One of the things that’s been weighing on my mind lately is the wisdom to discern the difference between true understanding of God, and simply following my own heart. Because I am human–and therefore am simultaneously prideful, fallible and frail by nature–part of me wonders how I might be able to tell if my path is truly God’s will and wisdom, or if my human mind is just attributing my own thoughts and feelings to God’s plan based on how “right” something might feel. And, in the end, if I act by submitting myself to God with humility, is there a difference between the two sides of that coin?
I turned this morning to 1 Corinthians, in which Paul addresses the Greeks, and he offers several verses that may help.
“The wisdom of the wise will perish,
the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (Isaiah 29:14)
Paul quotes this passage, and then talks about how in order to preach truly for God and of Christ, he had to undo his eloquence and human wisdom. He does not say that he did not have those things, only that he could not rely on them to relay the message of salvation through the Lord:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Cor 2:2-5)
The key word in that passage is “resolved.” He is literally saying that in order to convey the true message of Christ’s salvation, he had to make a conscious decision to forsake his human knowledge and wisdom. I’ve written here before about making spiritual decisions of faith by simply choosing to do so, and what Paul writes is not that different. In much the same way that I make a conscious decision to disregard my previous doubt, and simply “believe,” Paul says that we can just flush our minds of our lowest human impulses of pride in our own cleverness and knowledge.
“The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Cor 2:10-14)
For me, this is a critical distinction: perhaps it is not that I must forsake my human mind and human will because they run contrary to the wisdom of God, but because I cannot simultaneously rely on my human intelligence and worldly wisdom while truly accepting the Spirit of God in my heart; they are at least somewhat mutually exclusive. Our low, human minds cannot conceive of God’s own infinite, omniscient and omnipresent mind. If we try to conceive of God’s thoughts, our human limitations will impair us, governing our ability to commune spiritually. Instead, I must take what the Spirit gives into my heart, and grow to know God that way.
In Ephesians, Paul writes, ” . . . how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that this love surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:18,19). This verse similarly juxtaposes the two as completely separate entities. It is almost as if Paul is asking a question: would you rather have the infinite love of Christ, or your own meager knowledge? When posed as a dichotomous choice, I suppose the answer is very clear.
The difficulty, at least at this stage of my young faith, is determining where one ends, and the other begins.–especially since they are not on a linear plane together. Perhaps there is no way to reconcile what I think is right and righteous in the Lord’s eye against what my spirit feels is right and righteous. It may really be as simple as emptying my mind, and allowing the Spirit to fill me up and guide me closer to God and His will. Ultimately, if I submit myself humbly before him, and ask that his will be done, I can only follow to the best of my ability, and know that He knows my heart and will not abandon me.
Holy Father, thank you for this morning, thank you for your word, and thank you for your guidance. Today, I ask for help in emptying my mind of human thoughts and wisdom, so that I may seek your Spirit, and find your will.