As I consider many of the events we as a family have experienced over the last years, I’ve come to realize that nothing is truly simple. Life is more like a bunch of tangled wires. We look for that one “load-bearing wire”1 that will disentangle everything and make things simple. Sometimes – rarely – it is present; more usually, however, we’re forced to work our way though the frustration of the tangle to reach a positive result. It takes effort and time. The key incident in my life that brought this out was an issue with the mental health of a close relative, in which a couple of the people involved each blamed a single factor (or multiple factors in succession to each other’s exclusion) as the cause of the issue. As I looked at the situation, I came to realize that the issue at hand was caused not by a single thing. Rather, a compounding of many, many factors caused the breakdown when a certain circumstance came about. Was it a trigger? Definitely. But was it the root cause of the situation? Absolutely not! And thus, the road to healing took many turns, many methods, and much time. Thankfully, the situation is mostly resolved now.
This complication is a part of the way we were created, as well as the fallen world we live in. God has integrated so many complex systems in the universe that we can conclude that he delights in complexity (just consider the human eye!). On the positive side, humans are designed as both individuals and members of the community.2 Thus, anything I do affects not just me, but everyone around me: complications arise. Then we add to that the messiness of a fallen world where we struggle against our sinful tendencies, the twisted world system and the spiritual forces of wickedness arrayed against us. As an example, if my daughter is experiencing night terrors, the result is probably not purely spiritual, though that dimension definitely exists. It is also not purely physiological, though night terrors in children do have to do with the development of the brain. Nor do they come from purely external factors like stress or sleep deprivation.3 It is a combination. Thus, I will definitely pray for my daughter and rebuke the dark forces in the name of Jesus; but I will also make sure that I am looking into ways to help her get to bed early and lessen her stress. Paul, who healed many people with a mere touch, advises Timothy to “use a little wine because of your stomach” (1Ti. 5:23), making it clear that miracle cures are not always forthcoming. Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” and how he bears it through God’s grace (2Co 12:6-11). We, too must often bear difficulties with such fortitude.
Life is not simple, but through God’s grace we can make it through. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps” (Pr. 16:9 – HCSB) Thankfully, we can trust Him, for He is faithful. So do not despair when you cannot find the load-bearing wire. Our God can handle the complicated. Simply trust Him.
Image Credit: Perry the Platypus finds the load-bearing wire, screenshot from "Tour de Ferb", Phineas and Ferb © 2011 Disney XD.
- 1. This is a reference to Phineas and Ferb, “Tour de Ferb”, Season 3 Episode 10, directed by Jay Lender, written by Jim Bernstein, Chong Suk Lee and Tom Minton, Disney XD, 2011-08-12.
- 2. Tim Keller does a good job of explaining this and its relationship to justice in his article, “A Biblical Critique of Secular Justice and Critical Theory”, Life in the Gospel, Q2 2020, < https://quarterly.gospelinlife.com/a-biblical-critique-of-secular-justice-and-critical-theory/ > (accessed 2020-09-04).
- 3. See “Night Terror”, Wikipedia < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_terror > (accessed 2020-09-04) and “Sleep Terrors (Night Terrors), Mayo Clinic < https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-terrors/symptoms-causes/syc-20353524 > (accessed 2020-09-04).