Live Out Your Biblical Paradoxes
By Marlene Houk
Talk less to say more. This is a paradox. The Cambridge Unabridged Dictionary says that a paradox means “a statement or situation that may be true but seems impossible or difficult to understand because it contains two opposite facts or characteristics” [i] For example:
- The same sun that melts the ice hardens clay.
- Failure leads to success.
- Social media disconnects us from each other.
Here’s how to construct a paradox according to the website https://literarydevices.net/paradox/ You need to create:
1) a statement or situation which initially appears contradictory.
2) the statement or situation that appears contradictory must, after consideration, be a logical or well-founded premise.
We live in a world of paradoxes, and this rings true in writing. “In literature, a paradox is not just a clever or comical statement or use of words. Paradox has serious implications because it makes statements that often summarize the major themes of the work they are used in.[ii] One of the reasons that writers use paradox is to beckon the reader to observe carefully the plot and look backstage to guess how action develops. Paradoxes create intrigue and help our brains to think rather than react emotionally.
God uses paradoxes in the Bible to intrigue us and capture our attention as we try to figure out His plan. “Readers enjoy more when they extract the hidden meanings out of the writing rather than something presented to them in an uncomplicated manner.”[iii]
God, the Master Storyteller, uses paradoxes to mirror the action in the book of Esther. In chapter four, fear gripped the exiled Jews when an evil plot by wicked Haman threatened them with death. (Esther 4:3) But Queen Esther, her smooth complexion unmarred by the tragedies of time, thwarts Haman’s wicked hatred and saves millions of Jews. The literary device of paradox mirrors the story. The paradox is that a young woman outsmarts Haman, an experienced vizier who manipulates the king in ancient Persia. But, when we sense God moving behind the scenes, we understand her power. We understand the paradox.
Divinely-told drama weaves riveting stories in the Old Testament, using paradoxes to help us discern God as the Master Director behind the scenes.
- An old woman, past child-bearing years, delivers a son. (Genesis 18:11; 21:1-7)
- A helpless Hebrew babe rescues millions of his people from slavery. (Exodus 2:5-6)
- Dry bones live. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
Even in the New Testament, we learn, as Christians, that we carry within us the power to live out spiritual paradoxes.
- Paradox: When I am weak, I am strong. As a child of God, sometimes we feel helpless against the onslaught of evil. But the Apostle Paul teaches us that our weaknesses actually portray God’s power. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) Like the helpless women who arrived at Jesus’ tomb early in the morning, we know that God’s might far outweigh any of our powerlessness. The women could not topple the Roman government, roll back the stone, or raise Jesus from the dead. Yet they belonged to the One who could…and did. Roman soldiers faint, helpless as babies, and God rolls the heavy stone away, raising His Son from the dead.
- Paradox: If we desire to honor, we must be a servant. (Mark 9:35; 10:42-44) To receive honor publicly is acceptable and good for worthy acts of service. But to crave centerstage above Christ brings glory only to ourselves. Washing others’ feet as we feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, and protect the innocent brings honor in the courts of our King Jesus and points others to Him.
- Paradox: If we take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ, our burden will be lighter. (Matthew 28:11-30) Sometimes, life presses down on our souls, and we succumb to the pressure. But, the Bible reverberates with the sounds of reinforcements when we don the armor of God. The Word energizes our days and splashes refreshing water that cleanses the soot of evil from the windows of our souls. A lifetime of learning and growing in knowing God makes our daily woes and troubles take flight.
When life gets tough, know that God works powerfully. Realize that your strength lies not in physical abilities, like Goliath (See 1 Samuel 17.) but in the Lord God. And when you take care of your neighbor reject ulterior motives and embrace the authenticity of serving. The next time you lift a heavy load and experience relief when someone takes it from you, remember this. Encourage others who despair. Live out your biblical paradoxes.
Marlene is an author and teacher of Bible studies. She may be reached at Bible167@gmail.com
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