Beyond Books

Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott Studios
“Stacks,” © Lynn Abbott 

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

It’s a much quoted verse at my house these days…

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body…” (Ecclesiastes 12:12b).

My son, a student at the local community college, just laughs. You see, his life’s ambition has always been to become a professional student. He reads constantly.

Yup, he’s smarter than his mama… in more ways than one. But I’m happy to say that he possesses more than book learning. He’s got a good head. I should take a page from his playbook, I think.

When he was just 4, he came home from Sunday School full of thoughts about the story of Solomon. And when bedtime prayers rolled around, he asked if he could pray for wisdom as Solomon did.

To be honest, I was quite taken aback. He was just four, after all. However, I agreed that it was a wonderful idea. That evening, we knelt together and with childlike faith, he prayed.

I can testify that God answered that four-year-old’s prayers.

When I need good sound advice, my now nineteen-year-old provides tremendous insight into people and most decision-making. And that’s a whole lot more than I can say of myself.

Decision-making is not my strong suit. It doesn’t matter whether a choice is critical or seemingly insignificant, I agonize over it just the same.

Indeed, it’s a standing joke at my house that I once required two years to determine whether or not to purchase a particular set of mixing bowls.

Uh, huh. Indecisive. I’ve got that wired.Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott Studios

Had I been in Peter’s position, I would have hesitantly climbed in and out of the boat several times before ever trying to walk on water.

Perhaps, I would have evaluated weather information, at once considering wind direction and barometric pressure. I may even have tried to estimate the distance between myself and the Savior.

I certainly would have deliberated the risk versus reward of such a choice. “I can’t do this,” I frequently whimper.

Impulsive, I am not. I am cautious like Gideon rather than bold like Peter. I dissect every decision. weighing all its parts.

Even once I have made a decision, I tend to second-guess it forever after…

Did I make the right decision? Did I understand God correctly? Was it sensible?

I continually wonder if I put forth enough effort; I analyze the success of any endeavor. I consider whether or not I should try again.

I worry about whether or not I’ve been mistaken or misunderstood.

I despair and conclude I will surely sink.

Indeed, the noisy wind and waves seem to drown out my Savior’s voice and I lose confidence… I fear the task is too great.

The world’s naysayers scream loud in the storm, and looking desperately around me, I lose faith.

When I listen to the wind, I become the epitome of James 1:6. I have asked for wisdom but doubts consume me. I waver. I become like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.

With good humor, my son smiles when I begin dissecting. You see, while he may deliberate thoughtfully, he makes decisions with confidence. Hooray for Sunday School, Solomon and childlike faith!

Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott StudiosWhen I recall Solomon’s story, I best remember Scripture’s description of the early years of his reign. Again and again, Solomon distinguished himself with wise judgment.

One civil dispute particularly stands out: two prostitutes argued over a child. Both claimed to be the mother.

One of the women explained the circumstances that brought them before Solomon. According to the one, both had given birth in the same house. A few days after giving birth, she claimed, the other woman rolled over on her child during the night, and the baby had died as a result.

Apparently, human nature hasn’t changed much because both women sought to blame the other for the death of the one and take credit for the life of the other. Solomon’s court would have made great reality television. Certainly, there was a lot of finger-pointing that day.

Solomon had to determine which woman told the truth. It was a tricky call since it was a classic example of “she said versus she said.” No witnesses evidently came forth to support either woman.

However, Solomon knew how to cut to the heart of the matter. Almost literally.

He called for a sword, and suggested dividing the child in half. Do I think he really intended to saw the child in two? No.

But his ruse certainly accomplished his purpose; his cool yet outrageous suggestion elicited a dramatic response from the two women.

One woman begged that child be spared and given to the other. Her opponent, however, agreed to Solomon’s plan. Obviously, at that point, the king could easily discern which woman was the real mother.

His decision essentially went viral in ancient Israel.

I Kings 3:28 records,”When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott Studiosdown, they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice.”

Indeed, upon assuming the throne, Solomon had prayed, “…give Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Thine?”

Truly an example to follow.

And yet, if I finish reading Solomon’s history, I find that even the author of Proverbs 3:5, 6 succumbed to doubt. And his resulting choices led him down destructive paths. Late in life, Solomon expressed tremendous regret.

That’s what we get in the book of Ecclesiastes. His hand-wringing refrain “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity” reverberates throughout his book.

Solomon had wandered. The wise king and author of Proverbs had lost his compass. Although he began his reign by fixing his confidence and trust in God, the temptation to follow human counsel eventually lured him off track.

The initial introduction of doubt, however, didn’t seem particularly significant. No alarm bells warned Solomon. In fact, the detour appeared wise by worldly standards.

Conventional wisdom often appears logical. There’s a bit of truth in it.

After all, people can’t walk on water. No one would argue with that.

However, with Abba, it’s never about what we can do. Instead, it’s about what He plans to do through and for us.

Yet, Solomon looked around at the powerful nations on his borders and doubted God’s promised protection. Similar in this respect to Peter, Solomon listened to the booming wind and crashing waves.

He turned to the conventional, political wisdom of his day. The kings of neighboring nations had a simple strategy for establishing political stability.

They married for political purpose, selecting royal brides on the basis of political connection. They sought, in this way, to establish treaties with other kingdoms. Thus, monarchs married royalty from rival nations.

Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott StudiosSolomon evidently thought it a sensible custom and practice because Scripture tells us that he had many wives.

Unfortunately, while Solomon may have intended to establish long-term peace, he certainly chose the wrong means to secure it. After all, God had expressly told his people that they were not to marry from the nations surrounding them, (Joshua 23:12,13).

Yet, Israel’s king married from those very nations.

And just as God had predicted, such alliances led Solomon away from God.

Solomon had wealth, power, influence and fame. But his heart was divided. He had built a kingdom on the world’s sand, and his house began to crumble.

I’ve been there. I’ve asked to walk on water, and then, become distracted by the voices in the wind. I’ve asked God for wisdom, and then, doubted His promises.

I’ve listened to worldly wisdom, and feared God’s path. As a result, I’ve been tossed by wind and waves.

James tells me that if I lack wisdom, all I can ask God for it…just like Solomon did. However, like Solomon, I can’t expect to acquire wisdom if when I receive God’s word, I doubt and follow my own way instead. As James points out, when I respond in this way, I am double-minded or unstable.

But even when I doubt, all is not lost. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”

And Abba gave Solomon great grace as well.

Despite the fact that Solomon’s ungodly alliances would ultimately tear the kingdom apart, God extends peace for Solomon’s lifetime. God loved the man who once knelt in dependent, childlike faith.

And Solomon, full of regret, penned these words, “…still I know that it will be well for Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott Studiosthose who fear God, who fear Him openly,” and “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth,” (Ecclesiastes 8:12b; 12:1).

Remember. Yup. When the voices in the wind cry out that I am not worthy, that I have made the wrong decision, that God’s way is foolish, that I will surely sink, I must remember my Creator.

After all, His Word serves as the ultimate litmus test. It matters not what others say (Romans 8:31). God’s wisdom trumps human counsel.

The world’s wisdom should be evaluated, approved or disapproved in light of God’s truth, (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Abba is the answer to all my doubts and fears. His guidance eliminates any need for second guessing.

After all, the only wise God has said that I am His beloved child. He leads me in the best paths (Psalm 23:1-3).

He, in fact, has called you and me to exceptional living. He has invited us to ask for His direction in all our ways.

Sure, at times, Abba’s wisdom appears outrageous to the world. And the wind blusters.

But our God is infinitely able. Indeed, He graciously pulls you and me from deep waters when doubt overtakes us.

And I know from experience that it’s never too late to be plucked from the waves.

Yes, my Savior walks on water in the midst of the stormy gale. He hears my cries. He Stacks, copyright 2012, Lynn Abbott Studiospromises to give wisdom generously and without reproach (James 1:5).

Of course, the world makes it all so complicated. Endless books.

Don’t get me wrong. I love books.

But there are innumerable and contradictory voices out there, claiming that ultimate wisdom exists in any number of broad, worldly paths:  Sand versus the Solid Rock.

Yes, on my own, the voices in the wind and waves confuse me.

But with Abba, the good news is perfectly clear. He gives wisdom to those who diligently seek Him.  He illuminates truth.

Indeed, the Light of the World is a lamp for my feet, (Psalm 119:105). He promises to guide you and me in paths of wisdom; By His Spirit, we are able to differentiate powerful truth from destructive lies.

So, we run to our gracious Abba and cling to our Savior in childlike faith…

Despite his wandering, Solomon did get it right in the end. When we lack wisdom, we need only turn from the wind and waves…

And remember our Creator.

“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” ~Colossians 1:9

“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go,” ~ Joshua 1:8,9

“Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off,” ~Proverbs 14:14

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere,” ~James 3:17