor. By the time she came home from school on a medical withdrawal, she had been tested for COVID-19 twice, strep, pneumonia, mono, influenza A and B. Each test came back negative.
Once home, she endured another round of tests: COVID-19, the COVID antibodies test, influenza A and B, mono, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Epstein-Barr, and a barrage of other tests that I can’t remember due to the sheer volume of them. Until very recently she has been pretty much camped out on the couch since mid-September, unable to do much more than occasionally read, watch a little T.V., or go to her appointments. Even seemingly simple tasks like shampooing her hair or giving herself a pedicure render her exhausted after a short time.
Following her last round of blood work, I remember the day before her appointment at the rheumatology doctor’s office praying fervently that we would learn something.
“Please, God, give the doctor and staff wisdom to know exactly what this is, and what treatment she should have to be healed. Please help us to know what is going on.”
His answer to me was succinct: “I know.”
Two words, one phrase. In that moment an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. There is great comfort in knowing that God knows, even when I do not. I knew right then that we would not have any answers from the doctor at that visit, and indeed, we did not receive a definitive diagnosis. We did learn that she tested negative for Epstein-Barr, which means that she did not have mono as suspected two years ago, but that also means that we don’t know what she did have then, just like we don’t know what is happening now. So we do not yet know exactly what is going on in her body. But God knows.
There is a story in the Old Testament of the Bible that I love; it’s tenderness is so encouraging to me. It is the story of Hagar. Hagar was the servant of a woman named Sarai. Now Sarai was the wife of Abram. Abram and Sarai were childless, which was a cause for reproach to women at that time. Sarai decided to take matters into her hands. Read the story of Genesis 16:
“Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not borne him any children, and she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “See here, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. I am asking you to go in to [the bed of] my maid [so that she may bear you a child]; perhaps I will obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to Sarai and did as she said. After Abram had lived in the land of Canaan ten years, Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian [maid], and gave her to her husband Abram to be his [secondary] wife. He went in to [the bed of] Hagar, and she conceived; and when she realized that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress [regarding Sarai as insignificant because of her infertility]. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May [the responsibility for] the wrong done to me [by the arrogant behavior of Hagar] be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, and when she realized that she had conceived, I was despised and looked on with disrespect. May the Lord judge [who has done right] between you and me.” But Abram said to Sarai, “Look, your maid is entirely in your hands and subject to your authority; do as you please with her.” So Sarai treated her harshly and humiliated her, and Hagar fled from her. But the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, on the road to [Egypt by way of] Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Go back to your mistress, and submit humbly to her authority.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The Angel of the Lord continued,
“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall name him Ishmael (God hears),
Because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your persecution (suffering).
He (Ishmael) will be a wild donkey of a man;
His hand will be against every man [continually fighting]
And every man’s hand against him;
And he will dwell in defiance of all his brothers.”
Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are God Who Sees”; for she said, “Have I not even here [in the wilderness] remained alive after seeing Him [who sees me with understanding and compassion]?” Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi (Well of the Living One Who Sees Me); it is between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar gave birth to Abram’s son; and Abram named his son, to whom Hagar gave birth, Ishmael (God hears). Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael.”
I find this so interesting for several reasons. First, Hagar is all alone in the desert, yet she is approached by God (indicating that we are never really alone). Importantly, look at the name of God called by Hagar: in Hebrew, El Ro’i, “the God Who Sees.” Also, notice the name she is to call her son, Ishmael, meaning “God hears.” Do you notice that in this passage we learn that God sees and God hears. This seemingly insignificant servant girl teaches us that God sees our situations and He hears our cries. Nothing goes unnoticed, and nothing is unknown to God. We can take comfort in that! Having a relationship with an omniscient God Who loves us and cares intimately for us means that we can rest assuredly that He is aware of every single facet of any situation we go through. Nothing is a surprise to Him; nothing is beyond His understanding.
We were driving home from a doctor’s appointment a couple of weeks ago, and the route we were driving required us to go over a VERY tall suspension bridge. We’ve travelled over it so often that we really never think about it. It offers expansive, beautiful views of the marsh, the intercostal waterway and beyond, as far as the eye can see, really. On this particular day, we experienced this bridge in a completely different way. You see, it was cloudy. Not puffy, up-in-the-clear-blue-sky clouds that you can daydream and use your imagination to find animals or shapes of familiar objects in… no, this particular time it was low and thick, like a vapor wall. It was the kind of phenomenon that requires you to drive slowly, grip the wheel a little tighter, and pay attention. We could barely see the cars ahead of us.
I said to my daughter, “Wow! We’re really trusting that the rest of this bridge is still here! Driving through this reminds me of following God. We don’t always see the end of the road.”
Her reply was profound, “Yes, but following God, we only see the next step of the journey.”
So true... I'm reminded of a passage in Genesis 12 when God called Abram: "Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you."
God didn't lay out a map, didn't share the journey overview on Waze, didn't forward the itinerary to Abram ahead of time. He simply promised to lead, to show Abram the land in His timing. And Abram followed in faith.
My daughter’s insightful comment reminded me that we don’t have to have all the answers to trust that He has all the answers and that He is working ALL things together for good for us who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
Because He Knows.