When you just don’t know …

by Kari on June 24, 2013

i dont know

It was like deja vu, them sitting there on the couch saying, “I don’t know.”

Them, missionaries to Africa, like the missionaries to Papua New Guinea who had sat on that same couch a few months earlier and that sudden comfort and encouragement and strength welled up in me when they said those words:

“I don’t know.”

I look up to both couples so much. Those Yoders and Hunters who have counted the cost and sold the farm, so to speak. Their lives seem other-worldly, filled with third-world tales of the miraculous. They loom large, so godly, in my mind, and I love and respect and adore them all at once.

And then they both said, “I don’t know.”

We chuckled as they both recounted similar experiences. When greeted, as known missionaries “home” from the field, the usual peppering of questions usually involves, “When are you going back? What’s next? What’s the plan?”

And they smile, restful, and say, “I don’t know.” 

The Hunters, 30 years senior to the Yoders, are more restful when they say it. (Smile) They’ve lived seasons and seen loss. They’ve made plans enough to see them changed more often than not and to know the goodness of God so completely that it’s become easy to let those words slide off the tongue:

“I don’t know.”

And when we asked them about culture-shock, and what it’s like being back in the States, the Hunters’ one commentary on American culture was surprising. They didn’t remark about material things or how greedy and godless we’ve all become. They just said:

“It’s odd. No one here seems happy.” 

I raised my eyebrows.

They went on to explain. That “poor” Africans laugh and sing and dance and joke. But back here, they keep looking for happy people. Where are they?

Why is everyone so solemn? So sad? So heavy?

So serious?

Could it be that they–these “poor” people who don’t have a pot to pee in (his words, not mine), take God seriously but themselves, not so much? That even though they don’t know where the next meal will come from, or if the crops will succeed or fail, or if the baby will survive, they do know the God who knows all things and this allows them to smile and say, 

“I don’t know.”

Could our heaviness be the burden of believing we have to know it all? Have to have a plan? Have to have it all figured out?

Could it be we take ourselves too seriously and God not enough?

That the reason we have to know it all is because we don’t actually believe He does already?

And so these missionaries–lifelong friends–sat on our couch and when we asked about the future they smiled restfully and said, “I don’t know.” And again, something inside me lept, comforted and encouraged and strengthened all at once. And I felt–yes–happy. Because they didn’t know and yet they knew. They knew Him. They knew His goodness, His love, His faithfulness. His power, His sovereignty, His grace.

Knowing Him means we don’t have to know everything else.

And so I sat there, listening, encouraged and comforted and strengthened, because there is just so much I do not know. And the more I take myself seriously the less I take Him seriously.

And when I list out all the unknowns in my life, each one ending in a question mark, I can calmly pencil in beside each one:

  1. …? I don’t know.
  2. …? I don’t know.
  3. …? I don’t know.

But I do know. I know Him and He knows me. The hairs on my head and the number of my days. He knows my thoughts before I have them and every word before I speak it. He knows my coming, going, lying down and rising.

Because He knows all things I don’t have to. My trust is not in the certain outcome but in the Certain One.

And, in this there is peace.

{May you find rest and peace and joy in every “I don’t know” you face this week. Thanks so much for reading.}