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You’ll Never Understand

The spiritual life will not progress until you are willing to not understand. The hymn I remember from childhood goes: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” In my adulthood, I think that is an incomplete spiritual teaching. The hymnwriter may have assumed that trust implied not understanding, but the truth of the matter is that the only way to be happy in Jesus is to trust enough that you know you cannot understand.

This truth has been driven home this week in numerous ways. I have prayed for many requests that have been asked of me or that I felt God has sent to my heart. I don’t get it. I don’t get God’s answers. I would like to understand, but I can’t. Does that make me stop praying? Does that alter my determination to continue asking the requests I have made of God? No. I continue to ask for His will to be done and I gently let Him know my will. The older I get, the less determined I am to have my will be done.

In Luke 13, Jesus explains the unexplainable to those who were wondering about current events of the first century. Evidentially there were some Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed in pagan sacrifices. This was an abomination of unthinkable inhumanity for the Jews to whom it happened and those who heard about it. There was also a recent event everyone present had heard about that a tower in Siloam fell on people. These two tragedies were discussed by Jesus to explain that the equality of all people and their need for repentance. He clearly explained that you could not think of the Galileans whose blood was used in such a horrific way or the Siloamian peoples who perished in a crumbled building were eviler than those who were standing in His presence. He didn’t give an explanation as to why those specific people came to their demise in that specific way. All people need to repent was the only thing that mattered according to Jesus.

Rather than spend my time figuring out why some of my prayers are answered with miracles, and some of my prayers are answered with continued suffering, I need to focus on what I can understand. All the peoples I am praying for (and myself) need to repent or we will perish. I can understand that Jesus is the saving plan for all humankind and that events on earth that happen are not necessarily a reflection on whether the person has repented or not.

Jesus’ exact words about the horrific things that happen to others is found in Luke 13:1-5: “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish’.”

Why were some of my prayers answered in the exact ways that I prayed them, and others went seemingly ignored from heaven? Is the most important prayer that can be prayed for another person that they repent and not perish for eternity? Every prayer that I pray needs to have that eternal end as the hope of all.


As I anticipate lent’s rich spiritual blessings in my life, I am never ready to stop meditating on the cross and its transforming power. I wrote an expanded Lenten Guide that includes daily devotions all the way to Pentecost. You can check out A Lenten Guide—Spiritual Transformation from Lent through Eastertide here I wish you a Holy Lenten journey.

Dr. Deborah Newman

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