Dec. 8th, 2023

Bad, Bad Math




When I determined to load up on wisdom and examine everything taking place on earth, I realized that if you keep your eyes open day and night without even blinking, you’ll still never figure out the meaning of what God is doing on this earth. Search as hard as you like, you’re not going to make sense of it. No matter how smart you are, you won’t get to the bottom of it.

                                                                                               —ECCLESIASTES 8:16-17 (MSG, A PARAPHRASE)


Math was never my best subject. Combining numbers (and letters!) and telling me to find an answer never quite clicked. But maybe I’ve never been keen on formulas.

We spend so much of our lives trying to balance out some kind of equation for life. Like if we do all the “right” things, then life will finally add up. But then real life happens. We did all the things we were supposed to do and the addiction still has a grip, the doctor still has no answers, a relationship is still not what it should be. Even if you have tried everything—prayer, positive vibes, hard work—nothing seems to change. It just simply doesn’t add up. There is no magic formula to get what you deserve, and there is no equation that can predict what will happen next.

But God is not a mathematician either. Just look at grace—the forgiveness and compassion of grace has no equation that is fair or even. So too, God’s love is incalculable. God isn’t counting or keeping records of how good you are or what you have earned or what you deserve. Hope is found in God’s infinite love and unquestionable grace. God sent God’s only son to show us that there is no way to measure, or count, or add up the ways that God loves us. It is a formula we can never wrap our minds around. And thank God for that bad, bad math.


for this beautiful limited day (p. 174)

Blessed are we who see the impossibility of solving today.
It can’t be done.



1. What math problems are you trying to work out to make your life add up? Are you working hard to earn love? Are you wrestling to find the right formula to make you healthy or wealthy or whole? Are you trying to cram in more, more, more into a morning or a day or a life?

2. Think of a time when your attempts to solve a problem didn’t work. Did you double down? Give up? Try a different way? What did you realize about yourself or God in that moment?

3. How can you accept the grace and love that God brings to the world, the kind that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t add-up? How can God’s bad math bring you a glimmer of hope today?