By Chris Hulshof
The 2012 film Trouble with the Curve tells the fictional story of baseball scout Gus Lobel. In the film, Lobel is sent to scout a high school baseball player billed as a “can’t miss prospect.”
As Gus analyzes this young star’s game, he recognizes something all the computer evaluation models don’t pick up. His prospect has trouble hitting a curveball.
While the storyline makes for a good baseball movie, it resembles many peoples’ trouble in responding to the “curveballs” of life. We’re often comfortable with life when it’s coming at us straight on. When life throws us curves, however, we struggle to make sense of what we’re seeing. We convince ourselves this can’t be what we should be going through.
Interestingly, Solomon makes a startling observation about the curves of life in Ecclesiastes 7:13-14. He writes, “Consider the work of God, for who can straighten out what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that no one can discover anything that will come after him.”
In these verses, Solomon points out two unsettling realities of life and asks the reader to make two considerations. When we follow the wisdom expressed in this passage, we’ll find confidence to be patient when responding to life’s curveballs.
The first reality Solomon acknowledges has to do with the crooked things of life. He writes, “…who can straighten out what he has made crooked” (v. 13). Apparently, some crooked, bent, and broken things are beyond our ability to repair.
With all of the knowledge, skill, and riches at Solomon’s disposal, he still observes the changelessness of some crooked things. He realizes certain crooked things in life can’t be straightened out or repaired because that’s the way God intends them to be for a season.
This observation challenges our modern preference that embraces a do-it-yourself mentality. We often believe there’s nothing so broken we can’t fix it and think if we only apply a little creativity and persistence, we can straighten out all that’s broken or bent.
Solomon boldly proclaims, however, there are some things no amount of human effort or ingenuity can fix. They’re crooked because God has made them that way.
It’s easy to bristle at this matter-of-fact statement by Solomon and attribute it to a heart that had lost its spiritual moorings through the seductions of wealth, power, human brilliance, and sex.
However, Solomon appears to be emphasizing something God declares about Himself in Deuteronomy 32:39, “See now that I alone am he; there is no God but me. I bring death and I give life; I wound and I heal. No one can rescue anyone from my power.”
We’re comfortable with the life and healing God say He provides in this verse, but the crooked parts of life are also something God takes responsibility for as well.
His plan involves, for a time, wounding and healing. He’s as much the God of life as He’s the God who’s sovereign over death.
The second reality Solomon directs our attention toward is that some knowledge is too deep for us to comprehend. Solomon writes, “No one can discover anything that will come after him.”
Here, Solomon is reminding us there are some things in life we’ll never know. More specifically to verse 14, we don’t even know what each day will bring. Our finite minds can’t grasp the sovereign purposes of the prosperity and adversity God weaves into life.
But we want to believe we can figure it out. We want to believe there’s some hidden code where the right amount of knowledge, study, and understanding will allow us to have more days of prosperity and fewer days of adversity.
Solomon counsels otherwise. God has made both the good days and the bad days, and their arrangement in life is beyond our comprehension. In short, the wise king asserts we can’t know whether tomorrow will be a good day or a bad day.
In light of these two realities, Solomon provides two considerations. He encourages us to consider both the work of God and the wisdom of God.
Consider the work of God
Solomon writes in verse 13, “Consider the work of God, for who can straighten out what he has made crooked?” Considering the work of God will bring us face-to-face with the presence of God.
It’s impossible to consider God’s work without considering God Himself. It’s the presence of God amidst the curveballs of life that provide hope, comfort, and reassurance.
In the crooked things of life, we desire answers to questions like, “What did I do to deserve this?,” “How could this happen to me?,” or simply, “Why me?”
But in our desire for answers, we miss the one thing we truly need. We need to know God is present with us in our crooked, broken, and bent circumstances.
Considering the work of God will also bring us front-and-center to the truth that God sovereignly rules His world. Considering the work of God means seeing a world where God takes divine responsibility for crooked things.
He’s made the straight things as well as the crooked. He’s the maker, sustainer, and ruler over all of life.
Consider the wisdom of God
Solomon contrasts the day of prosperity to the day of adversity in verse 14. He writes, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that no one can discover anything that will come after him.”
Our response to prosperity should be joy. Simply put, enjoy the good days. However, we ought to remember God made the bad days as well.
These two types of days exist together for reasons that can only be known through His wisdom. Solomon wasn’t the only one to recognize this; Job understood it as well.
Job echoes a similar statement in Job 2:10 when he proclaims to his wife, “Should we accept only good from God and not adversity?”
Both Job and Solomon encourage us to remind ourselves God sovereignly rules the world in wisdom. We can’t let our circumstances tell us otherwise.
God has ordered our days of prosperity and our days of adversity. While we’ll never be able to comprehend this arrangement, we can find hope, comfort, and reassurance in the divine wisdom that fashions the patterns He knits together for our good and bad days.
When we realize there’s a limit to what we understand and what we can repair, we arrive in the presence of a God whose work includes sovereignly ordering and maintaining the world in divine wisdom. It’s here we begin to find the confidence to be patient when responding to the curveballs of life.
CHRIS HULSHOF (@US_EH) is an associate professor for Liberty University’s Rawlings School of Divinity where he teaches Old Testament Survey, Inductive Bible Study, and a Theology of Suffering and Disability. He earned an Ed.D from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where his research focused on the intersection of disabilities, theology, and church ministry.