The Lens of Wisdom

I found out I was pregnant on a scorching July morning, one month before my senior year of high school. Swim team would begin practicing soon. I had a college tour scheduled later that week, senior pictures the following week, and I’d already chosen the ten classics required for my honors English class. Pregnancy was not part of my plans. 

Honestly, I didn’t have a plan. I wasn’t on a rebellious rampage, wasn’t a victim of peer pressure, wasn’t a misguided girl with low self-esteem who was trying to earn love or attention, or whatever it is people say to fit teen pregnancy into a box. I was a 17-year Christian girl who’d memorized Bible verses since she was young, but there was a disconnect between the goodness described in those verses and the not-so-good feelings and situations I experienced in real life. 

An impulsive decision set me on a path I knew I should avoid

I couldn’t make sense of it, and one day, it was too much. An impulsive decision set me on a path I knew I should avoid, but once I was on it, I wasn’t eager to turn back. My behavior and choices were wrong, I knew that. The Psalmist describes “sins piled so high, I can’t see my way out.” It’s a precise picture and things went there quickly, but I hadn’t expected an additional pile of consequences.

Pressing pause on my Jesus-life, I’d hoped (for lack of a better word) I could test drive the world’s solutions for pain, privately admit my wrongs to God—maybe around my 18th birthday or during those emotional final weeks before graduation—and then, having a new appreciation for goodness, I’d circle back to my faith, values, and better behavior.

. . . but once I was on it, I wasn’t eager to turn back.

That’s not how things went.

Confession was first, then contemplation. Those five months were some of the hardest of my life as I considered every avenue forward. After deciding to parent alone and without financial support, I returned to the pages of scripture. Proverbs, to be exact. In the dark winter mornings of my last trimester, I sat with a bowl of cereal and the words of Solomon, highlighting passages in yellow before going to school. I was hungry for wisdom.

I pulled that decades-old Bible from the bookshelf this week and read the verses brightly marked. I could see my younger self at the kitchen table. I could sense her remaining spark of innocence and desperate quest for assurance that her life could still be good. She was looking for promise, and by God’s grace, she found it. 

I’m smack in the middle of a season that rivals the heaviness of my teenage pregnancy and single motherhood afterward. Although I’ve spent many years trusting God, there are still areas of my life where I’d rather depend on my own understanding. I prefer wisdom as a guarantee, a fence for keeping happiness in and suffering away, but wisdom does not promise the absence of hardship. In the exhaustion and confusion of my grief, I admit I still question why God allows His people to suffer. 

In recent months, I’ve turned again to the wisdom of scripture—to Job, Jeremiah, and even Ecclesiastes, where suffering and hope are equal parts of the story. Here’s the hard truth: wisdom is found in my suffering, sadness, and loss. No doubt about it, physical affliction strengthens the spiritual senses, but sorrow in exchange for wisdom? Is it worth it? 

Here’s the beautiful truth about wisdom: it is more than knowledge, more than smart choices, more than a good path.

Wisdom is not a library for knowing about God, it is a lens for seeing God, a supernatural ability to interpret and realize God’s goodness within life’s hard spaces.

In joy and in suffering, in good times and adversity, in celebration and confusion, wisdom allows me to sense my way toward God and find Him. True wisdom is intimacy with God. That is the promise.

In all the highlighted Proverbs of my old Bible, only one passage is starred. It’s the verse in my hallway, the verse I’ve recalled countless times when life is upside down and what I thought I knew is shattered. It reminds me I don’t need to understand in order to see Him. 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Image Credit: Image by FaithGiant from Pixabay

Michelle Stiffler
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3 thoughts on “The Lens of Wisdom

  1. The darkness of suffering makes me see the goodness of God shining even brighter. Thanks for the reminder to keep searching until I find Him in all His glory. He is always there!

  2. Michelle, this is beautiful in it’s honesty and in it’s recognition that “wisdom does not promise the absence of hardship” – hard and real truths, and hope in joy throughout. Thank you for writing.

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