When I was a boy, I heard a mystery program on radio that captured my imagination. It told the story of a man who was condemned to solitary confinement in a pitch-black cell. The only thing he had to occupy his mind was a marble, which he threw repeatedly against the walls. He spent his hours listening to the marble as it bounced and rolled around the room. Then he would grope in the darkness until he found his precious toy.
One day, the prisoner threw his marble upward—but it failed to come down. Only silence echoed through the darkness. He was deeply disturbed by the “evaporation” of the marble and his inability to explain its disappearance. Finally he went berserk, pulled out all his hair, and died.
When the prison officials came to remove his body, a guard noticed something caught in a huge spider’s web in the upper corner of the room.
That’s strange, he thought. I wonder how a marble got up there.
As the story of the frantic prisoner illustrates, human perception sometimes poses questions the mind is incapable of answering. But valid answers always exist. For those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ, it just makes good sense not to depend too heavily on our ability to make the pieces fit—especially when we’re trying to figure out the Almighty!
Not only is human perception a highly flawed and imprecise instrument, but our emotions are even less reliable. They have the consistency and dependability of Silly Putty. I wrote a book some years ago entitled Emotions: Can You Trust Them? I invested nearly 200 pages to answer my own question in the negative. No, we can’t depend on our feelings and passions to govern our lives or assess the world around us. Emotions are unreliable—biased—whimsical. They lie as often as they tell the truth. They are manipulated by hormones—especially in the teen years—and they wobble dramatically from early morning, when we’re rested, to the evening, when we’re tired. One of the evidences of emotional maturity is the ability (and the willingness) to overrule ephemeral feelings and govern our behavior with the intellect and the will. (Did it really require 200 pages to say that?)
James C. Dobson and R. T. Kendall, When God Doesn’t Make Sense (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum, 2012).
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