We stood on the lakeshore squinting and peering, excited to have such a great opportunity. All around the globe, stargazers were hoping for a chance to get a glimpse of a comet that was unknown until it was discovered only a few months ago. Experts say it will only be visible for a few weeks, that it can be seen only in a dark place away from city lights, and only with a clear view all the way to the horizon to the northwest: three unlikely stars that would need to align if any of us would get our own glimpse of this outer space traveler before it returns again…in 6,800 years. And there our family found ourselves last week, at the northern tip of the lower peninsula of Michigan, in a dark spot with no city lights, standing on a northwest facing shoreline, with the clouds parting just in time.
It was seemingly impossible to see until a kind bystander gave us a friendly point toward the horizon and an even friendlier “here, try my binoculars.” And there it was. As the moments passed it could even be seen without the binoculars. It was just a faint point of light with an even fainter tail, silent and motionless. Of course, the truth of a comet is the opposite. Comets are frozen rocks hurtling through space trailing a tail of ice and gas particles, fanned into a glow by their impact with the constantly blowing solar “wind” of highly energized particles coming off the sun. Somehow, in spite of science’s ability to detect all manner of things in the universe, until four months ago today, this comet continued its millennia-old travels, absolutely unknown to us.
But not to God. He knew. Long before we knew, He knew.
Of course, God was always aware of this comet–and every other aspect of creation–regardless of their size or distance from the Earth. From the largest supernova at the most distant reaches of the universe, down to the smallest of subatomic particles inside just one molecule in our fingernails. He knows. He not only knows, He made them. “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all,” (Psalm 103 :24).
But we didn’t know. In fact, on the day this comet was discovered, few of us heard the news because there was something going on much closer to home taking much of our attention: our raging battle with an elusive new enemy: COVID-19. As this battle continues, we find so many different troubling aspects to it. Among all those, one of the most challenging is the unknown. We don’t know who might get it. Even if someone does contract it, we don’t know what the result will be, which could range from having a few sniffles, all the way to dying alone in the hospital after days or weeks on a ventilator. We don’t know when a cure is coming, or even if there will be one. And we don’t know what decisions will be made that will impact us: will we go back into lockdown? Will school be in person this fall? What will be the effect on the economy, or more urgently, our own jobs?
It’s so hard for us, who seem to be able to figure out almost anything we want to. When it comes to this virus, with thousands of the world’s best scientists working on solutions around the clock, there is still so much we don’t know.
We just don’t know.
But God knows.
Yes, He’s always known about Comet NEOWISE, literally an eternity before we discovered it and put a name on it a few months ago. He not only knew about the comet, He’s aware of every spec that comes off of it and makes up its beautiful tail, from the largest boulders to the tiniest molecule.
And yes, He’s even always known about COVID-19. He knows if and when a cure will be found. He knows which of us will be infected. Because He knows everything. He knows every scientific fact there is to know, and he knows every pain of our hearts, from the greatest to the least. Sometimes that pain can be overwhelming: The Psalmist sometimes speaks for us when he writes, “For evils have encompassed me without number; my iniquities have overtaken me, till I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me,” (Psalm 40:12). He even knows how many of those hairs there are on each of our heads, and He’s numbered them (Matthew 10:30).
So, He knows. But that begs one more question: does it matter? Does it matter that He knows? Well, that’s up to us. At the lowest points in our trust in Him, we can believe He knows all and if He doesn’t use that knowledge to eliminate the difficulties in our lives, we can become angry with Him: “Why won’t you take care of this??” we may think to ourselves, or even express in our prayers.
But there’s another way. Toward the other end of the spectrum of our faith, knowing that God knows–and knows all–can bring us peace. Focusing on what we don’t know can bring anxiety: being afraid when we can’t even define what we’re afraid of. Focusing instead on the truth that God knows can do the opposite: we can rest knowing that He knows all. Because if He knows and if He loves, then no matter what happens, we’ll be OK. Maybe not in the ways we prefer, but in much better ways: the ways He knows. And He knows best.
Long after NEOWISE leaves our night sky and fades from our attention, God will remain constantly and intimately aware of its location and condition, as well as every molecule it leaves behind in its wake. Despite what we don’t know about our lives, about our finances, our relationships and how COVID-19 impacts us next, we can all take comfort that God knows. More than that, He invites us to rest in that knowledge, comforted to know the one thing we need to know: that He knows, and He loves.