What's your fill-in-the-blank deal breaker?
A small group I’m in at church is focusing on God’s will. What is it, how we can know it, how we can do it, etc. Last week’s discussion addressed the question: What if we don’t like God’s will? Each of us attempted to fill in this blank: God, I will do anything but __________.
We watched the music video, “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa.” Of course, we laughed, but it’s such a cliché among Western Christians. I wondered why, until someone pointed out missionaries to Africa used to take their own coffins with them.
So what did my fellow explorers of God’s will disclose as their fill-in-the-blank deal breakers? Public speaking. Taking family into danger. Giving up comfort, income, status. Not that these were actually deal breakers. They were just hard to consider. Why? Because we’re afraid. Why do we live in fear? Because our focus is not on God’s will. We don’t live as if nothing matters more than the Gospel that redeemed us. This life and its daily decisions mean little compared to our eternal presence with God. Eternity has already begun for us, and yet we cling to the hope that it is God’s will for us is to sail through this life safe, healthy, and comfortable.
It’s the surrender to God’s will no matter the outcome that frees us. Our focus shifts from the daily struggle to figure out what God wants from us to discovering His absolute will found in Scripture. His will is that we repent and believe in the power of Christ to save us. Live a life set apart for His glory. Forgive. Give thanks. Preach the Gospel to all nations. Love God. Love others. Yes, there is more to it. The Bible is filled with examples and exhortation regarding God’s will. Yes, God cares what happens to us in our lives. But if we regard this present life as being eternally God’s, we can be set free from the fear and confusion.
For all of my talk of looking at the bigger plan, I find the daily struggle—my little refusals to God—are what keep me from following His will. I’m too busy, or too tired, or unprepared, or I just don’t want to. I’m not referring to letting God help me pick which house to live in, or whether to buy the hatchback or the sedan. I mean the everyday decision I make to disregard matters of His Kingdom. The help I don’t offer. The words I don’t speak, or the ones I should keep inside but I let them out anyway. The attention I should pay to the person God puts in my face. The attention I should pay to God.
If I don’t follow God’s will, does His plan just get left undone? No. Will He get all frustrated with me? He’s not like that. Will He punish me? He already took my punishment, but He might discipline me. Will I miss out on something? On a blessing? Possibly. Will my refusal alter life as we know it? I don’t know. Only God knows.
Years ago, a man I didn’t especially like became part of my church family. I sensed something was wrong with the picture he presented of his life. Months later, I fractured my skull, and well, I forgot a lot of things about a lot of people. Including the fact that I didn’t like this guy. He visited me, and during my recovery I grew to like him. He was smart and he knew the Bible. We had some deep conversations. We became friends—he and his wife and me and my husband.
A few months later, the man’s wife had him arrested. He’d been beating her, and when he went after their little boy, she called the cops. He bonded out and his wife filed for divorce. Weeks went by with no word from the man. Then one day I had a strong sense that I should call him. Just call and tell him I was thinking about him. Praying for him. Tell him I didn’t hate him.
But he was a wife beater. A criminal. I wanted nothing more to do with him. And I told God no.
A week after that, my friend parked his car on the side of the road, doused himself with gasoline, and lit a match.
Was it my fault? His destiny was not my responsibility. Did I feel guilty? Not for long. God knew I wouldn’t call him. God could have saved the man’s life in any number of ways, but He didn’t. Still, I’ll always wonder what might have been.
So maybe the thing I’d put in my blank isn’t big. Maybe it’s the next little thing I don’t want to do. And the next. And the next. But I hope not. Filling in the blank is not God’s will. I want to leave it blank.