Making sense of life in a mixed-up world: God has let us in on the secret

(Photo: Liz West)

I'm still not convinced that I know who shot President Kennedy. Thankfully I'm not alone. I have stood in the grassy knoll in Dallas, ready many a thorough analysis and even talked to those who were living near Dallas at the time. But it's still a mystery and I guess will remain so for ever – just like the mysterious death of his friend Marilyn Monroe and the disappearance of Lord Lucan.

I love detective stories. Jeffrey Deaver and Patricia Cornwell can capture my imagination and steal my time with little trouble at all. But I know that whatever the mystery the secret will out in the end and I will simply be left wondering how I missed all the clues!

Real life mysteries are nowhere near as satisfying. This has become so evident over the past weeks as we have witnessed the world, not to mention bereaved families, trying to come to terms with the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airways flight 370. Each day seems to bring new information which merely deepens the sense of mystery (not to mention agony for the families affected by this latest tragedy).

It's obvious we are not being told everything, and I can understand why, but what we do know just doesn't seem to make sense. Was it a hijack or even a cyber attack? Was it an elaborate suicide plot? It seems incredible that we can we live in a world where governments can eavesdrop on our every phone conversation yet fail to track the final flight path of a huge modern jet plane? It's a mystery, and may well end up in the same league as the disappearance of Lord Lucan and Amelia Earhart.

The apostle Paul in particular had much to say about mysteries too.  He uses the word mystery very differently to the way in which we do today. For us a mystery is an unsolved puzzle. It is a riddle in search of an answer whereas a Biblical mystery is a secret in need of disclosure. In other words it is the opposite of not knowing. The emphasis is on insight and understanding. It's for this reason Paul can talk about "the mystery of Christ which was not known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit of God to God's holy apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 3).

This is an incredibly encouraging thought. It is a reminder that we don't have to live "in the dark". We don't have to "remain clueless" about the meaning of life and the future of the universe because God has let us in on the secret. He has shown us that Jesus is Lord and that He has promised us that the world is not going to end with a bang or a whimper but with songs of praise when Jesus returns in glory.

No one has understood this better than the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann. Speaking recently in Reading he said for Christians the future is full of hope because they know that Christ is waiting for them in an eternal future. And that kind of hope is incredibly powerful because it is not only capable of changing us personally it can give us the motivation to set about changing the world for the better too.

And so while we may never know what really happened to missing flight MH370, we can rest assured that we can know the answer to the most important questions in life of all because God wants to let us into the secret.

But it poses us with a real challenge too because it reminds us that God wants us to let us many people into the secret as possible. That's no easy task.  Indeed for some it is a very dangerous and life threatening calling. But whether we find it exciting or not, encouraging or frustrating, we must never forget that we are called to "make known the mystery of the gospel". Indeed perhaps the greatest mystery of all is why so many Christians fail to do this given the implications of not doing so.