Chaplain's Corner

Nothing Makes Sense

  • Larry Hirst, Author
  • Retired Chaplain, Bethesda Place

When “nothing makes sense” it is hard to believe. Life is smattered with the “nothing makes sense” realities that can drive many to abandon belief altogether. In this past year I have had the privilege of being invited into a few of the “nothing makes sense” realities that others were experiencing. I call it a privilege, because those are truly some of the most intimate moments of life, it is often when confronted with a situation that we can make no sense of that we feel most vulnerable.

I’ll be honest, when invited into these “nothing makes sense” situations that others are experiencing I feel incredibly impotent, ignorant and helpless. I get a small taste of what the person in the midst of the “nothing makes sense” situation feels. Not that I don’t have my own, but my work calls me to rub shoulders with others in these “nothing makes sense” times of life. In those moments I am powerfully tempted to slip into that pious, spiritual cliché mode. You know, “Just trust the Lord.” or “This trial will make you stronger.” or “God will not let you face anything he will not also give you the strength to bear.” But in those moments when nothing makes sense, these pious statements, although they may be true, are generally heard as judgment and not encouragement or comfort. Maybe right now you are in one of those “nothing makes sense” times in your life; if you are, or you know someone that is, maybe reflecting on this reality will be helpful.

When we are sucked into one of those “nothing makes sense” times in our life, there are a number of things that I’ve found helpful to get some perspective on things. When I find myself smack in the middle of a “nothing makes sense” situation I need to stop and ask myself the question:  “Why can’t I make sense out of this situation?” We don’t often ask “Why am I having trouble making sense out of this situation?” but it is an important question to ask.

Sometimes I can’t make sense out of a situation I find myself in because I have very little information. When we lack information, it helps to seek out the information we need to understand what is happening. But sometimes no matter how hard we seek, the information is not available because sometimes no one has the information. For instance if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer and you have never smoked and never worked in an environment where there was second hand smoke and never were exposed to any of the known causes of lung cancer there is just no information available to help make sense out of what is happening to you.

Other times we lack the information we need because someone isn’t willing to share the information with us. There are times when we find ourselves in the midst of a “nothing makes sense” situation and another person holds the key to making sense out of what is going on. However, there are times when the person with the key chooses not to share it. This is cruel and heartless but it is at times the case.

Other times we lack the information we need to help make sense out of what is happening because even when given the information, we don’t understand it. I can remember a time when I was frustrated with my computer. I just couldn’t get it to work and I needed it to do a job that I was working on. I called a fellow who was able to straighten the thing out and as he did he told me what I needed to do if it happened again. To be honest, I didn’t understand a word he said and the next time the problem came up – I still couldn’t make sense of it.

Another thing I have found helpful when I find myself in the middle of one of those “nothing makes sense” situations that challenges my faith is useful to ask the question:  “What or who am I trusting in this situation?” I have spent my whole life as part of one faith community or another. But the fact remains that even inside the walls of a church, when we are faced with a “nothing makes sense” situation and we ask, “What or who am I trusting?” the answer often comes back something very different than we would think. The “right” answer, I guess would be “I am trusting in God” but even in religious communities, the truth is that we are trusting in something or someone other than God.

Often we trust in ourselves and when we are in a “nothing makes sense” situation, trusting in ourselves is quite fruitless. Sometimes we trust in other people and in those “nothing makes sense” situations, other people generally fail us, they are as powerless as we are to bring clarity and sense to life’s “nothing makes sense” situations. Other times we are trusting in the government or science or technology of some sort and, well to be honest, as useful as these things are at times, they generally aren’t very helpful when we run smack into one of those “nothing makes sense” situations.

So what does it mean to trust in God when we are in the middle of a “nothing makes sense” situation in life? Again, that depends entirely upon what we believe about God. Let me share with you what that means for me. When I trust in God in the midst of my own “nothing makes sense” situations, I believe first that everything makes sense to God. I believe that God is all knowing and all wise and consequently, I believe that God is never presented with a situation that he can not make sense of.

When I say that I am trusting God I am saying that I believe that God is never out of control of anything. This belief in itself presents me with much that I can’t understand, but I believe it none-the-less. I believe that God is in control of everything.

When I say I am trusting in God I also mean that I believe that God is committed to me, that he loves me. So I believe that whatever this “nothing makes sense” situation might be, it is NOT a sign that God has abandoned me or doesn’t care about me. As well when I speak of trusting in God, I believe that God’s purposes and ways of dealing with me are of necessity mysterious for God’s infinite knowledge and understanding can not be grasp by my finite wisdom and understanding of things. Therefore faith in this God calls me to simply embrace the situation and the God who is in control of everything and go for the ride.

In the end then, I believe we must content ourselves with the fact that there is much that we will never understand and even when we think we have something figured out, we often find that shortly, our conclusions prove themselves to fall short and we find ourselves right back where we started, lost in a “nothing makes sense” situation.

Some of you will read this and conclude, “What a load of blither!” Yes, I am sure some of you will conclude that. Others will read this and think, “ Hummm, maybe there’s something here that I should think about.”

I didn’t write this piece to resolve any of our “nothing makes sense” situations. I know that if you are not a person of faith that my musings may seem utterly absurd. That’s OK; I have my moments with that conclusion myself. But in truth, although what I am suggesting has not resolved most of my “nothing makes sense” situations, it has allowed me to live in those situations with a great degree of peace for this approach has freed me from the never ending pursuit of seeking to discover all the factors that will finally enable me to make sense out of the situations and mysteries of my life.

Chaplain's Corner was written by Bethesda Place now retired chaplain Larry Hirst. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer and do not represent the views or opinions of people, institutions or organizations that the writer may have been associated with professionally.