The myth of simplicity suggests that there should be simple answers, but there are no simple answers. Any wise person will confess that they have come by their wisdom—the hard way. Simple answers are rarely worthy of trust but quickly spoil and rot.
Life is lived in a fallen world among fallen people. We valiantly strive to submit as the Spirit works in us. We diligently press towards our goal of being conformed to the likeness of Christ and we fail—continually (Romans 8:29). We do our best but fail. We strive but stumble. Our relationships exemplify this.
We live in a world of brokenness where there are no easy answers—no simple solutions. Though our hearts crave the explainable there is much that is inexplicable, much that is beyond our ability to categorize or label.
The myth of simplicity arises because, aside from the sure methods and easy answers, we are face with the notion of faith in an unseen God who makes statements such as, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). We seek easy answers and sure methods because we fear that God will not change our circumstances. In fact He may not. He may still answer, “My grace is sufficient for you.” That is hardly what we want to hear.
What our hearts crave is a lifetime relationship that falls like manna from God’s heaven. We long for the blessing that eases the pain of loneliness and we feel the longing as a thorn in our side. Without apology we come on hands and knees to ask for our daily bread—and more. Too often we are fed the sweet but useless fluff of easy answers.
Whatever Paul’s thorn was, he was compelled to plead with the Lord three times. Yet the sufficiency of God’s grace did not include the removal of the thorn. Paul wrote,
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
I suspect that none of us is single due to the “surpassingly great revelations” given us so we can dispense with that easy answer. In fact, our desire for answers is in part driven by the idea that singleness is something “inflicted” on us. This too we can put off for the betterment of our minds. It seems to me we were born single. It seems to me Christ was single. Singleness is a state, a stage, or at least, a place to be.
But after we have tried the methods, schemes, steps, and principles it is difficult not to conclude that singleness is some kind of curse or punishment. After all, what kind of fools must we be to have tried so hard and still failed? How can we but conclude that God cares nothing for us after our prayers have gone unanswered?
Yet we see Paul praying diligently for his circumstance to change, for curse to turn to blessing, for something better to come his way. “Three times,” he wrote, “I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2Cor. 12:8). In the end the thorn remained. In fact, he was given no promise of the future but rather assurance in the midst of his pain.
In God’s short statement to Paul comfort is not found in the word sufficient.
In God’s short statement to Paul comfort is not found in the word power.
In God’s short statement to Paul comfort is not found in the word perfect.
And there is certainly no comfort in the word weakness.
Comfort is found in the words “my grace” placed in light of the word “weakness.” Since Paul (we) is (are) weak God offers the broken apostle this assurance, “Today, you have what you need and I have provided it.” It is not that tomorrow is without hope. Tomorrow is full of hope.
But tomorrows promise is as yesterday and today “grace”, or better, “My grace.”
Today we have what we need but we do not have what we want. This fact presses us to the point of near desperation and our hearts cannot understand the delay. It is not that there are no answers, not that there is nothing we can do, but that our trust must remain in the confidence that His grace extends to our present confused longing. We are weak but He is strong so we lean on Him and trust in “His grace.” This is the simplicity of a child and children we must be.
What the easy answers and simple steps suggest is that weakness can pay lip service to grace while offering homage to the scientific method. We seem to be able to say that we love God and that we know He loves us but we are in a desperate search for the easier answer. We turn to the simple steps, easy methods, and promising principles as though to an oracle who can better divine God’s will. We turn to them for that second opinion after we have been told to wait and trust. My weakness is not singleness but my lack of faith—the nagging doubt that causes me to question the love of God.
I abhor the easy answers and disdain the proffered methods because they coach each of us to look past His grace. I am not suggesting that loneliness is an inflicted thorn designed to humble or perfect us. In fact, this is an obvious and simple answer, the very thing I abhor. What I am suggesting is that God is not absent in the midst of our pain. He is not ignorant of our need and not asleep at the wheel. The answer and solution may not be as easy as wearing more make-up, losing weight, or learning to chew with your mouth closed.
I have yet to find the “easy” way to win the heart of another person. I do believe, however, that faithfulness to the life of righteousness prepares me for both states; single and married. The myth of simplicity suggests that there should be a simple answer and there is—“Jesus Loves me this I know.” Rather than let my circumstances speak to me of God’s love, I speak into my circumstances—God’s love.
This article was first published Wednesday, July 22, 2009