Ever since I discovered characters with names like Jessica Fletcher and Nancy Drew, I’ve enjoyed a good mystery. Maybe this fascination began because my mom was a huge fan of the PBS series, Mystery. As kids, we would often join her to watch the animated beginning of the show to see the sinister villains and damsels in distress, the dead body in the library and the ill-fated croquet game. We frequently commented on the woman on the roof. She was wailing, hand to forehead, while lying helplessly with her ankles loosely bound. “Just sit up and untie yourself!” we’d shout at the TV in utter disgust.
Following that intro was an episode featuring professional detectives or problem-solving amateurs: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple to name a few. They all possessed an incomprehensible ability to solve a mystery. The hidden clues were glaringly obvious to them, both in existence and relevance to the current case. The suspect’s shoes were too clean or his overcoat too dirty. He wore his watch on his left wrist but wasn’t he left-handed? It must be an evil twin! These obscure details always became supremely important by the end of the program.
In real life, we’re bombarded with millions of supremely unimportant details and events. How can we ever know which ones are worth noticing and which ones are just filler? It’s all part and parcel of this mystery called life.
When a major weather event happens, we call it an Act of God. When a good thing occurs unexpectedly, usually after a chain of bad events, we say, “God sure works in mysterious ways.” We are quick to attribute these unexplainable phenomena to God but when we don’t get a quick answer to prayers, we get all Psalms-y—and not in a good way. “My God…Why are you so far from saving me so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1) In other words, “Hello, God, it’s me, Abby…Anyone? Can I at least leave a message?”
Then, when the answer still isn’t coming through, we get up a prayer brigade. In some ways, it’s the prayer equivalent of the climax of the book Horton Hears a Who. The miniscule folks who live on the speck, which is precariously resting on a flower, carried around by an elephant named Horton are desperate to have their voices heard. They must prove they exist so that the angry mob of jungle animals won’t boil their entire planet in beezle-nut oil. All of the townspeople are shouting and tooting their instruments, but it’s just not enough. The mayor soon realizes one boy named JoJo who isn’t making a sound at all. When JoJo adds his mighty “Yopp” to the din, the collection of sounds pushes its way through a portion of the cloud cover just in time. They are heard and they are saved.
That our prayers can be heard by God at all is a great mystery. Having a large group people unite to pray isn’t because God can’t hear the one tiny “Yopp” that floats up all alone. Maybe the mass prayers are there to encourage the downtrodden by the force of their volume. Maybe this large group of praying friends is a great cloud of witnesses and they’re there just for that purpose—to witness what God will do with the petition laid before Him.
As a recipient of such prayers for an extended amount of time, I can attest to the encouragement they offer. To know you’re on someone’s prayer list—quiet time, dinnertime, bedtime, all the time—is a wonderful balm to a wounded spirit.
But there are moments when even this encouragement doesn’t feel like enough. Moments when my “Yopp” seems ignored. That’s when an even greater mystery comes in to play: the mystery of trust. When I am told to trust in the Lord and lean not on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5, 6), it flies in the face of human reasoning. When I am told that God has made everything beautiful in its time and He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11), my head spins with the utter unfathomability of its enormousness. I want to take God’s will for me a make it into a “To Do” list or an excel spreadsheet. I want to list it and dissect it and tidy it up so that it makes sense to me. But I’m beginning to see the folly in that kind of exercise. Every day is an opportunity to seek Him, plead with Him, and praise Him.
My new goal every morning is to drop my worries and doubts at the feet of my mighty Lord. I don’t know why He hasn’t given us the answers we’ve been begging for but I do know He says I don’t have to go this alone. I’m trying to trust Him and His plan. It won’t be easy but if I can make it through this, I will eventually get to see the big finale of my show. It may not be on this side of heaven, but I will trust God to explain all of the seemingly unimportant details and plot twists that have made my particular episode so mysterious. “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11)