The sea appears to be the most trackless of worlds. No footprints mark trails across its fathomless depths. The sea is the very symbol of mystery. And yet when we travel on a ship across it, although we see no path upon the great expanse of waters, nor any sign of shores to give us our bearings, the captain of the ship has a calm faith that he can find his way across the trackless deep. Observe the master mariner of the old days. He loosed his cable from the dock, and sailed away from the land, marking an unseen path toward a port three thousand miles away. For days, weeks, or even months, he went on, day and night, with no land or other friendly sail in sight. However, he had no fear - because his experience had taught him how to steer as though there were a chalk-line drawn across the sea. One morning he found himself exactly opposite the desired haven for which he had been steering. How did he find his way across that trackless space? How did he steer with such amazing accuracy, without sight? He did it by trusting his compass and his instruments, and by looking up into the sky day and night, obeying the guidance of the heavenly bodies. He fixed his course for sailing not by earthly signs, but by heavenly lights.
God is described as able to wade through mighty oceans as a man might ford some tiny stream. The plummetless depths of the watery abyss are as nothing to Him who made them. "Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known." (Psalm 77:19) Even the sea, in every part of it, is the Lord's highway. He well knows the paths across the most trackless wilds - and equally so across our greatest mysteries. F.B. Meyers wrote: "God is never lost among our mysteries. He knows His way about. When we are bewildered, He sees the road, and He sees the end even from the beginning." Just as we cannot trace His footprints across the sea, it is not given to us to always be able to gauge His reasons for circumstances in our lives, or to decipher His great secrets. This mighty God marches through the ages with steps we cannot trace, for as mere human beings we have no measure for computing the standards of His realm.
Assuredly, our God does give us an allotted share of "knowing", but mystery is part of our appointed discipline. He chooses what we need to know, and what we don't need to know. The path down which He leads us may often seem to lead to utter uncertainty, or even to darkness and disaster, but someday we will understand that the "bewildering sea" has been our friend. Uncertainty is one of His ordained means of growth, developing in our lives the needed fruits of hope and faith, teaching us to go forth day by day not knowing, but trusting. We need the mysterious seas of life, for they prepare us for a deeper assurance. Without the overwhelming experiences, the floods of sorrows which we cannot explain, we would never become robust in our spirits, but would remain weaklings to the end of our days. But, although God takes us out into the deeps, His way is in the sea. He knows the destination, He knows the track, and we who look up for His guidance on our way shall arrive!
Captains of ships in the service of a country's Navy know what it means to "sail under sealed orders." Often before leaving port, the officer will be given a sealed envelope along with orders not to open it until after the vessel has embarked. The instructions are not to be read until a specified time. Many times, when the captain opens it he will find only longitude and latitude coordinates. He understands that only after he has arrived at that particular nautical intersection, will he be given further instructions when he radios his commander from that location. The captain is likely to have no idea of his ultimate destination, but is required to simply, explicitly, and faithfully follow orders from point to point. He knows that somewhere out there are specific appointments set by his commander for him that are important, and he determines not to fail to meet them.
Many centuries ago, a similar assignment was given to a man named Abraham. We can read the account of his life, and if we have "eyes to see, and ears to hear" we will discern that it was intended by God to be an example to all of us. A gracious hand beckoned that man to leave all that he had known up to that point in his life, all that was familiar to him, and follow a call of God to cross a vast desert. Abraham did not know where he was going; but for him, it was enough that he was going with God. "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." (Hebrews 11:8) As the navy captain must trust that his commander knows what he is doing when he gives his orders, so, too, Abraham was required to trust his commander. The ship captain may have no facts or evidence given to him, but Abraham was given glimpses at least. Something of his destination must have loomed upon his vision, for we are told that he looked for a city whose builder and maker was God, and that he sought a country - a better country, a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:10,14-16). Above all, Abraham had a promise, a promise that if he would obey and go forth, he would be blessed and also would be a blessing. He could endure all the difficulties of his lot because he chose not to look at the difficulties, but to focus on that Promiser who had appointed his course. He was willing to rise up, and to leave all, because he was acquainted with that One as the eternal, invisible, all-wise King - who would certainly vindicate Himself as the Promise-keeper. Abraham, this "father of faith", our example, was content to "sail with sealed orders" because he had unwavering confidence in the trustworthiness and wisdom of his Lord High Admiral. And when we have entrusted our lives into the hands of our Maker and our God, we will discover that this is what is required of us. Believing that our Admiral has an overall plan for our lives, we must venture forward trustingly on the first step of our appointed journey as He directs - and wait patiently for the specifics to unfold in His chosen timing and way. As we are willing to yield up our itinerary and instead obey Him, even in the face of great uncertainty and unknowns, we will find He is faithful to guide us by opening up the way before us, many times in ways we could have never imagined. Launch forth on His track; it will conduct you to the open sea! He takes the responsibility to bear you to the goal.
Many of us want to know the way - the whole plan, the entire itinerary, the exact blueprint - before we are willing to start any enterprise. We are not willing to submit to following God unless it makes sense to us. And even more, we try to dictate to Him that we want the journey to be one of lying down "in green pastures" and being led "beside still waters". We concede, "I will go, if this is the way the journey will be." But, He will not show you a chart of all His purposes concerning you. He will not comfort your distrust of Him. He will not be pushed into the position of having to answer to you or to me.
There is a very critical and essential matter that each one of us must settle in our hearts. Is my will committed to accepting that God is God, or do I choose to align myself with mankind's ancient Luciferic quest for ascension to godhood? (Isaiah 14:13-14) Wisdom, understanding, and enlightenment - they are all tempting bait. Coveting to understand, to be wise in our own sight, to have the right to know "why?" are not the good, innocent motives that they may seem on the surface. Within such deceptive bait there is a hidden hook. The hook is the temptation to hang onto my self-will. The most basic question we all must answer is, "Will it be my will, my way - or God's?" I am like my mother Eve when I choose to believe the concept of man's autonomy, when I rationalize that I have the right of self-government. "And when the woman saw that it was a tree to be desired to make one wise... she...did eat." (Genesis 3:6) Has mankind's history really proven that the enticing seduction "you shall be as gods" is truly wisdom - or is it, in actuality, merely arrogant and dangerous willfulness? Except for the thoughts God chooses to share with us, our yielding to the temptation "to know", delving into what He wills to keep in the realm of mystery, is still forbidden fruit.
Of course, we have the prerogative to argue about the sovereignty of God. Indubitably, the greatest minds in history have wrestled with the issue of the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man. However, I think I will look at it in a simple way: accepting the inevitable reality that God has a perspective that we do not have. Instead of bucking like an ornery, untamable horse against letting God be the One in control, rather than myself, I will let God take care of the things we humans cannot possibly fathom, and I will target my efforts toward taking care of my responsibility. As has been used as an illustration many times: Our perspective is like looking at the backside of a tapestry, with all its knots, and loose strands, and tangles. But if we let Him lead the way for us, someday in eternity God will turn that tapestry around, and we will perceive the beautiful thing He has woven out of our lives. Then, things that we did not understand we will see were purposeful and needful, and for our ultimate best. In that day, we will understand. "Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33) As long as we are in human flesh, we cannot understand the mind of the Creator; but, we can rest secure in the truth that the all-wise and all-loving One is in control. And we can trustingly wait for "the turning."
We are not left to take our journey into the unknown without guidance. If we go to God to be guided, He will guide us. As we step out, going forward in trust and contentment, He will continue showing us the way still farther on. "Neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee." (II Chronicles 20:12) Wait on God until He makes His way known, for He wants us to act according to His mind, for our highest good. We can depend on Him, in His own time and way, to lead us, His own. As the good Shepherd, who lay down His life for His sheep, He has pledged Himself to convoy us through deep and dark waters to our fold. He alone knows the way.
"As moves my fragile bark across the storm-swept sea.
Great waves beat o'er her side, as north wind blows;
Deep in the darkness hid lie threat'ning rocks and shoals;
But all of these, and more, my Pilot knows.
Sometimes when dark the night, and every light gone out,
I wonder to what port my frail ship goes;
Still though the night be long, and restless all my hours,