God is beyond our comprehension, and that is just the fact of the matter. This does not mean that God is completely incomprehensible, nor does it mean that we can never have certainty concerning what we know about God. It means, instead, that we will never be able to understand God fully. As amazing as the human mind is, it can never fully grasp him. We can understand, in limited ways, the things he has told us in his word, but even in the Bible we are told things about God that are too deep for us to know or understand completely.
A good example is God’s providential activity by which he causes all things to accomplish his purpose, even those things that people do that are meant to oppose God and thwart his plans. Management of that order would be difficult to imagine even if we had in mind a small, limited set of things, but when we understand that God controls and works everything in the universe, and every human action, for the accomplishment of his will, the concept is too much for us to comprehend. It is no wonder that Paul remarked “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Rom 11.33). In a similar vein, he said “Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Cor 9.15).
Other examples would be the power of God, the knowledge and wisdom of God, the holiness of God, the eternity and unchangeableness of God, and other such attributes. It would be silly for any human to think that he/she could understand any one of these in all of their depth and profundity, let alone all of them. In fact, there are several scenes in the Bible where God became angry at people for thinking that they had God “all figured out.” What we know about God from the Bible is a small part of a tiny fraction of the whole truth about him. The entire truth about him cannot be contained in our limited minds.
It may be that the most mysterious and the most difficult-to-comprehend quality of God is his love. God’s love for us is unconquerable and unconditional. We can see imperfect examples of this in our world, but to know this truth absolutely, to know this truth about God in all its depth, is beyond us. Allow me to explain what I mean.
The love that a mother or father has for their children is a marvelous thing. It is ingrained and natural, and it is one of the strongest bonds and forces in this world. All kinds of heroic things have been done and all kinds of tremendous sacrifices have been made by parents for their children, all because of love. What other force on this earth is comparable to it?
One of the strange things about love is that it both empties us and fills us at the same time. A mother spends herself for years for the good of her children, and in the process she becomes drained physically, emotionally, and in other ways too. But that same love also fills a mother with joy, purpose, satisfaction, and peace. A couple may be perfectly happy in their love for each other, but that love is expanded tremendously when children come into the picture. Parents realize that they experienced more of love after they had children than before. Their children, and the relationship of love between them, fills parents up in a way that they could not have known, predicted, or foreseen.
I mention all of this as an analogy to God. I believe that our capacity to love is a direct reflection of our Maker’s image. We are able to love because we are made in the image of God who is love. If we can understand something of how marvelous human love is, then we can begin to understand something of God’s love too.
The Bible is clear: God loves us, he loves his children dearly (in fact, he loves the entire world of people). Like little children, we need God for everything, and what a wonderful blessing it is that God gives us all we need physically and spiritually, and that he guides us cares for us. It is easy to think of all the reasons we love God, and why we should love him more all the time.
What is difficult to comprehend is that God, as our spiritual Father, is somehow “fulfilled” by our relationship with him, by our love for him. Just as parents are fulfilled by the loving relationship they have with their children, there seems to be some mysterious sense in which even God himself is fulfilled by the relationship between us and him. Just as human couples without children are lacking a great dimension of the experience of love, there seems to be some mysterious sense in which God himself is unfulfilled and, in a sense, lacking, without us, his children. Not only do we need our Father, but in some way, God our Father needs us.* God dwells in us, but we also dwell in Him (John 6.56; 14.20; 15.4; 1 John 4.13). In the end, not only are we going to inherit what the Father has stored up for us, but the Bible also says that God will inherit us (Eph 1.18). And there is a sense that things are not completely right – either with us or with God – until that happens. When the saints are home in heaven, not only will we be filled up with all the glory and love of God in a way that we cannot begin to imagine here, but also God will be filled up too.
Of course, it is almost impossible to imagine any sense in which God could be said to be incomplete or lacking anything. By his very nature God has every good quality in infinite measure. And yet, in some strange way, he desires us, he loves us, and we fill him up. How that can be, I will not pretend to understand. The very fact of it alone is almost unimaginable. But it is there in the Bible. I don’t understand how it could be this way with God, but I rejoice that it is because it gives us hope and security to know that, in some strange way, God wants and needs us just as much as we want and need him. I think it provides us with one more reason to believe that God will not fail to save his people in the end.
(* this statement and the one below it is meant as figurative, expressive language. Notice that I said “in some way”)