We all want to know the right answer. Whether it is a student in school, or a businessman evaluating a new investment opportunity, or a mom trying to raise her child, or a Christian looking for direction in choices they are facing, we all desire to know what would be the best thing to do. We want to know what will give us what we want, and we want to know clearly and without any doubt.
Does God provide such clarity to those who pray and seek him?
There is an insightful story about the former nun known as Mother Theresa, who responded to a priest who was struggling with what next to do with his life and ministry. He came to visit her in India and asked that she pray for him so that God would grant him clarity in what to do. She refused.
Apparently she disputed his observation that she seemed to always have clarity in following God in her life. She was unwilling to ask God to give this man anything that would remove the need to living by faith. Clarity was one thing she would not seek.
I would suggest that she was on to something very important about the Christian walk, but only partly correct regarding clarity, because the Bible specifically states that God does provide clarity! Consider the following passages:
“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic 6:8)
Scripture declares that God has made his expectations of what he requires of believers clear. How has he “showed you”…through revealed and recorded Scripture. The Bible provides complete and irrefutable clarity in what it states.
Consider, however, that not every word of God has been recorded. As John states in his gospel account, that there would not be books enough to record all that Jesus said and did, but that what he chose to record (by the leading of the Spirit) was what was needed to provide sufficient clarity so that a person could believe.
God declares that his recorded words are truth itself, they are living and and have life-giving power, and they can never disappear. By divine pronouncement, the Bible cannot be lost, nor its clarity distorted. The word of God provides complete clarity in what it states.
This trustworthiness in biblical preservation is the basis for why a Christian can rely on Scripture and what is says without doubt. To be sure, many have tried to distort translations of the Bible, but God sustains his truth so that his revealed words can always be found somewhere, although it is not likely to be in any physical entity like one translation, one book, or one church (like many cults like to claim). This makes a faithful Christian dependent upon the Holy Spirit, as a born-again believer who strives to live by the Spirit and not by fleshly methods, to recognize and understand the clear truth found in Scripture.
This truth, is not just some secret clarity for special inductees. This level of clarity is global and universal:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Rom 1:18-20)
Everything in this physical life points humans toward God. He has made “what may be known about God” clear. He can be recognized and understood with such complete clarity “that men are without excuse” for rejecting him.
Scripture declares that God can be known by humans with clarity because he has made himself plain through the evidence that we can see and measure. He has also made his expectations completely clear by his recorded words in the Bible, so that every person can be able to discover with clarity what is expected of them. In these details, it is right and even expected that everyone seek such clarity.
God does make some things absolutely, and irrefutably clear. It is right to seek such clarity, and even to pray for others that they too may come to recognize this clarity that God has provided to those who seek, ask, and knock!
However, clarity in everything would remove any need for faith and that God will not allow. Per God’s own words: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God”. God refuses to allow clarity beyond the above noted details. God wants humans to seek him, but not to demand beyond what he decides to reveal.
There are some things that God wants us to both seek and to find. Those things are the clarity that we ought to persistently seek to know and passionately pray for.
“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings”. (Pro 25:2)
God delights in hide-and-seek with his children. He loves it when we desire to find what he has hidden. Those who seek such details and truths honor the glory of God, and they gain the blessed glory like a king. He wants you and me to find him, to know his goodness, to relish his love and his comforting presence, to trust in his promises, and to long for his coming and our resurrection to eternity with him. He also wants you to desire to know how to live like him, to imitate him, to honor and please him, to seek the leading of his Spirit without demanding satisfactory answers to all our questions. His recorded word points a hungry believer to find the clarity he has preserved for such direction. There is clarity there! Look for it, long for it, and don’t give yourself any complacent rest until you find it. It is there for you to find.
That said, be ware of looking for what he has not intended to reveal. That is what, I assume, Theresa was refusing to pray about for that priest who wanted clarity in what to do with his circumstances. God wants Christians to learn to seek his will and trust in his guidance through our circumstances and decisions by faith rather than by clarity. There is a danger with clarity, because it eliminates the need for relying on faith.
Notice the conclusion that Jesus gives to a parable about being persistent in prayer:
“However, when the Son of Man comes will he find faith on the earth?” (Lu 18:8)
There is a warning here about being persistent in praying for clear answers to what we desire. We may well get what we seek from God, but that does little for developing our faith, which is what the Lord seeks of us.
This is why the Bible encourages believers to make their plans and step forward in their life’s circumstances with the mindset of : “Lord willing we will do this or that”. In other words, we ought to be more persistent in seeking his will in our life, than in seeking that he intervene according to our will or desire.
Are you ok with living with some mystery? Can to trust that God is Lord and Provider even when your circumstances look stormy? Do you have the faith to allow him to continue to be asleep on a cushion, like when the 12 disciples were rowing their boat through a major storm, and faced imminent drowning, showing the faith that you trust he is in charge of your life and every detail you are facing, even when he seems to be sleeping?
If you know him and know what his words reveals with clarity to believers, then you won’t be as desperate for clarity in your circumstances. You can live by an informed, clear faith: a belief that is based on the proof of who he is and of what he expects of all who worship him, without demanding proof in all your personal details.
This is how you can trust without doubt; how you can have certainty with faith.
This is the mystery of knowing. It has two parts: what is now, and what will be later.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” (Dt 29:29)
Clarity is offered to all who want to know God and what he has chosen to reveal. Those details and truths are preserved for eternity. They can never disappear or be taken away from those who belong to God. Our Lord and God has decided what details about himself, about ourselves, and about life that will give us everything we need for life and godliness. But that is not everything. Some things are still hidden and not allowed to be revealed yet.
We should want to know those details, but not insist on getting them all answered now. Don’t insist on clarity. Accept and seek it in those things that he has chosen to reveal, but trust that whatever he keeps hidden is not safe or necessary now. Faith is what is needed to fill that gap of longing.
When he returns, however:
“But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 Jn 3:2-3)
That is the clarity we seek: to see our Lord face-to-face, in all his glory. It is coming, because he is coming to reveal all that remains hidden. At that time, nothing will remain hidden, for everything will be revealed by his Light!