Undulating road rolls under my chronically tumbling mind as I seek to soothe it by cycling into exhaustion. Call it my relief effort, or my ride to escape. However, I neither find relief nor escape. But I do find God.
Perplexed. That’s what I am. And being perplexed is like walking the side of a steep, muddy slope: one misstep and it’s a quick slide to the quicksand of fear at the bottom.
I know not what to do next. Answering that seemingly simple question is like putting pressure on a knot in my back that suddenly radiates threads of needles into previously unprotesting parts of my body. My whole network of nerves lights up with alarm, just as pressing into a tangled quandary of the mind lights up the whole network of interrelated areas of life: sin, personality, values, goals, beliefs, feelings, fears, purpose, culture, and more. The complexity of perplexity entangles me and threatens to strangle me into paralyzed fear.
But who among us does not live in some amount of intricate confusion? Some live with health problems that radiate into finances, lifestyle, purpose, relationships and more. Others live tied up in challenging jobs riddled with sinful people and systems, fears of failure, lack of compensation, and questionable values. These are but two examples of the complexity of everyday life.
This is part of the human condition. We do not know all, and never will. No amount of understanding and figuring it out will free us of the puzzles of life. The danger is, in our attempts to escape the discomfort of perplexity, we despair and assume that our lack of clarity means God doesn’t know or care. We must find the peace in perplexity, the pace of it, for we will run our entire lives within its confines. How can I be positively perplexed and not slide into despair?
The Apostle Paul was perplexed. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” He accepted that his mortal body had its limits and would feel its sufferings in the midst of this complex world, and that God’s power and glory surpassed these limits, lifting him from the morass of natural fear into supernatural peace. He names perplexity as suffering, but he never translates these sufferings into beliefs that God was somehow against him or absent. For Paul, the only reason to despair, ever, was if God were to leave him, which is an impossibility.
So I persevere through my puzzlement, allowing God to put pressure on my knots to release me from fear. Then I can be at peace even while I wait and wonder, knowing that He is keeping me in this difficult position of humility in order to bring about His glory and power in my life. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t be at peace if I could figure out what to do next. Assuming the Lord was directing my decision, then I would receive peace. However, I can have peace even in the perplexity. For I know the One who created me, called me, holds me, and provides for me is always for me. I cannot be separated from His love. I trust that He knows, cares, and walks with me even in the confusing intricacies of my life.
I am positively perplexed, embracing my limitations of understanding. Positive that the power of God reveals Him bit by bit to my easily overwhelmed earthen being, and that the One who forever has perfect knowledge is guiding me through this present darkness.