We live in an age when we literally never have to wait for an answer. If it can be known, we know it in seconds, probably less. Siri, where is the nearest Chipotle? Google, living and active, lies at our disposal on every device we own.
We’ve been trained to live without uncertainty. We’ve been taught that not only are we entitled to every answer, but that they’re all just a couple of clicks (and seconds) away. No one ever has to not know again. We take every question, fear, or curiosity to Google or to social media, who quickly and effortlessly satisfy our desperate cravings for knowledge and guidance, either with an answer or a distraction.
We have an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wise God, but most of the time we’d rather entrust our questions to the internet. After all, the god at our fingertips is visible, controllable, instant, and seemingly omniscient, at least omniscient enough for us.
But God didn’t invent the internet to replace himself.
Looking for Express Lanes
Now, we probably don’t need to stop and pray about how to get to dinner, or when Mother’s Day falls this year, or how many games the Twins are out of first place. I believe God’s quite happy to have those kinds of questions delegated to Google.
Lots of other problems in our lives, though, will never be solved through dependence on our data plans. You may get a quick answer (or three million). But the answer you need often will not and cannot be summoned in 0.35 seconds. It only comes from God, and it only comes through patient prayer and meditation on his word.
How do I break the power of this sin in my life?
How much money should I give to the church?
Should I quit my job? Should I take that job?
What do I say to my child who has wandered from the faith?
Should I marry this man/woman?
You can type any of those questions into your search bar, and you’ll get lots of answers (maybe even a few good ones). But is that how a heavenly Father intends to shepherd, encourage, and train his sons and daughters? Or do we believe God can tell us something Google can’t?
“Do we believe God can tell us something Google can’t?”
Isaiah warned that impatience with God would lead us to other, faster guides — to the world’s express lanes for wisdom. When Isaiah had to choose, he said, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” (Isaiah 8:17). God does hide his face. He’s not the butler your favorite internet browser pretends to be. God knows that sometimes the best thing for doubting, questioning, and wandering hearts is waiting. Sometimes the uncomfortable distance between our question and God’s answer really can be a gift greater, sweeter, and more needed than the answer itself.
The Rainbow Wheel
The world sees our lingering questions differently. “[They will say to you], ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,’” (Isaiah 8:19). Tired of waiting on God? Take your questions elsewhere. There are more responsive search engines with more horsepower all over. Stop watching your spiritual rainbow wheel spin.
To the urgent and faithless it sounds wise and efficient. If God’s not holding office hours right now, I’ll find another teacher who’ll speak to me. God seems busy and important, anyway, so I won’t burden him with my questions.
This kind of logic is not only worldly and unwise, it’s perverse and offensive. Isaiah highlights the horror of our impatience with God and our restless reliance on other sources for comfort and wisdom.
And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? (Isaiah 8:19)
Why would we ask the mediums and the necromancers when we have God? Why would we entrust our deepest, most sensitive, most complicated concerns to weak and finite counselors when we have the ear of the God of the universe? It’s criminal and suicidal to functionally turn away from God to Google.
The Death of Google
“Should [God’s people] inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” The mediums and necromancers of Isaiah’s day were not dead — they were still breathing, listening, talking, and corrupting. They’re not dead, but they breathe death. It’s all they have to offer. Sure, they’ll decorate their wisdom with a colorful design, upbeat music, and Facebook likes, but it’s death.
Isaiah goes on,
They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness. (Isaiah 8:21–22)
Follow these guides, entrust them with your hearts, and you’ll have your quick answers. You’ll have your easy comfort and cheap counsel. But you’ll also have hunger and futility, and eventually irrational, unsatisfied rage. The world and all its wisdom will feed you for the day, and starve you for eternity. Instead of bringing light and life, it pulls the shade and shuts the door, leaving you and all of your questions sitting in the dark.
“The world and all its wisdom will feed you for the day, and starve you for eternity.”
There’s only one way to the wisdom we need to live — that is, the wisdom that brings us to life and the wisdom that makes sense of this life. If we want answers that lead to life — true, full, abundant life — we will look to its Author (Acts 3:15), not to the readily available convenience stores for wisdom.
When it comes to understanding and interpreting reality, especially the biggest questions we face about ourselves and this big, tragic, beautiful world we live in, even the internet is at a devastating disadvantage to the God who created all things, sustains all things, and plans to one day bring all things together in his Son.
The Dawn of Hope
So when God is silent, what do we do if we don’t rush elsewhere for answers? Again, Isaiah says, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:20). Instead of sending us somewhere else, he calls us back to the living and abiding word (1 Peter 1:23). The prescription for our unanswered questions and unsolved problems is patient meditation on God’s words. We don’t need new words. We need new resolve and insight to see God and his ways in really old words — to hear from him, even if it takes days or weeks or years.
Those who pursue wisdom down this path will have their dawn. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel of life’s suffering and heartache, and it rises with God and nowhere else.
Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. (Isaiah 60:1–3)
The light God promises is a light worth waiting for, a light that ultimately wins the whole world. God has written all the pain, confusion, brokenness, and fear we feel into our story not so that we’d be impressed with Google, but so that we would depend more fully on him. The wisdom God gives will not always be immediate, but it will be perfect and it will reward you in full forever.
So do we believe God can tell us something Google can’t? If we did, we’d be slower to our phones and quicker to our knees. We would wait, not click.