If God wills it. You know, that’s a pretty big statement. It’s not off basis scripturally in the least. God’s Word is all about his will being done so that he might be glorified. We see that over and over again from Moses to Jesus’ death to the prophesied return and everything in between. Scripture has an abundance of imagery set out just so that we can better picture the implications of God’s will working. It’s quite amazing and terrifying all at the same time to acknowledge and admit this powerful fact. When we can honestly accept that God works all things for his own glory and that nothing outside of that is in his interest, then we realize that God isn’t at all going to look down at our plans and make them prosperous unless they coincide with what he has in store.
Two of the most popular verses on this subject are found in Jeremiah 29:11:
I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. (NCV)
And Romans 8:28:
We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan. (NCV)
Often, I hear people breaking off the first past of Jeremiah 29:11 and the second of Romans 8:28, so they can couple these two verses together. It reads something like this:
I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. In everything, I work things for the good of those who love me.
See what just happened there? We went from God is planning great things for us and calls us according to his plan to God is in the business to make me successful and happy.
I don’t really see any Scriptural backing for this idea. In fact, I find quite the opposite. “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33), rejoice in times of persecution (Matthew 5:12), and “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matthew 10:22) are only a few of the verses I could pull up predicting the struggles we will have in this world. Then, there are times when Jesus says things like, “Take up your cross and follow me (Luke 9:33),” or Paul’s famous, “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12).” These aren’t invitations to luxurious living and good times. These are invitations – no, commands – to give of ourselves until we have nothing left to give.
C.T. Studd understood this. He recognized the power and gift of Christ’s personal sacrifice on our behalf when he said, ““If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” There is no morsel being held back in this statement. It is all in or all out with no other options and he was not alone in this. Hundreds of other missionaries, martyrs, and Christ followers have made this same statement of faith. One of my favorite examples is that of the 5 missionaries killed in Ecuador in the 50’s. Widow, Elizabeth Elliot, documents her husband’s (Jim) worldview in a single sentence: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” He was an all-in kind of guy even to the end when he and his fellow martyrs were in possession of loaded firearms that could have saved them. Instead the were martyred for Christ paving the way for the killers’ conversion to Christ several years later.
None of the people I have mentioned lived with a ‘God served me’ mentality. They lived every day, every moment, every breath with the cross at central focus.
In a small way, I can understand the desire to mash together such verses as Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 because the evolution of those two is a very self-satisfying thing. It takes away the need to give up control of life and it’s outcome to God while equally surrendering any ability or responsibility in the matter. Handing over such a powerful thing, relinquishing what little amount of options we think we have in life, is terrifying in the least. It seems like it puts us in a vulnerable place with God at the helm, but the truth of the matter is that God is always at the helm the difference being our own attempts to overthrow his power and control life on our own understanding.
I don’t know about you, but allowing God to take total responsibility for my life is such a relief. My little human self is gifted rest in hard moments and strength when I must press on. It’s not I who is in control of the ship, but God. His presence in the ups and downs is so evident. One of those recent ups and downs was the loss of our baby after only having her for 9 weeks in the womb. It was a devastating thing to go through. My heart was broken at losing our little girl, but all the while we tried to keep our focus on God, his plan, and his glorification through this sad situation. It didn’t ease the initial pain, but what I did notice was a deep, unexplainable sense of peace about what had happened. The more I put the situation into his hands, the less I felt like I was responsible or devastated. I know, without a doubt, God knew of our miscarriage long before our baby was even a thought.
Letting go of our own ideas on how things should work is not easy. We have to be willing to step back and let God guide us even if it seems he’s got the wrong story line in place. The beauty of it, though, is that when difficult times come, and we all know they will, the responsibility or outcome is not on our shoulders and we are free to worship God even in the midst of it. Matthew 11:30 tells us:
The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.
In that moment he was telling us the beauty of allowing him to carry our burdens, but in order to do so we must also allow him to order our lives.
If God wills it. That should be our lifeline. All things happen because they will ultimately glory God if we allow him to work through us in those situations.