Like many others who struggled through algebra and its highbrow cousins in school and wondered how they would ever be useful in my life, I have successfully lived that life without advanced mathematics.

Not that it was totally useless — aside from being a mind-stretching exercise (although Logic would have been more useful) — higher math’s primary impact on my life was to teach me one salient fact:

Without sufficient information, we cannot come to accurate conclusions. I’m glad that somebody knows how to figure out how much water will will be in left in a 100-gallon-tank — after 3 hours — which is losing 8 ounces of liquid per minute through a little hole in the bottom, while gaining 6.75 ounces in the same period of time. I don’t.

What I do know, however, is that without enough information, and the right information, even the finest mathematician cannot figure out the answer.

Struggling through Life

This concept is not limited to the classroom, but rather, follows us throughout life. Imperfect beings, limited by time, space, and our own bodies, we try to figure out what is going on around us, and in our lives, by the limited facts we have available.

Quite often, we succeed — when a knock comes at the door, it’s 98 percent certain that there is a human being standing on the other side, and if we’re expecting a package at 11 a.m. and it’s 11:01 we finesse our judgment further — but just as often, we’re wrong. It could be someone selling cookies. Part A was right, Part B was not.

After delicately extricating ourselves from purchasing an overpriced product, funding an establishment we don’t support, without hurting the innocent child the corporation sent out to do their work, we might ruminate on how the conclusion we came to — while reasonable and supported by the facts — was wrong.

My Third Cup of Tea

This morning, at breakfast, my husband the Norwegian Artist poured me a third cup of tea.

“Will you pass the cream, please?”

Without a word, he left the table.

One natural and logical conclusion to this information is that we got in a fight, and it’s the first one that many minds would jump to (“Man Storms Off in a Fury!”). However, when I add a couple small, seemingly insignificant details:

“Without a word, he picked up the creamer, left the table, and got the milk out of the refrigerator,”

then marital bliss is restored.

When we don’t have all the facts, it is simply impossible to consistently and accurately arrive at the truth. A favorite literary and story-telling technique involves two separate camps, each with the same information, but totally opposite interpretations of what that information means. Georgette Heyer wrote fine romances along this line; Steve Martin’s 1999 film, Bowfinger, follows a low-budget movie maker, unable to sign on a famous star, who sets up situations in which to film the actor without his consent, or understanding. As the audience In The Know, we laugh as the movie star freaks out.

But in real life, we are not the audience In The Know — we are ordinary human beings, trying to make sense of things with what we are given.

Unscrupulous Manipulators

This is an excellent time to emphasize that people who want to control, direct, influence, and manipulate others have absolutely no scruples about giving us some of the information, but not all, as a means of directing us into drawing their intended conclusions. For this reason, it is wise to be wary: what we are not told — by the news anchors, the politicians, the corporations, the advertisers, the “experts” — is just as important to the truth as what we are told.

Knowledge is power, we all like to say, but the thing about power, is that the people who crave it aren’t the most trustworthy people to rely upon for knowledge.

There is one trustworthy person who has the added advantage of knowing everything — and this is God. Ironically, He is one of the first people we blame when things go wrong, and many of us — even those who have been Christians for a long time and really should know better — instantly jump to the conclusion that He is toying with us, playing with us, manipulating us, pushing us into a situation that we resist — all techniques well-used by evil human beings, but not an all-perfect God.

When we turn off the evening news in a panic because of what we’ve just heard, we rail at God, “Why don’t you DO something? Why do you let this happen?” without first asking ourselves, “Wait a minute — what exactly is happening? And why?

“I know what I’ve just been told, and the result is that I feel fearful, helpless, and angry at a particular group of people — but have I been given enough information to accurately figure out how much water will be left in that 100-gallon tank?”

Someone Worth Believing

In our personal lives, when everything things falls apart and the doctor’s face is grave, or there isn’t enough in the bank account to cover the electric bill, or our job is being pushed to the side so that an ambitious colleague can innocently take it over, it’s easy to piece together the available facts and come to the conclusion,

“My life is toast. I have no future. I have no hope.”

Actually, what we don’t have, is all the facts.

What we do have, is access to the One who does. And He loves us, and He watches over us, and He tells us this:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

“I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

He’s worth believing.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I encourage all God’s people to be the first ones to ask questions, and to keep asking them until they find true answers.

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