Seeing the best in life's challenges

God’s Will. Really???

A friend of mine posted Proverbs 3:6 and it got me thinking.   I can’t imagine anyone would not embrace this advice!

“Seek God’s will in all you do.”  For those of us who understand God to be the ultimate source of unconditional love, of course we want to align everything we do with divine will.  A loving God will always want what is for the greater good, and will “know” what is in the best interest of the divine plan.  If we seek (an active verb) divine will, we will be shown the path to take.

Sounds real simple, right??

Ah, but it’s not so simple, and that’s what I’m thinking about.

HOW do we seek to know divine will?  WHO determines God’s will for an individual person, and how does that person know?

At first glance, the answer to those questions might seem easy and obvious.  Of course, we are to “do the right thing” and follow the rules that everyone agrees on.  Except that not everyone agrees all the time about what is the “right” thing to do.

Let’s think about the situation of a “good girl” who suddenly finds herself pregnant and not married, even though she is engaged to a nice guy.  Sure, she says she saw an angel who told her she was going to give birth to a baby from God.  Yeah, right.  I bet she went around telling all her friends and family THAT story.  And those she did tell – how many of them quietly judged her and were disappointed with her?  Rolled their eyes and distanced themselves from her?  Even close friends who wanted to believe her, probably had a hard time with this one.  They probably thought she’d lost it.  Making up stories to justify her behavior.  Who was she kidding?

More likely, this girl probably kept this story mostly to herself.   Especially after finding out that some of those she thought were close friends who knew her well, either freaked out when she told them or rushed to tell her that this couldn’t be so.

Conveniently, she went to visit her cousin for three months.   At least her cousin believed her – after all, this cousin had her own crazy angel story to tell, and it was hard for others to deny the miracle that she was expecting, since she was so old and had had such issues with infertility.  Plus, since her husband had been unable to speak for the entire pregnancy, well, there was SOMETHING weird going on.  People probably didn’t know WHAT to think, but at least her cousin hadn’t done anything IMMORAL.

The girl, sooner or later, had to tell the nice guy she was engaged to about the pregnancy.  Fortunately, he had his own visit from an angel, or else he would have just dumped her quietly.  Being the gentleman that he was, at least he wanted to be kind and not add to her embarrassment.

Well most of us aren’t put in such an extreme situation as part of God’s plan.  So, most of us don’t need such dramatic visits from angels to reassure us that all is going according to divine will.

But we can learn from seeking the messages in the story.

  1. One of the most important events in the Bible (Jesus birth) that is celebrated around the world 2000 years later, was a result of a situation where two young people were in an embarrassing (perhaps devastating) situation, yet they chose to trust God despite the hardship and inevitable judgment of others.  Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this was easy.
  2. Worse yet, during the time they parented this child, he did things like get lost for three days, seemingly unconcerned about the terrible worry he had caused them.  Even the guilt treatment (“Son, why have you treated us like this?”) had no effect on this kid (“Why were you searching for me?”).  Do you think raising Jesus was “easy” for Mary and Joseph?  My opinion is, we are deluding ourselves if we think this.
  3. Then, the kid grows up, travels around stirring up the masses, bucks the status quo, speaks up against the powers that be, is labeled a criminal, and is horribly crucified for his “crimes.”  Do you think his parents’ hearts were broken at this point?  How many times do you think they asked themselves, “why couldn’t he have just …..?”
  4. Keep in mind, this kid’s parents could never have known in their lifetime that their child would even be remembered as anything more than a criminal.  Do you think Mary and Joseph could see the upside in the situation?  Was it all “worth it”?

So, this is how God’s plan works?   Apparently so.  What’s the underlying message here?

If you are really going to trust in God, you have to surrender your need to control.  You have to give up the fantasy that it’s always going to be easy.  You have to admit that you don’t understand the bigger picture.  You have to believe, despite all the seemingly impossible circumstances, that everything will work out in the end.

If God’s will is to be done, we have to give up ours.

So let’s get back to the question of how to seek God’s will.  Here’s what I would argue:  Everything that happens is God’s will.

This might sound strange, but how could it not be?  If you find yourself fighting what is, whose will is that?  Sounds like your will, not God’s.    I realize this can easily get into a circular argument, but it comes down to knowing what you can and can’t control.

You can’t control what happens outside of yourself.  You can only control your own reactions and actions.  Time spent worrying or deciding what others should or shouldn’t do is playing God.  Stop looking outside of yourself and instead look inside.  Encourage others to look inside and help them learn to discover God’s will for them.

I would argue that we can only know God’s will for our own life by looking inside.  We have been told that God is within us – we have been given the Holy Spirit as a counselor.  Are you in touch with the God within you?  How does one do that?  I would argue that prayer (as in quiet time with God where you open your heart and listen) and openness to all possibility is the key.

HOW do you pray?  Do you pray for specific things to have or specific outcomes to situations?  Or do you pray for God’s will to be revealed to you, and then listen?  What happens when you don’t get the specific thing you prayed for?  Do you think you didn’t pray hard enough?  Do you consider that maybe God’s will is in conflict with your will?  Whose will are we seeking here?

This is not easy or simple.  Even when we are clear inside what is God’s will for us, we are hesitant to share or act because we anticipate the reactions of others who will not see it like we do.  Especially when God doesn’t follow “the rules.”

What should we encourage in ourselves and others?  Thoughtful, prayerful, open-minded listening and pondering.  And when you see this kind of behavior in another?  Then encourage that person to trust and follow their inner guidance from God, no matter how crazy it sounds or “wrong” it seems to you.


Pure Intent

I have a friend who is one of those people who has amazing things happen to her all the time.  Those of us who know her, are no longer surprised by her “Moments” — we wouldn’t expect any different!

She’s very clear about why things happen for her.  It’s really pretty simple.  She is a woman of Pure Intent.

She is very matter-of-fact about her faith and her perspective.  She has a strong faith in God and only asks that He use her in whatever way He sees as best.  She keeps herself open to situations that present themselves to her, and goes with them.  She truly wants what is best for all, and has no selfish agenda or expectations.

Others might see this as wishy-washy or flaky – she has changed jobs more than you are “supposed to.”  She has left the “dream job” when it wasn’t working.  She has no regrets – she does the best she can in each moment, and looks to the future with a smile.

She makes a practice of empowering others.  She smiles and laughs a lot.  I could tell her anything, and she would not judge me.  She would not hold back from telling me what’s on her mind.

How do you pray?  Probably most people know that we are not supposed to pray for “stuff,” as in material things.  But many times people pray for what they want – for situations to resolve in certain ways, for sick people to get better, for wars to end, etc.  Even with the most unselfish agenda – it’s still an agenda with expectations.

Usually people pray for “good” things.  But God uses the “bad” as well as the “good,” the tough as well as the easy. That can be a hard thing to accept.  But it’s not really faith if you can’t accept the whole package.

Does it seem impossible to have Pure Intent?  I don’t really think it’s that hard – you just have to start somewhere.

First, you have to decide that you want to pursue that path.  And then you pray in a way that is very simple, with no agenda.

In your own words, just ask God to use you in whatever way is in the best interest of all.  Ask for support and guidance in making decisions and living your life.  Ask for greater understanding and comfort with the way things are.  That’s pretty much it.  Then, let your ego step back, and enjoy the ride!

Ironically, when a person truly has Pure Intent, good things happen for them.  They might not be exactly the things that were expected – usually they are even better.

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