In a beautiful passage in Isaiah 55, the Lord cries out to Israel to return to Him and reminds them that only He can supply what they need. He then says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (verses 8–9). A loving parent does things for a child that the child doesn’t understand. Likewise, the Lord loves, guides, protects, and provides for us in ways we don’t understand. His thoughts are higher than ours. As an infinite Being with infinite wisdom, God knows and understands things we cannot comprehend. We are wise when we bow to that knowledge rather than demand that He do things our way.
We live in a material world, so our natural focus is primarily on our physical needs. But when our thoughts are centered on mundane matters, we miss what God wants to show us. He is beyond time and space. His thoughts are always on the big picture. Our thoughts are earthly; His are heavenly. Our thoughts are limited; His are unlimited and unsearchable.
When God promises that “all things work together for the good to them who love God and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28), His definition of good may not match ours. We may not see our struggles as leading to anything good because we can’t see into the future. We cannot know how God’s work in our lives will impact ourselves and countless others. He sees the whole picture; we see only the frame. Lost in our lowly thoughts, we cannot fathom the higher plan of God. That’s why we have to trust His character when we don’t understand.
In Jeremiah 29:11 God expresses some of His higher thoughts toward Israel: “For I know the plans I have for you, . . . plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” In this verse, God promised that the Israelites, exiled in Babylon, would one day return to their homeland. He encouraged them not to give up or think that the Lord had abandoned them. His thoughts toward them were higher than they could imagine, and they had to put their faith in His promises, even while enduring His discipline (2 Kings 21:14; Jeremiah 29:14). God was reminding His children that He can see around corners and into a future that they could not see. As God’s children today, we can also claim this verse, knowing that God’s thoughts toward each of us are on a higher plane than our own.
When God allows sorrow and pain to enter the lives of His beloved children, it is because His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He intends to use our difficulties to produce the character of Christ in us (Romans 8:29). He comforts us in our troubles so that we can learn to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4). His goals for us are higher than our goals for ourselves because His thoughts always have an eternal dimension. Our experiences are small pieces in a giant puzzle that stretches across human history from beginning to end. We may not understand our part in the puzzle, but we can trust that God does. As we surrender to His plan, we set aside our earth-bound thoughts and allow His higher thoughts to direct our paths (see Proverbs 3:5–6).