Some things are simply too wonderful for explanation-the navigational system of the Arctic tern, for example. How does it find its way over 12,000 miles of ocean from its nesting grounds in the Arctic to its wintering grounds in the Antarctic? Ornithologists have conducted all sorts of tests without finding the answer. Instinct is the best they can offer-no explanation at all, merely a way of saying that they really have no idea. A Laysan albatross was once released 3,200 miles from its nest in the Midway Islands. It was back home in ten days.
The migration of birds is a thing too wonderful.
When the angel Gabriel told Mary, “You will be with child and give birth to a son,” she had a simple question about the natural: How can this be, since I am a virgin?
The answer had to do not with the natural but with something far more mysterious than the tern’s navigation–something, in fact, entirely supernatural: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35; NIV). That was too wonderful, and Mary was silent. She had no question about the supernatural. She was satisfied with God’s answer.
The truth about Christmas is a thing too wonderful for us. Who can fathom what really took place first in a virgin’s womb in Nazareth and then in a stable in Bethlehem?
At the end of the book of Job, instead of answering his questions, God revealed to Job the mystery of Who He was. Then Job despised himself. “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know” (Jb 42:3; RSV).
In one of David’s “songs of ascents” he wrote:
My heart is not proud, 0 Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
A close and fretful inquiry into how spiritual things “work” is an exercise in futility. Even wondering how “natural” things are going to work if you bring God into them-how God will answer a prayer for money, for example, or how your son-in-law is going to find a house for eight in southern California on a pastor’s salary)–is sometimes an awful waste of energy. God knows how. Why should I bother my head about it if I’ve turned it over to Him? The Word of the Lord to us is that we are “predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with his purpose” (Eph 1:11; NIV), we may apprehend this fact by faith alone. By believing that God means just what he says, and by acting upon the word (faith always requires action), we apprehend it–we take hold of it, we make it our own. We cannot make it our own by mere reason–“I don’t see how such-and-such an incident can possibly have anything to do with any divine plan.”
Why should we see how? Is it not sufficient that we are told that it is so? We need not see. We need only believe and proceed on the basis of that assured fact.
Mary’s acceptance of the angel’s answer to her innocent question was immediate, though she could not imagine the intricacies and mysteries of its working in her young virgin body. She surrendered herself utterly to God in trust and obedience.
Do you understand what is going on in the invisible realm of your life with God? Do you see how the visible things relate to the hidden Plan and Purpose? Probably not. As my husband Addison Leitch used to say, “You can’t unscrew the Inscrutable.” But you do see at least one thing maybe a very little thing, that He wants you to do.
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult [other translations say too hard, too wonderful] for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven . . . nor is it beyond the sea . . . no, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Deuteronomy 30: 11-14
Let it suffice you, as it sufficed Mary, to know that God knows. If it’s time to work, get on with your job. If it’s time to go to bed, go to sleep in peace. Let the Lord of the Universe do the worrying.
**Excerpt originally published in the Nov/Dec 1988 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.