There’s a secret that everyone is looking for—everyone from scientists and cabbies, name-it-and-claim-it gurus and school teachers, and even homeschooling stay-at-home moms trying not to pull their hair out because the kids won’t give them five minutes of privacy.
What is the secret of the universe?
Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves—to be a part of a bigger story. To know that there’s more going on than what we can see in our present circumstances. To know that life isn’t just a random series of events, but that there is a plan. There is something that makes sense of all that we see and hear and experience.
Scientists have long sought the answer in what they call the unified field theory, or the theory of everything: a single framework for understanding and tying together all known phenomena and explaining the nature of, well, everything.[1. A good and easy to understand definition of this theory can be found here.] This, they believe, is the secret that, once found, “will eliminate all the mysteries, satisfy all the longings, clarify all the misconceptions,” writes Jared Wilson in The Story of Everything (15).
But are they right? Kind of, yeah. There is an answer to the question everyone asks. There is a way to know the secret of the universe. So what is it?
The thing that makes sense of everything is the glory of God brought to bear by the grace of God. And God’s modus operandi, his plan to reveal this secret, is the proclamation of the message the Bible calls “the gospel,” the good news that the glorious God has sent the radiance of his glory to restore men who have sinned and fallen short of his glory (Rom. 3:23). (24)
This is the message Wilson shares in The Story of Everything, his most recent book from Crossway, as he shows readers how God is at work in everything—from history, art and science, to work, pain, fun and even evil—to reveal his glory to the us all. That the “theory of everything” starts and stops with him.
God’s is the point of everything (as he should be)
That really is the whole point of the book. And as Wilson explains the story and how God is at work in all things, not just in the beginning but right now in how he is restoring all things through the gospel, Wilson continually draws us back to God in all his glory. When we read that “God has embedded order, intelligence, and design into his creation. It’s not just the heavens that declare the glory of God, it’s the discarded seashells” (56), this isn’t written just to tell us a fact. It’s a reminder of God’s intimate involvement with every aspect of creation. That no detail is too insignificant to escape his attention.
And this, of course, begs the question: If discarded seashells proclaim the glory of God, how can we not do likewise? Or to put it another way, how can Christians do something as silly as point away from someone as glorious as God to themselves? We can’t. Or we shouldn’t. And yet, isn’t that exactly what we’re doing when we put our hope in spectacle on Sundays, or confuse our allegiance to Christ with a political party or nationstate?
When we do this, we’re pointing to the world as the answer to the problem. If we have enough lasers and smoke machines, we’ll win people to Jesus. If we have the right party or leader in charge, then we’ll turn our nation around. Great in theory, but remember: the world itself is part of the problem, so pointing to something that’s totally broken and saying, “Let’s be like that” just isn’t going to cut it, any more than it worked out when the Israelites spurned God as their king in order to be like all the surrounding nations (1 Samuel 8:1-9).
Instead, our role is to “to keep pointing away from the world for the hope of the world” (98), and instead always be pointing to Jesus who is the hope of the world. “While everyone else points to government, family, good deeds, and whatever else as The Secret, the church keeps pointing to the alien, heavenly power of grace as the hope for our problems and for our false hopes.”
The point of pain
This the kind of understanding that helps us make sense of all we experience—that even something like pain has a purpose.That evil and injustice aren’t random occurrences, but that they have a point. But sometimes Christians have been glib or dismissive about real struggles—we desperately want to try to offer the solution for why specifically we’re experiencing something, so we offer (nonsensical) platitudes like “choose to sin, choose to suffer,” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” But that’s not how we should approach issues like pain and suffering—we shouldn’t automatically jump to the suggestion that your suffering is the direct result of the sins you’ve committed, anymore than we should be offering a well-intended, but soul-sucking pep talk.
Instead, we should recognize that pain exists, in some respect, to remind us that this world is not the way it was meant to be. “Pain gets our attention on things that matter in a way that painlessness definitely does not. That is at least one of its benefits, an embedded mercy in the pain we were cursed with at the fall,” Wilson writes. “If we did not feel pain we would not know the very important truth that we are needful of help, rescue, and redemption” (152).
No new news (and that’s good news)
These truths should not surprise you—and hopefully they don’t discourage you. They are, after all, the old truths of the Bible, those we find in Genesis, Ecclesiastes, Habbakuk, John’s gospel, the Psalms, and in every other book of the Bible.
And to be honest, it’s really good news that there is no new news in The Story of Everything. We don’t need something new because God has given us everything we need already. What do do need, sometimes, is to be reminded of what’s already been given to us. And this Wilson does admirably in this book as he reminds us that there is good news to tell and to be seen—that God is making all things new, and “he commands us to behold him doing it” (224).
Title: The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God’s Plan for the World
Author: Jared C. Wilson
Publisher: Crossway (2015)