The Enigma of ‘Knowing’


nowing” is one of life’s two-sided coins. It brings joy, happiness, and success. It brings sorrow, disappointment, and pain. Viewed from either side, it remains a perplexity, a mystery. For Christian believers, both sides speak of grace.

    We Are All Seeking to Know

We spend most of our lives seeking to know. This search is often referred to as education, which has to be defined as “life learning” rather than formal schooling. Very early, children know things from their parents, their siblings, and their peers. Parents watch this process closely, observing and commenting on when a child starts walking, first speaks, responds to a smile or a voice command. Hours are spent making sure the child knows—when to respond, how to behave, where to sit, and why to be quiet.

Children seek to know dress codes, etiquette, acceptable behavior. With time, for most children, this search becomes organized into formal education through elementary, middle, high school, and beyond. Those who opt out, or drop out, of formal schooling still seek to know— how to earn money…how to use their hands, their minds, their physical skills . . . how to survive.

Society still debates the best way to help the next generation to know. Positive affirmation seems to be the first choice. Every parent tries it. The school system
adopts it. For the most part, it works— but not always. Negative recrimination is necessary for some to know.

We learn through good experiences, and we learn through bad experiences. Only the omnipotent God could design such a system. One individual comes to know through advice and example; another comes to know through pain and sorrow. Both learn.

Schooling ends, but our search to know goes on . . .

• Businesspeople wish to know economic cycles, customer response, tomorrow’s opportunities.
• Investors wish to know the next “Apple,” “Google,” or “Facebook” IPO (initial public offering).
• Politicians wish to know what cataclysmic event, cultural trend, or geo- graphical hot spot will influence voters at the polls.
• Voters wish to know which leaders will try (or even if they truly can) to har- ness inflation, find compromise, and make decisions for the common good.
• Parents seek to know what is best for their children.
• Children seek to know what is best for their parents.

So long as there is life, there will be new and exciting things to know. So long as there is life, we will be seeking to know. It is our search, our wishing, our desire to know that puts sparkle into our days and gives meaning to the ordinary, the repetitious, the humdrum of life. This innate yearning to know—whether it be the scientist seeking solution to a new formula, or the nursing-home patient seeking to know whose heels are clicking down the corridor—is one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity.

    We Are at Times Wishing Not to Know

Even while we are seeking to know, we confront the opposite side of the coin—those life-moments when we would rather not know.

We would rather not know pain, sorrow, heartache, failure, disappointment, depression, illness, even death.

We would rather not know children can break our hearts, marriages can go bad, friends can forsake, businesses can fail, savings can evaporate, health can sour, and age can creep in without fanfare.

Nevertheless, day in and day out, week by week, we continue to know—experiencing both sides of the coin.

    Strangely, We Find Ourselves Wanting to Know More

We want to know the future . . . but cannot. We want to understand the why of our past . . . and cannot. We would like to unravel those intricate personality threads that make those we love act the way they do . . . and we cannot.

A neighbor dies suddenly while mowing the lawn. Umm, could that happen to us?
Four people are listed in the paper’s obituary column . . . all younger than us. When will our time come?

Daily and repeatedly, there are hundreds of things we would like to know but cannot, and speculation is useless.

Such is the human dilemma, the law of life, the great mystery.

    We Find Ourselves Dependent on God’s Grace

God’s grace is set forth most beautifully in Paul’s words:

“When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons [and daughters]” (Gal. 4:4-5).

It is God’s love, mercy, and grace that permits us to know some things. God’s grace instills in us the desire to know more, to seek, to search. It is also God’s grace that hides from us that which we need not know, should not know, and must not know in this life.

For example, what kind of life would we have if God permitted us to know
the precise moment of our death? How distorted and tortured would be our
days! How fretful our nights! God is too merciful for that. He in His wisdom has designed this universe and our lives precisely right—we live with the enigma of “knowing” some things, not “knowing” others, struggling to distinguish between the two, and learning through His grace to accept both.

Thus, we wait in faith:

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22-23).