To begin with, we recall the sovereignty of God. God wrote the Bible and he inspired the hard texts. He breathed out his revelation through Paul. And he willed it so that some things in Paul’s letters would be hard to understand. Hard texts are still God’s texts. They must be hard for a reason.
What to do next? We embrace our finitude. We admit we are not terribly smart, nor all that clever, and so we pray. As the Irish theologian McHammer said, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.”
And as we pray we work. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). So we pour over words and sentences. We read commentaries. We talk to other Christians. We interpret Scripture by Scripture. We ask God for breakthroughs. He wants to teach us. Remember, Paul wrote to slaves and the uneducated, those without wisdom, influence, or nobility (1 Cor. 1:26). They could learn and so can we.
Don’t give up on hard texts or hard doctrines. Don’t settle for platitudes or for bewailing “I’m not theologian.” We must not give up on understanding the Bible without a fight. As C.S. Lewis once remarked, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers.” We are all tempted to shy away from life’s difficulties, be they hard people or hard texts. But consider the wisdom of Proverbs: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (14:4). In other words, oxen make messes, but they also help with the harvest. If you never think through difficult Bible passages, your life may be simpler, but it won’t be stronger.
God gave us brains so we could be obedient with them. And he has spoken to us in the Bible so he might be more easily known, even when some things are hard to understand.
Give yourself to work, then. Too often we want deep theological truths spoon-fed to us. As the old King James says…”Study to show yourself approved unto God.”