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September 2020

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Confused? Embrace It!

by Amy Ekeh

Confusion is a fact of life.
Can it play a positive role in our spiritual lives?

It isn’t easy being human. Our lives are fragile and unpredictable. We live in a state of uncertainty and unknowing, and our efforts at understanding often fail. Confusion can weigh down on us like a fog, threatening our clarity and peace.

Even people who seem to march through life full of confidence and purpose experience confusion. They don’t know what the future holds. They aren’t sure what their loved ones and colleagues are thinking. They don’t always know which news reports are accurate. They don’t have all the answers or know how to make the best decisions in a complex society full of compromise, imperfection, and fine print. And they certainly don’t have the inside scoop on God or God’s plans.

It may comfort us to know that the Bible is full of confused people! Eve thought she understood God’s rule against eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but the serpent befuddled her completely. After twenty or thirty days and nights on the ark, I’m sure Noah was muttering some questions to himself as well as to the divine. And Abraham on his way up the mountain with his son Isaac in tow, prepared to make the most awful, most violent, most horrific sacrifice a parent could ever be asked to make? Confused! The books of Ecclesiastes and Job are both cries of total human confusion—pain, questions, anger, and uncertainty pervade these and plenty of other biblical books. Your own favorite biblical figures are likely coming to mind, with their own confusing situations and their own totally justifiable questions.

Confusion is a human reality, and one that is all too real to us in these days of pandemic, political upheaval, financial instability, racial tension, and division within our own church. Sometimes the confusion hits us in the little things—the overwhelming number of choices every time we shop, a lack of harmony at the dinner table, or an uncomfortable situation at work. What are we to do with all of this bewilderment?

Let’s turn back to our sacred texts. What can we learn here?

First, Scripture helps us acknowledge that human beings simply don’t understand everything. We come into this world in total ignorance. We learn some things but not everything. We’ve never been that good at predicting the future or understanding one another. We can’t—and never will—fully fathom the divine. These are facts.

Second, Scripture acknowledges that God does not “fix” this situation by making our daily lives smooth and serene. God’s friends aren’t lucky or charmed. In fact they run into a lot of trouble, endure a lot of frustrations, and bear their fair share of dead ends and failures. Prophets, disciples, and messiahs alike face the realities and confusion of being human. God allows this. Redemption and resurrection may be the endgame, but we don’t get to fast-forward past our day-to-day challenges to achieve these ultimate realities.

And finally, from our sacred texts we learn that confusion is a grace-filled opportunity. Confusion opens us up to what we need most—God’s presence. Those all-too-familiar words—“I don’t know”—are an invitation. Every single time they cross our minds or come out of our mouths or weigh down on us like lead, they are our opportunity to emerge out of ourselves and turn toward something greater—something fuller, brighter, clearer, and more complete. Confusion speaks truth: we are not enough, in and of ourselves. Confusion prompts us to look beyond, and to trust that whether we’re falling or failing, God will catch us. Every single time.

It’s okay to ask questions—even painful ones. It is the questioning and the wondering and the uncertainty that allow us to shape within ourselves and declare into the universe the boldest statement a human being can make—a statement of trust.

Mary asked, “How can this be?” But she also said: “Let it be done.”

Jesus asked why God had forsaken him. But he also declared that God’s kingdom is at hand.

Qoheleth (Ecclesiastes) and the psalmist asked questions—but they were also determined to declare faith in the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of every human life.

Job never gathered neat answers to all of his questions. But in the end he chose to put his hand over his mouth (40:4). In the end he found a deeper motivation for getting up every morning and facing the confusion in the cereal aisle, the ballot box, and at the kitchen table. In the end he chose faith—trust—in a God who loves us.

As it turns out, we don’t need all the answers. We only need the questions.


Amy EkehAmy Ekeh is the director of Little Rock Scripture Study and the author of several Alive in the Word books including Finding Peace: Letting Go of Stress and Worry. Amy lives in Milford, Connecticut with her husband and four children.




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