You’ve come down with a serious cold. You feel miserable. You start trying to figure out who or what gave you this cold: Was it not washing your hands after that bus ride? Was it that guy that coughed on you while you were standing in line to get groceries? We all want answers to these questions. We’re also good at concocting explanations for why something is the way that it is.
Unfortunately, most of the time we don’t have nearly enough information. That doesn’t stop our emotions from telling us that we need to avoid whatever caused this, so our intellect works overtime trying to figure it out. But you can’t think your way out. No matter how hard you try, your brain doesn’t have sufficient building blocks to reconstruct the explanation with any form of certainty. The result of this is two-fold. First, we waste a lot of energy seeking an explanation this forever alludes us. Second, when our brain gets tired, we might settle on one or more of our explanations, creating needless fear about something innocuous.
It isn’t just explaining past events that create this situation. We also face this when making a very difficult decision about our future. We collect data. We think through pros and cons. We think through the possible outcomes and try to assess the statistical risk. But in the end, there is no assurance, no simple solution, no “right” answer.
In either case, we have to recognize our own limitations — to admit that there are some things, we will simply never know. Recognizing this can let us move on to things that we can impact. We stop trying to reach perfection in our decisions (or explanations) and start focusing on what’s next. We make the best decision we can, and trust God with the result.
Our ability to think is an amazing gift and we should use it to the best of our abilities but it is finite. You can’t think your way out of every problem.