I recently stumbled across Ecclesiastes 1:18 and was at once super-relieved and totally bummed.
“Yes!” I wanted to shout. “Yes! It’s true! So very true!”
Why haven’t I ever noticed this verse before?
I find God illuminates certain things at certain times for certain purposes. When this happens, it's wise to dig deeper.
Ever since I was a little girl, people have called me “wise beyond your years,” or “an old soul.” My friends and readers often tell me how insightful and wise I am. I just recently lead a small group on spiritual gifts and we all took an extensive assessment to start. I did score super high in wisdom. While I appreciate the enrichment wisdom has brought to my life, let me tell you, it’s no fiesta! In fact, it has been at times burdensome and agonizing to the absolute extreme.
For instance, seeing clearly the truth about a situation or person—including myself—can be quite distressing, especially if that person doesn’t see it or own it or want to deal with it—including me. Especially if I’m powerless to change it, which I usually am!
Wisdom = the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.
It’s also a proven fact that wisdom doesn’t equal worldly success, nor does it guarantee desirable outcomes by our measure, or the ability to win friends or influence people. Nor is it intellect, common sense, or street smarts.
This verse in Ecclesiastes, written by the wisdom celebrity Solomon, acknowledges the truth of the matter: For sure, with much wisdom comes much frustration and, as some translations put it, alternatively, “vexation,” “sadness,” “grief,” and “sorrow.”
Some people can bear the burden and shake it off. Me? Not so much. I’ve had saddle bags of sorrow for my wisdom and have had since I was a wee child. Can I reframe it?
What gives, God? God tells us repeatedly to prize wisdom, asserting that she’s (I like that wisdom is feminine) is more valuable than pearls or gold (Proverbs 3:13-18) and very desirable. We're urged to seek wisdom eagerly. If wisdom is so Gucci-great, why can it be such a PITA???
Well, we all know the Bible is full of paradoxes. Therein, are many seemingly contradictory truths that have challenged way greater minds and souls than mine for ions. Wise people understand that a whole lot in scripture is WAY above our pay grades and we may only get the full picture when we see Him face to face. Occasionally, though, we get a glimpse of the transcendent genius of God this side of heaven. Some impossible to reconcile reality becomes crystal clear.
Or, as is the case in this instance, I’m simply reminded that God’s ways are not mine.
My comfort is not now, nor has it ever been, His goal. Yes, he wants me to have life and joy in abundance, but comfort? Not really. In fact, true to paradoxical form, many of our favorite, overused Bible verses remind us that grateful acceptance of the discomforts of this world are actually the very path to contentment and joy. The kind of transcendent joy that will keep us trucking when our world unravels and then follow us all the way to heaven. I’m only now embracing this as an undeniable truth I've often fought.
Among so many other things, Jesus was a wise “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) and God says our goal is to become more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). Thus, on The Way, we too will share Christ’s sorrows and much more. Easy math.
In twelve step programs, there’s a treasure, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.” Rather than combatting or micro-analyzing reality, we can accept it. I like to go further and say “embrace,” don’t merely accept, whatever it is.
In that view, what does God want me to do with His wisdom and how can it reframe the challenges associated with the gift?
Pain with purpose
One key takeaway from our spiritual gifts study was that all the spiritual gifts are designed to be used in service to God and others, particularly Christian community. The curriculum we used suggested what different gifts looked like in daily life, and where they might find their full expression in practical terms.
We all found this an incredibly empowering realization that helps us value and employ the gifts with more intention. In the wake of the study, I've found opportunities to apply wisdom have emerged I was able to approach with a greater sense of purpose. I'm continuing to contemplate how God wants me to use my spiritual gifts, including wisdom.
Consider what God is illuminating in your life as it relates to the world's needs.
This new wisdom also puts a different spin on the discomfort of different gifts. It's pain with purpose. As with everything, seeking God on the subject is enlightening.
How might we all approach both the power and the challenge of our respective gifts if we recognize God's intended design and impact? Understanding God's intention for wisdom--or any other gift--makes it more meaningful and lightens the load. Recognizing it's truly a gift, imparted by God for His people, drives me to be more deliberate in talking to God about His wisdom...and mine.
I hope you'll learn more about your spiritual gifts and ask God how He wants to use them to make this world better, for such a time as this.
Love, grace, peace, and joy in Christ,
Prayer: Dear Father, sometimes wisdom--and other spiritual gifts--feel heavy. Please help me better appreciate the value of wisdom, to seek it and apply it. Please help me understand, embrace, and employ all my gifts for Your purposes. Thank you.
Action: I urge you to take an assessment to identify your spiritual gifts (here’s a very through one). Take some time to research your top three and how they can be used for God and others wherever you’re planted. Think about what God seems to be illuminating in life right now and the world's needs. Consider some of the challenges associated with your gifts and pray for help embracing them.
Are you a regular reader? Would you consider a gift of any size? It's a great encouragement to me. Please like, comment, and share my blogs, too.