The link between anxiety and not-knowing also shows itself in our craving for knowledge of the future. Like an impatient reader who flips to the last page of a suspenseful novel to relieve the tension, we want a peek into what’s next. It’s no wonder the practice of divination stretches back to the earliest days of human history, and it still dogs us today. For the unbeliever, it’s horoscopes, palm readings, and tarot cards. For the believer, it’s much the same thing, loosely draped in religious trappings: asking God for an extrabiblical sign, claiming a Bible promise out of context, or attaching significance to dreams or “prophetic words.”
The Bible recounts instances in which God gave knowledge of the future to certain people for a specific purpose, but these instances cannot be taken as normative. We tell ourselves that if we knew the future, we would put that knowledge to good use, but how likely is that? It’s far more likely that we would use that knowledge to stoke the flames of our self-reliance and to forward our own interests. We want to say that knowledge of tomorrow would remove our anxieties, but this assumes that tomorrow holds sunshine, or that knowing what it holds means we could face it better. Whatever tomorrow holds, we can be certain that its contents will raise as many questions as they will answer. We can trust God to manage the future without our help. It is none of our business.
But the future is not the only place we look for knowledge that isn’t ours to manage. We often exhibit an unhealthy interest in the affairs of others. The Bible terms this “meddling.” It is significant that Peter places meddling in the midst of a list of sins that includes murder and theft (1 Pet. 4:15). It is a form of violation of another person made in the image of God. Meddlers believe they are entitled to knowledge of other peoples’ situations. While they would no doubt fiercely defend their own right to privacy, they extend no such grace to others. If information is accessible, they view it as fair game. They are the consumers of tabloid journalism, the whisperers of gossip, the curators of the secret details of other people’s lives. They are the reason we have passwords on our phones and our computers.
Meddling can be tricky to catch because it often masquerades as loving concern. As a parent, I have felt the desire to meddle grow as my children have grown. The closer they move toward adulthood, the less I can (and should) be involved in their private conversations and affairs. But it has been a challenge to move from a place of knowing their every move and every word to an age-appropriate place of not-knowing.
Yes, I could read every text and email on their phones. Yes, I could stalk all their online relationships and monitor all their movements by GPS. There are seasons and circumstances in which these measures may be a means of protection and blessing, but as my children mature, I must increasingly release them to God’s care, trusting the all-knowing One to watch over them. We all have relationships that we feel compelled to overmonitor—a spouse, a friend prone to crisis, even someone we admire or envy. But when we meddle, we multiply their troubles and ours.
Cast Your Anxiety
Rather than casting all your anxieties on the Internet, which cares for no man, cast them on God, for he cares for you (1 Pet. 5:7). Rather than obsessing over the future, learn contentment in your God-ordained innocence of what is to come. Rather than meddling, focus on your own concerns. We need to let God be the one who manages all knowledge. Only he is capable, and only he can be trusted to do so with perfect wisdom. And we need to look to the knowledge of who God is to remove our anxieties. This will mean less time chasing curiosities online and more time mining for treasure in Scripture. It will mean leaving the knowledge of the future in the hands of the God who is already there. It will mean minding our own business instead of meddling. Our comfort lies not in holding all knowledge, but in trusting the One who does.
When you trust God as omniscient, you recognize and relax into four beautiful truths:
- You cannot outsmart God.
You cannot teach him a lesson of any kind. He holds all the facts. You cannot circumvent his logic or come up with an alternative or better plan. But you don’t need to. Because he knows all potential outcomes and consequences, his ways are best. They are trustworthy and safe. “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him” (Ps. 18:30).
- You cannot bargain with God.
Because he knows exactly how you will act in every if-then scenario, you cannot convince him to act a certain way by presenting him an offer of conditional obedience or reward. Any argument you present cannot offer any new insight to him. And as we’ve already seen, you have nothing he needs—he doesn’t need your obedience and he already owns your stuff. But you don’t need to bargain with God. He has already covenanted to do and allow only what is best for you. He has sealed that covenant with the blood of Christ, shed on your behalf. “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
Because he knows all potential outcomes and consequences, his ways are best.
- You cannot fool God.
All acting, from the smallest posturing to the greatest pretense is obvious to him. To God, we are all bad actors. No one is up for an Academy Award. We are completely transparent in every attempt to represent ourselves as something we are not. Whether it suits us to act as conquering victors or cowering victims, God knows our true measure. But you don’t need to fool God. He accepts you as you are, all attempts at artifice removed. The cross effectively removes our need to overplay our strengths or our weaknesses. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Ps. 139:1–3 NIV).
- You cannot rely on God to forget.
Nor should you want him to forget. If God holds all knowledge, it follows that he is incapable of forgetting. We often wrongly believe that we need a forgetful God when it comes to the record of our sins. Learning that God does not forget can cause alarm. If he can’t forget our sins, how can he fully forgive us? But you don’t need God to forget. You need him to be a God who never forgets a single thing.
The Bible promises that God “remembers our sins no more,” which is a figurative way to say that he does not count them against us. God’s inability to forget is for our good. It means we can trust his covenant. He will never forget his promises. He will never forget us. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:15–16).