Tag Archives: Lord

You Cannot Trust What You Can Understand

Recently a friend was diagnosed with cancer. She told her friends she would think positive thoughts and asked them to do the same. Later, she sent an email describing the biopsy, the treatment alternatives, and the likelihood that healing would be complete and her life back to normal in two months. The email ended with these words: “I love science.”

Having traveled the road of diagnosis and treatment for cancer with more than one friend, I take the information about her prospects with a grain of salt. Having seen science do its best to apply human understanding to medical treatment for cancer and many other assorted diseases, my respect for science us undiminished, but my confidence in the ability of human intelligence to conquer all diseases is flavored with considerable caution about its boundaries.

Disease of any sort in general and cancer in particular powerfully demonstrates a good reason not to put all your faith in science. Science is always by definition a temporary state of human knowledge, truth right up to the moment a flaw in its findings is discovered. Science takes us to the limits of human understanding. If we count on human understanding, we must always be prepared to find ourselves standing on a precipice at the edge of an unbridged crevice in human understanding.

My friend may love science, but science does not love her. Science is implacably neutral toward everything and everyone. If the physician who performed her biopsy failed to obtain a good sample of the tissue, if the pathologist who read the sample missed a crucial variant in color, texture, shape or etc., if the oncologist fails to account for one or several things, known or unknown at the time, or if any of a dozen other possible events go the wrong way, science will not lovingly cover the problem anyway and make her well anyway.

Science has no commitment to my friend. She is committing everything to science, but science is not committed to her. Whether she lives or dies, to science she is the solution to an equation. Humans know only a few of the variables in the equation. Their knowledge of variables and constants alike is limited by their ability to measure. The humans insert values they can measure into the parts of the equation that they think they know, blind to an uncounted number of factors they do not know and cannot measure. Whether treatment is a success or a failure for my friend, to science, it is simply the answer produced by the values inserted into the equation. Her doctor may care, but science doesn’t.

Before my friend went for her biopsy, I visited with her. We talked briefly, and I gave her a card on which I had written, “praying for you.”  She smiled and assured me she would prefer I just think positive thoughts toward her. She is convinced that a positive attitude will fill any gaps in scientific knowledge. I know what the writer of Proverbs knew—“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5) We cannot trust human positive thinking any more than we can trust the limits of human understanding. We can only trust the Lord.

My friend believes in science so much that she entrusts everything to science. For her, life ends when her body ceases to function. If the solution to her equation during cancer treatment is physical death, she believes only the particles of her physical body will endure, consistent with the law of the preservation of matter and energy. She consistently has rejected the news that her Creator made her and all other human beings with an eternal dimension. She does not realize that Creator God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Ecclesiastical 3:11). She chooses to ignore God’s voice in her life, a voice that loves her and cares for her as no doctor or scientific discovery ever can care for her. The voice of eternity is always speaking, but she covers it up with the positive thinking bounded by her own understanding. Where will she turn if her treatment equation turns out to be a solution for the end of her time/space body?

I am praying for my friend to open her eyes and put her trust in the God whose equations always include eternity. I pray fervently fir her to learn that it is better to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” than to “lean on your own understanding.” When science’s equations solve for 0, God’s equations still solve for eternity.

A Verse for Meditation

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. The Lord loves the righteous.
Psalm 146:8

  • Why do we bow before the Lord? Why don’t we bow when we meet good friends?
  • What does it mean to be bowed down before the Lord? When was the last time you would have described yourself as “bowed down before the Lord?”
  • Do you think the Lord is picky because he loves the righteous? Do you think you are righteous?
  • How can anyone be righteous before the Lord? What does it mean when the Bible says that the Lord treate Abraham’s faith in action as his righteousness?
  • Why does the Lord care if you are bowed down? Think of situations where you have felt defeated, stymied, shamed, or otherwise less than valuable that might mean you are “bowed down.” Is a person oppressed and enslaved automatically bowed down?

A Verse for Meditation

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4, 5


  • For Hebrews, the heart was the center of a human’s life. It was the locus of the recognition of right and wrong. What would it mean to love God fully in recognition of the difference between all that is right and all that is wrong? To put it another way, knowing that there is a raging battle between good and evil all around us, what does it mean to love God with all your heart?
  • Greeks thought of a human being as a soul within a body; Hebrews thought of the soul and body as one being. To Deuteronomy’s author, humans are integrated, body and soul. What does it mean to love God as a fully integrated human being, a being who does not “have” a body, but rather a being who “is” a body? This concept occurs in Jesus’ teaching when he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NRSV) The word teleios which is translated as “perfect” could more clearly be translated “fully integrated,” and the sense of the word is such that an alternate translation might well be, “Be a person of integrity, as your heavenly Father is a person of integrity.” What does it mean to love God with your complete integrity?
  • The Hebrew word translated might is about the uttermost force and strength of life. It is about being utterly committed. It is about using every ounce of personal power. It is about being all in, giving 100%. What does it mean, therefore, to love God with all your might?
  • To live in today’s world is to be subjected to many calls for your attention at any given moment. Places to go, things to buy, desires, threats, simple everyday tasks. Multi-tasking to achieve multiple objectives in parallel is a highly-valued skill. Can it even be possible that there is one God who has a unique claim on all your priorities at all times? How can you possibly put God first, above all other demands on your attention and your loyalties?

A Verse for Meditation

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High.                                                                                                                 Psalm 92:1 

English: Scroll of the Psalms
English: Scroll of the Psalms (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Questions for thought and prayer:

  • When was the last time you began to pray with praise or thanksgiving instead of a petition?Do you give thanks when you open a box of Kleenex? Do you remember that a beautiful tomato is God’s creative handiwork when you are shopping for groceries? Have you ever been sick enough that now you are grateful when you wake up painfree? 
  • The Bible says that God calls every star by its name. Do you feel small when you look at the night sky full of stars, or do you feel grateful that the Creator of this magnificence knows your name?
  • God is called by many names in the Bible. What names come to mind first when you think about praising and thanking God? How do the many names for God help you to give him praise and thanksgiving? Do you have trouble remembering to give thanks and praise, because you have so many requests? 
  • (Remember that in the liturgy we are reminded to do this when we worship in the congregation:
    Pastor – Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
    Congregation – It is right to give God thanks and praise.) 

If time permits, read Psalm 92 in its entirety. It is a beautiful prayer of praise and thanksgiving that will inspire you to notice more things that are worthy of your praise and thanks.

© 2012 Katherine Harms