For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

In Acts 1: 6-9, we read the account of the Ascension of Christ, forty days after His Resurrection:

So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And when He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.

The disciples were fairly ordinary people. Even though they saw with their own eyes the miracles that Jesus did, they still had some doubts, not only about His divinity, but about His mission and purpose, and theirs as well. In the back of their minds, they were still living in an area that was dominated politically and militarily by the Romans. They were still subject to brutal taxation and treatment by their Roman overlords. If Christ had promised them the Kingdom of heaven, and if He said that the Kingdom of heaven begins with how they live on earth, it was not surprising that they still had in their minds the potential for political freedom. Hence the question of Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?”(Acts 1:6) This made logical sense to them.

The answer of Jesus must have been like a kick in the stomach. In His reply, He said It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority.” (1:7) In other words, the answer was no, that was not going to happen. The message of Jesus to the disciples was that their ideas and His ideas did not exactly match. Just because this was logical to them doesn’t mean it is in God’s plan.

There are many times in life when I feel like the disciples here. I’m a logical person. Like most kids, I used to do the “connect the dots” puzzles. When you are connecting the dots, they are usually spaced fairly closely together, the lines don’t crisscross, etc. Sometimes in life, it is hard to see how the dots will connect and what kind of final picture we will see. Even more difficult are the times when we don’t know where the next dot is, or we are connecting in some logical pattern and then there is a “hard turn” we weren’t expecting. 

There are times when we think we’ve suffered enough and deserve some relief, only to see the suffering continue unabated. There are times when we think we should have achieved something only to have it slip through our grasp. There are times we really want something, like a job, or to get married, and the right opportunity or person is not found. Why is that? Why is there no relief? 

During one memorable discussion with my Spiritual Father years ago, he told me that God has outlined a path to sainthood for every person. In other words, He gives each person a dot-to-dot puzzle that leads to salvation. Our life work is to connect the dots. The final picture might be different than the one we expected, or even wanted. I don’t think any of the martyred saints of the church dreamed as children that they would be tortured and killed for the faith. 

Going back to the Old Testament book of Isaiah, where the Prophet provides encouragement and reassurance to the exiled children of Israel, who cry out for relief to God. He writes: For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Why is there no relief? Sometimes there is no answer. We briefly mentioned earlier the encounter between Simeon the priest in the temple with Mary and Joseph, who presented Jesus to him when He was forty days old. We mentioned the well-known prayer that was said by Simeon over Jesus which is now said over every child when they are forty days old: Lord, now let your servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32) What is not as well-known are the words Simeon says to the Virgin Mary immediately following this prayer: “Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) The Virgin Mary felt the sword pierce through her soul at the Crucifixion of Christ. The thoughts out of many hearts are still being revealed to this day. 

Sometimes a sword pierces through our own souls. One that hurts deeply. One that doesn’t make any sense:  How could this have happened? How could I have done this? How could someone have done this to me? How did I get myself in this situation? Why did I do that?  We know the questions, because we all have them at times.  Sometimes these things that befall us are of our own making, sometimes they are well-intentioned things that get out of hand, they aren’t always malicious. Sometimes they are caused by other people. There is an opportunity for learning in just about everything, the thoughts of our hearts and the hearts of others are often revealed in time, just not our time. 

In all of these instances—from disciples in Acts, to the people of Israel in Isaiah, to the Virgin Mary in the Gospel of Luke—the common thread is that what was happening didn’t make sense to them in that moment. But it made sense to God. And it ultimately reached a Godly resolution for them. Concluding now with Acts 6:8, Jesus promised the stunned disciples, who were undoubtedly disappointed that the kingdom of Israel would not be restored to them in that moment, that “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” We receive the same charge. We do receive power from the Holy Spirit to sustain us in the tough times. And we are also supposed to be His witnesses by the way we conduct ourselves, in the good times and the bad ones, in the times that make sense and especially in the times that don’t. Sometimes the path will make sense and sometimes it won’t. And sometimes the pains of our soul will be lifted, and sometimes we will have to wait for them to be lightened.

Have mercy on me, O God. Have mercy on me.

I am wounded and smitten: see the enemies arrows which have pierced my soul and body. See the wounds, the open sores and the injuries, that cry out to God against the blows inflicted by my freely chosen passions.

(Canon of St. Andrew of Crete, Ode One, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)

It is not that God has abandoned any of us. It’s that His ways and our ways do not always match. That’s what faith is, walking His path even when it doesn’t match yours. Rest assured, though, there is a path to salvation for each of us!


Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis

Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced multiple books, you can view here:


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