We have an incomprehensible God

We know God is incomprehensible, even more so once he becomes more intimate in our lives. He allows us to suffer, for instance, urging us through every painful moment to continue our trust in him. The suffering elements of our life are surely the most debilitating. In our suffering, we learn that God suffers with us. 

That just makes it even more bizarre.

Image by Hasse Froom

Are you sure about that?

By John Pearring

I John 2:18-21
John I:1-18

Incomprehensible doesn’t mean insane or crazy. It means too deep and beyond our capacity.

We believers think of God as knowable, and we’re correct. We can’t know everything about God. Some of us know God better, more intimately than others. That makes sense. Nobody, though, knows God thoroughly. Those “complete” parts of God exist beyond our grasp. 

If you parse the definition of incomprehensible, you still can find room for knowing God. He’s not impossible to understand in all things. He’s impossible to grasp in total. We can grasp the knowledge of God through his goodness, specifically in the miracles and his way of turning bad things into good. We believe God spoke through the prophets in the Old Testament. We believe God spoke through the authors of the New Testament also. That’s an incomprehensible notion and most challenging to explain.

It’s not a new thing for us to know that God is impossible to fathom. We imagine in heaven, we’ll get to explore every part of his being, but the breadth of God is limitless, without boundaries. We’ll never journey to the ends of God’s being because there are no ends.

The types of incomprehensible things about God get very strange. I found a common thread of difficult things about God this past week that have settled into a new reality for me. Though reachable, God speaks to us and acts in incomprehensible ways. However, because they are “true,” I accept them. If I refuse to accept God's incomprehensible ways, nature, and presence, God fades away. Try it. You’ll soon find yourself redefining God rather than accepting God for who he is. It’s inescapable.

In today’s gospel, Jesus, the incarnation of God, is the Word. That sounds familiar but is genuinely an incomprehensible idea. The written word, scripture, the law, and the testimony of the scriptures are holy, but how can they be God? 

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.

(John 1:1)

I can address the notions of this truth, but I can’t clear it up. A nudge within me, which I call the gift of faith, lends me the courage and will to believe. That prompting, the presence of God dwelling in me because I allowed God to live in me, requires that I accept the incomprehensible God. From a certainty that God loves me, even though I cannot adequately testify with evidence, I believe.

Another, even more wildly incomprehensible truth is that God is in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. The instances of hosts and wine at mass over the last two millennia are innumerable. Can anyone imagine that in every instance, God’s body and blood changed bread and wine while remaining bread and wine? It’s like Jesus himself. He was God and Man, both. What???? Is Every communion a reception of a piece of God? It’s simply not possible to address the logic. You may think you can, but even though we know it is true, settled doctrine, neither you nor I can fully put the pieces together.

The idea that God is incomprehensible came up because of an article on how Christians shift from incredulity into belief. The underlying premise of the article said we must believe that God is incomprehensible because everything in our faith exceeds our logic and common sense. Accepting that God is in the bread and wine is merely one of the impossible realities of God. He was also born of a virgin. God became one of us, and submitted himself into his creation. He arose from the dead and spent 40 days as a heavenly body here. The list is quite long. I’ll go so far as to say it is endless.

If not for who God is, all these beliefs are madness. They’re more than fairy tales, though, because they insist upon every part of God’s interventions into our existence as truth. Angels, speaking in tongues, and miraculous healings defy science and break the boundaries of physics. We see the incomprehensible things of God everywhere. 

Each of the incomprehensible truths about God is an obvious barrier to belief. I’ve run into hundreds of people and read articles and books that debunk God’s existence and the particulars of our faith on each of these incomprehensible things. So have you. I object when cast into the debates, but on the premise of the debates, I can only reply, “Yes, you are right. It’s unbelievable.”

If you are a believer in God, you run into conversations where you inadvertently may say some truth about your faith that provokes non-believers. Everything from patronizing looks to outright anger keeps us cautious. Maturity in our faith takes us deeper into truths that become not just preposterous but dangerous. Cowardice, or prudence (okay, mostly cowardice), keeps us alive. It’s another part of the incomprehensible nature of our faith. We’re not asked to die foolishly at every moment, yet the truths of our faith must be proclaimed and witnessed. Factor that duality of intentions into your daily list of things to do!

We know God is incomprehensible, even more so once he becomes more intimate in our lives. He allows us to suffer, for instance, urging us through every painful moment to continue our trust in him. The suffering elements of our life are surely the most debilitating. In our suffering, we learn that God suffers with us. That just makes it even more bizarre.

We come full circle, back to love. Being loved is not something only done in the wonder and excitement of beauty, prosperity, success, and admiration. Love is, I’m certain, the strength and purity of God’s presence and the most incomprehensible thing of all. I must relearn this every day because each adventure into the absurdity, awkwardness, and danger of suffering brings us closer and closer to God. In our pains and anguish, we grow more aware of beauty, more delighted at our prosperities, and more eager for success. We bask in the admiration of our Father, the kinship of Jesus, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

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