God moves in mysterious ways: Scripture or modern-day proverb?

God moves in mysterious ways. 

Where did this saying come from? Many believe this was popularized by a poem written in the eighteenth century by William Cowper entitled “God Moves in Mysterious Ways.” Whether this popularized the phrase or drew from an already popular phrase no one can be sure. The popular band U2 wrote a song called “Mysterious Ways,” which made the phrase’s popularity grow in the 20th century and led to many falsely believing that Bono was doing a wordplay with Scripture in the chorus by repeating “She moves in mysterious ways.”

The word “mysterious” does not appear anywhere in the Bible. “Mystery” occurs over 20 times (22x in KJV and 25x in NIV), but usually refers to God revealing mysteries through Jesus Christ (Mark 4:11, Romans 16:25-26, Eph 1:9, Col.1:26).

The popularity of this modern-day proverb probably stems from the “ring of truth” that is inherent in its message. The Bible is not an exhaustive resource for truth, but everything in the Bible is true. For instance, “don’t eat yellow snow” is not in the Bible, but hopefully all of us understand the truth that led someone to coin such words of wisdom. Such is the case with “God moves in mysterious ways;” though it is not in the Bible, it contains truth which can be supported with Scripture. We can not always understand God’s plans for His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8). For a time the reason for things might remain a mystery known only to God, but if we trust Him at His word, then He can move in us, through us, and in our circumstances to accomplish His will. Jesus described this concerning all who are born again in John 3:8. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” May we stop trying to control the wind and allow God to blow us all away with the wonders that He wants to accomplish in our lives.

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