I am reading an 1800s novel about a man who causes himself great heartache when he assumes something to be true solely based on what he sees. In the story, Larson is badly burned while away from home on business. He survives only by a godly couple’s determined care for his body and soul. He is unable to get word to his wife, Kathryn, and is thought to have died in a snowstorm. Yet his wife never gives up hope that he is alive and will come back to her.
Months later, when Larson is able to travel, he lingers on the outskirts of his rural community’s small town, watching for his wife and wondering if she will accept him back into her life. The burns have left him scarred beyond recognition. He is hesitant to reveal himself to his wife for fear of her disgust and rejection upon seeing him.
Larson, looking on from the shadows of the small town, sees his wife going into a brothel and assumes she has turned to this kind of life to make a living. They were barely surviving when he left home. He also notices a bulge at her waistline and assumes, rightly so, that she is pregnant. But Larson believes Kathryn is pregnant by someone she entertained. Now he is the one filled with disgust.
Larson’s assumptions were wrong. Kathryn was taking food to a woman in the brothel, a woman she was bearing witness to that God had a better plan for her life. And the baby she was carrying was his, conceived on their last night together. He had not given room for that possibility because, after 10 years of trying to have a baby, Larson believes himself to be sterile.
For quite a while, Larson watches from afar, loving her with all that he is but doubting his ability to accept things as they appear to be. He finds solace for his heartache only when he turns to the Bible the couple had given him. Philippians 4:8 said to Larson, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (ESV).
Kathryn had been all these things and when he focuses on these truths, Larson finds peace. God’s word becomes a shelter for him from the harsh winds of his conjecture. When he falters and lets go of God’s wisdom, each time he falls back into assumptions which leads to agitation and anger. He inflicts needless pain on himself by believing what he thinks he is seeing — but isn’t real.
Aren’t we all guilty from time to time? Making ourselves miserable with assumptions? Remember how Jack Webb of Dragnet fame used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am (or sir), just the facts”? That’s still good advice. We can wind up in a place we don’t need to be and find later the destination was completely unnecessary and not on God’s map for us at all. The Message Bible says this in Proverbs 25:8: “Don’t jump to conclusions. There may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw.”
Tamera Alexander is an inspired writer, weaving scripture into the storyline exceptionally well. Her book, Rekindled, is a good reminder of many things, but for this blog purpose, it is that we should never make decisions based on assumptions. And, even should our assumptions turn out to be correct, God’s overriding principle is still Love. His word is a book of love. His love for us and how He wants us to love others. We shore ourselves up mightily when we read and practice its wisdom daily.
Prayerful Pondering’s beautiful header is by Mark Hearn, my son-in-law.