Wisdom

     If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)

     Driving past a church the other day I read this statement on its message board "Life never asks questions faith cannot answer." I kept heading east on Highway 40 while the words danced in my head. Life never asks questions faith cannot answer. Maybe I am too cynical, but I find life constantly throws questions at me that my faith cannot answer. Call me unspiritual if you like, but I cannot tell a ten-year-old boy why his father walked out the door, never to return. I cannot tell a grieving wife why her husband died at the young age of forty-eight. I cannot tell a fifty-year-old man why he was laid off his job. I can offer all sorts of spiritual sounding sayings, but I cannot give them the answers they really want to hear. I cannot tell them why their lives have taken a sudden turn for the worse. No one can.

     Of course, God could. Maybe He will someday. But He never says that He will. Of all the things God promises and of all the things He could promise there is one thing He never guarantees: He never promises to give us answers. Never. God did not offer any explanations to Job when his world fell apart. He never explained Himself to Jeremiah when the prophet complained of the prosperity of the wicked. He didn't answer Habakkuk when he asked how the Righteous One could tolerate the evil Babylonians. God does not promise to give us answers.

     But He does promise to give us wisdom. James heard the questions of life ringing in his ears. He watched his oldest brother hang on a cross and die. As the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, he cared for a flock of poor outcasts. Between the contempt of the Jews and the famines that struck Palestine, he led a group of people who must have wondered if life could get any worse. Their pastor never answered the pressing question of why they were suffering or why their lives were so much worse than the Gentile believers in Antioch. In the place of answers James held out a promise, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).

     Answers try to help us sort out our situation from a natural viewpoint. They fill in information regarding how and why and how long. The search for answers looks for an explanation, as if knowing that a plane crash was caused by mechanical failure rather than pilot error can lessen the grief we feel. Unfortunately, answers are not always accompanied by understanding. For that we need wisdom.

     Wisdom opens our eyes to see life from God's perspective. It is short on explanations, but long on providing understanding. We may never know the hows and whys behind the trials we endure, but wisdom doesn't need either to flourish. Wisdom looks past the questions of life to see God sitting on His throne. It reassures us that He is in complete control. And wisdom—not explanations—will be given, the Scripture declares, when we ask God for it.

     James links the need for wisdom with trials. Earlier we explored his command to consider the various trials we face as pure joy. How can we do such a thing?
     Wisdom shows us the way. Through wisdom we realize that trials are not random acts of a cold universe. Instead they are tools in the hand of God to reshape our character and bring us to maturity. Our minds still wonder if there couldn't be another way to bring about the same result. Couldn't God make us mature by giving us every good thing the world has to offer? Perhaps, but He has not chosen to work that way. Maturity comes through trials; character through suffering. Through wisdom we trust that God knows the best way to make these a reality in our lives.

     Wisdom's value stretches across all of life. Solomon encourages us to seek it as intently as we would hidden treasure. Its worth is far greater than perishable things like silver and gold. Wisdom protects us and leads us in the paths of righteousness. A man who tackles life without it is little more than sharks bait. No one can last long without wisdom. With it, we can have peace in the midst of any situation, for the Lord will guard our feet and establish our lives. "[Wisdom] will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor" (Prov 4:9).

     Something this valuable must be very expensive. Yet the Lord tells us that wisdom is ours for the asking. "If any of you lacks wisdom," James writes, "he should ask God, who gives generously." Solomon tells us in the book of Proverbs that the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord (Prov 1:7). The two exhortations—ask for wisdom and fear the Lord—go hand in hand. To fear the Lord is to see Him in His glory and splendor, to respect and revere Him, to trust Him. Without the fear of the Lord, no one ever asks for wisdom. They keep on looking for answers and offering suggestions to heaven.

     Wisdom humbles us before God and looks to His purpose and plan in everything, when heartache strikes, ask God for wisdom. When we do not understand what God could possibly be up to, when we wonder if He is in control at all, ask God for wisdom. When we are discouraged and ready to quit, ask God for wisdom. And
He will freely give it. The questions may still go unanswered, but you will have His assurance that He is still in control, still at work, still God. Wisdom leads us to trust Him.

"WISDOM

           LORD!"