Jana and I have been recently caught up in the PBS drama “Sherlock,” which is a great retelling of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of Sherlock Holmes in a 21st century setting. One of the statements that drives the famous detective summarizes his approach to life, and all his cases: “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” For Sherlock, this is lived out through the power of observation. There are always clues; small ones, no doubt, but clues nonetheless that eventually lead to a deduction about the nature of the circumstances. It’s deductive reasoning at its finest.
Let me put it another way: The circumstances of a given situation, when analyzed, lead to the greater truth behind the situation. And while that works for Sherlock, it isn’t necessarily as rock solid in the life of the Christian. Because circumstances aren’t the measure of God’s love.
Consider the variety of circumstances Paul presents in Philippians 4:12-13:
I know both how to have little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content – whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Look back over Paul’s life, and you’ll see that he lived in any number of given situations. Sometimes good, many times bad. He knew what it meant to be shipwrecked, beaten, snake-bitten, received, loved, hard at work, abandoned, and supported. His life story reads like a circumstantial elevator, moving up and down, up and down. So if you take the Holmsian methodology and apply it to Paul, then you might come to several reasonable conclusions:
- Paul wasn’t good with money.
- Paul didn’t know how to choose his friends.
- Paul was a bad networker.
- Paul was passionate, but sometimes his passion got the better of his wisdom.
And if you look a little deeper, and begin to weigh his circumstances in light of God, you might come to several more:
- God was sometimes mad at Paul.
- God is incapable of doing anything to ease the pain of his people.
- God doesn’t care about the pain of His people, but rather sees them only as tools for His purposes.
This is when it starts to break down. Because circumstances aren’t the measure of God’s love. The cross is the measure of God’s love. At the cross, God answered once and for all the great depth of His love for His people. He proved it through the death of His Son. That’s why any and every circumstance can’t just be weighed against logical deduction. Every circumstance must be viewed in the massive and overpowering shadow of the cross.
When the questions regarding God’s love and care arise, return to the cross.
When the circumstances seem to rage out of control, return to the cross.
When there seems to be no hope, return to the cross.
This is how much God loved us. Case closed.