Monday, May 11, 2009

"Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda" - Part Four

Lie #4 - We “connect the dots” to believe that since we made a decision that is now understood, with the clarity of “rearview mirror 20/20 vision,” to be “out of God’s will” then our present sufferings, which may at least partly be a result of that choice, are perceived as unfortunate, unnecessary and “out of God’s will.”

A speaker last summer at Canon Beach Christian Conference Center challenged me when he said: “Do you want to know if you are in God’s will right now? Where are you right now? You are HERE. So you ARE in God’s will.” He went on to explain, “You are in your current situation or circumstances right now because either God planned it OR because He allowed it—there is no third option.” Hmmm. No third option? If I truly believed this then I no longer would see myself a victim of my own poor choices or the choices of others, but as a victor by God’s gracious choice.

The enemy has worked me over with this lie that being completely in God’s will depends upon ME making all the right choices. I admit there have been times Cindy and I have struggled in our 35 years of our mostly happy marriage (you don’t stay married for 35 years without struggling now and then!). I was married when I was 19 and my wife was 17. We were awfully young. As we say to our kids and other teens, “Kids, don’t you try this at home!” How could such a young couple make such a momentous lifetime decision? How could we have known for sure God’s will for us at that time? We couldn’t.

Also, we have times here in Washington State that get dark, cold and dreary (and I’m not even talking about the weather!). Looking back to our move here in 1990 I am tempted to longingly look back to the gentle, warm breeze of our former tropic home in Hawaii—especially since I am no longer with the Navigators organization today–the very reason that brought us to the Pacific Northwest in the first place. Or what about when I found myself in church eldership to deal with a very devastatingly painful pastoral leadership situation? Did we make the wrong turn in going there with our family in the first place and not discerning the pitfalls there that became obvious with 20/20 hindsight?

Another example from my very imperfect life journey was my decision to leave seminary, after just a few months in Denver, back in 1978. We stayed there only long enough for Elvis to die, our first child, Heidi, to be born and see the Broncos play in and lose their first Super Bowl. Looking back I think I violated every principle of how one is to make a mature, wise decision when we moved back to Hawaii from Denver. When things inevitably got tough back in Hawaii after a few years it was easy to believe that I was being “punished” for my lack of faith and “abandonment of the call ” to leave Denver as I did.

This also happens with us when we see our children struggle. And they WILL struggle. We can go back over past decisions, even decisions that we would do differently with our current understanding, and we get caught in the trap of believing that because we made a particular decision through our immaturity or even disobedience to God–that we have now condemned them to whatever difficulty they are experiencing with their faith.

The idea that we belong to a God who works His perfect plans even through our foolishness and our sinfulness is woven throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We just have to look afresh at the story of Joseph and the deliverance of Israel through the tragic chain of events or the story of Moses and the children of Israel seemingly needlessly wandering in the wilderness because of their rebellion, yet being transformed as a nation from slaves to conquering warriors who would eventually settle and rule Canaan. Or what about the writing of the inspired Psalms by a broken King David who showed through his Psalms how to get back into fellowship with God despite sin and moral failure? The New Testament is the same, with the cross being an amazing combination of tragic, sinful human choices leading to the rejection of a national Messiah and yet scriptural fulfillment of our Savior’s mission to be the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”

Whether we are going through a tough spell in our marriage, in our job or with one or more of our kids, what comfort it is to know that we belong to a God who, though He won’t SUSPEND the laws of the harvest (sinful sowing that will cause painful reaping) He will mercifully TRANSCEND those laws. He does that to produce His glory through us and His very best in us. (Romans 8:28-29)

This truth is wonderfully freeing to me and I hope it is to you. Our present life circumstances do NOT equal the sum of our past choices. But they do mean that ordinary, imperfect people like us can place ourselves into the extraordinary, perfect hands of an all wise, all loving and all sovereign Heavenly Father and know that we are at this moment EXACTLY where we are supposed to be!

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