Why We Need to Pay Attention to God’s Habit of Defying Expectations

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Hand holding sparkler above water.

I think God takes great joy in behaving in unexpected, almost oxymoronic ways. Society, logic, and even scripture sometimes seem to indicate one outcome, and God reveals Himself in another, unexpected, way (sometimes the complete opposite way). For example…

God’s “oxymorons” (for lack of a better word)

Jesus Christ and the Pharisees

One would naturally think that in order to have a fulfilling life, one must solely focus on improving one’s own life. It makes so much sense it almost looks weird to write down. But Christ says, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

One would naturally think that a divine “Savior” would come in power and great glory, treading his enemies under foot. That’s what many ancient Jews expected. But Jesus Christ was born in a stable and grew up as a humble carpenter. Most unexpected.

One would naturally think that to be truly free, there must be no laws or rules to tether us down. James E. Faust taught the gospel truth: “Obedience leads to true freedom.” That’s initially counter-intuitive until experience manifests the promised result.

The list goes on and on:

  • A great work of literature being revealed to an illiterate farm boy, Joseph Smith.
  • Christ, the King of Kings, was a servant to all he met.
  • Christ promises that weaknesses can be made into strengths.
  • The last shall be first and the first shall be last.
  • By serving “the least of these my brethren,” we are serving the Almighty.
  • It is the meek that shall inherit the earth.
  • Only by taking Christ’s yoke upon us will we find rest unto our souls.

Why does God work this way?

Christ teaching the sermon on the mount.

I don’t have a definitive answer, so if you do, let me know in the comments. But I do have a few thoughts:

God works this way to show that He’s God. One of the reasons Christ performed miracles was to show the people that He could do the impossible:

  • “Wait, I just put water in this jug … how is it wine? There’s something special about this Jesus guy…”
  • “Wait, I’ve spent my life being selfless and serving others and I feel more fulfilled than I ever have before … there’s something special about this gospel stuff.”

Another thought is that these revealed “oxymoronic” concepts are not oxymoronic at all. It’s the way things have always been, and it’s humanity that has strayed from the truth. It’s us who have erroneously begun to think that our way, the way of the natural man, makes the most sense. We are the ones who have become completely backward. So maybe the question isn’t, “Why does God work this way?” but rather, “Why do we insist on working in ways that are contradictory to eternal law?”

So, what?

Portrait of Jesus Christ

We’ve had the previous examples written down and presented before us for years (most examples we’ve had in the Bible for millennia). So to us, right now, they may not be all that earth-shattering. But to those who heard them first, they were revolutionary. Not once did someone respond to Christ teachings with, “Yeah, tell me something I don’t know” (well, maybe once). Instead, this seemed to be the general reaction:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 7:28-29

Which of God’s “oxymorons” do we have yet to discover for ourselves? Are there additional surprises that God has yet to restore either to the Church in general or to us personally?

What unexpected result might stem from simple daily scripture study? Or fulfilling your calling? Or from one simple act of kindness?

And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent. Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed…

Alma 26:21-22

Which of God’s “oxymorons” have you discovered to be true in your life? Share them with us in the comments!

David Snell is a proud member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's the Founder of The Sunday Pews, and has experience writing for Mormon Newsroom Pacific, KBYU11, Classical 89 Radio, FamilyShare.com and plenty more. He tries not to take himself too seriously and just wants to brighten your day a bit.