I saw something earlier this week that I cannot get out of my mind. Perhaps I have heard the idea before, but I guess this week I was ready to hear it. It was a morning devotion by a minister who was challenging the fatalistic idea that “THE WILL OF GOD” would be performed regardless of human behavior or interference…He recounted the numerous times we have all heard the phrase, “Well, it must have been the will of God,” sadly uttered by someone who’s had something in life not go the way they expected. (You can see the video here.) By contrast, he argued that the will of God must be prayed into existence, placing a premium on the practice of prayer. And while I’m not sure I’m ready to go all the way in agreement with his bold claims, there’s just something to what he is saying that rings of truth, and yes, it challenges what so many Christians believe.
When we make a faulty decision and things go awry, are you really telling me this was the will of God? When people are hurt, abused, mistreated, even killed….can we really say this is the will of God? The kind of racy and uncomfortable truth seems to be that we can and do make mistakes that affect our own lives and the lives of others, and that NO, when distasteful consequences occur, they were NOT “just meant to be.” They were not the will of God for us, but we chose them.
There’s another whole difficult yet rewarding truth to be unpacked about the divine design of we humans being created with a completely free will. Yes, God could have created robots who always “do what He says” and therefore never encounter moments outside the will of God. However, let me ask you: how would you feel about any supposed relationship with someone who had no other choice but to be kind to you and act like they loved you? Do you sense the hollowness of this, the absence of sincerity? You do? Well, I think that’s what God would feel, and we are created in His image! There’s the deep, refreshing well of authenticity and a glorious beauty when someone loves and cherishes you because they choose to. Because they choose you. Yes, I do believe that even God feels the glory of this.
However, there is also a heaviness when we dare to consider that in our past, things that we have thought were “just the will of God,” might – just might – have been caused or created because of our own choices, really, and were not, in fact, the will of God. Hang on – we’re going somewhere positive, I promise! I don’t want you for a moment to feel like I am ordering any of us to the chopping block to pay for past mistakes or omissions. I am, however, trying to gently alert us all to our responsibility and power to pray and diligently follow after the will of God.
I can hear you now, “but if I consider the less-than-savory moments of my life as if I was outside of the will of God, where am I now?? Outside the line forever? Doomed to follow a path of my own choosing that was not His will??!” No, no, NO! A resounding NO! Herein lies another faulty belief: that once we have made choices outside of God’s perfect will, we will never regain His will again. Our paradise is lost, so to speak. This smells like fatalistic thinking again, don’t you think?
With my perfectionist mindset, I have always been fearful of missing the will of God, but at the same time guilty of thinking that I really didn’t have any power in the matter. And that – if I should inadvertently step outside of it – I really was just going to live a life from that point on that was “off” and not God’s best for me. Believe me, I do see the contradictory nature of my thoughts!
But here’s where the positive comes in: God is in the redemption business! I’m not only talking about redeeming us from a condemned life, I’m also talking about His ability and desire to redeem our mistakes. Our missteps. The places where His path for us was supposed to take a sharp left turn, and we found ourselves hanging a right. Don’t think for a minute that this fork in the road is eternally marked as the place where you missed the path, never to regain it again. God is in the business of redemption.
At the risk of being cliché, I’ll give you a few of Merriam-Webster’s definitions for redeem: to buy back, to change for the better, repair, restore, to offset the bad effect of…. Wow. Do you see the one that says “to change for the better?” Yeah, that’s what God does. He takes our mess-ups and changes them for the better. Hallelujah! I’m not doomed to live in fear! Yes, I am responsible for praying that God’s will is made manifest in my life. Yes, I must prayerfully let the Spirit lead my decisions and actions. But when I miss it…. When I lose my way a bit either due to lacking in prayer or wisdom, or the actions of others, or even Satan’s interference in my life, when I miss it…. God can and will redeem it. Do I have bible for this? Yes! I can think of so many beloved bible characters who obviously messed up and missed God’s perfect will. Top of my mind is David. (See 2 Samuel 11.) Do we really want to say that his adultery with Bathsheba was God’s will because ultimately, we got Solomon from the deal? Nope, I don’t think so. I think Solomon (David and Bathsheba’s son) was a beautiful product of redemption. God took David’s sin and temporary departure from His will, and after David’s tearful and heartfelt repentance, God redeemed the wrong turn that David made in His life… And David continued to be the anointed King of Israel. It’s true that we also read of consequences that he brought upon himself and his family. There’s no escaping that; there is a payment for sin. However, when there is repentance and a turning back to God, that payment does not mean a good and godly life is eternally out of our reach.
So if the “wrong turn” parts of David’s story seem to resonate with your life right now, have no fear. If you desire to get back on the right road, you can do that today through the power of God’s redemption. Will all of your mistakes be undone? No. Everything fixed up nice and tidy in a day? No…But this day, this moment even, is where you ease your way back onto the path of God’s design. One day at a time. One decision at a time. One prayer at a time. Remember that one of the definitions for redemption was to “restore?” That’s what God is doing when you turn back to His way. Your story may not look like its original intention, but it can still be a picture of beauty and grace, wholeness and faith. Thank God for His redeeming love!