My actions v. God’s actions
Do you ever fee torn between giving something your full effort, going full steam ahead to MAKE something happen and then sometimes wondering if rather than forcing your way, you should be patient and wait for God to move in your life instead? I think about this often!! I suppose when you have a very task-oriented personality like mine (I am wired to “do” and get things checked off my lists), it is so easy to push things forward and forget that there is another side to the coin.
Abraham as example
In my reading and quiet time this week (I’ve started a journey to read through the Bible cover to cover- which I have never done before), I read about Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah and how they responded when God promised them a son. They laughed and didn’t fully believe the promise. Even as years passed by and Abraham remembered the promise, he became more doubtful. In the doubt that God would and could follow through, he and his wife decided to come up with their own solution and take action. By the end of the story, God did fulfill his promise, despite Abraham trying to take things in to is own hands. However, God took 25 years from the time He made his initial promise to Abraham until the day Isaac was born. That is a LOOOOOONG time to wait for something to materialize!!
My reading this week also fit into the context of a conversation I had recently with a gal who has been struggling with some relationships in her life. She spends time praying with God about her situation, but she also has the natural inclination to try to fix the issues in the relationships. Very recently, she has seen some major positive shifts happen that she credits to the work of God behind the scenes rather than results of her own individual efforts. She is rejoicing in God intervening in her life. We talked at length about the difficult balance (or rather discernment) of when we step back to wait on God and when do we use our own human abilities to achieve a goal.
Three Truths to Consider
And that is the million dollar question in my mind right now: How much effort do I give to change something and how much do I wait, patiently in faith, for God to act? I would love to have a flowchart to guide me. If this…. then that. But, of course, that isn’t how life works. So while I can’t give myself a solid answer that works every time, I am reflecting on a few truths that I need to consider.
1. God is God
Such a simple statement and so profound at the same time. In our culture of “me me me”, I find it so easy to think about God as an agent of me, rather than the other way around. But this is the God of all space and time. He isn’t here to be at my beck and call. He isn’t required to make my life happy, easy or good.
I do believe that He ultimately wants my life to be good, but his definition of “good” and mine will be very different at times- just as my definition of “good” for my kids’ life is very different from how they would define it for themselves. For my kids (between ages 7-11), “good” is eating candy all day and watching TV. The phrase “God is God”, to me, is accepting that any belief I have about what my life “should” be like needs to be held loosely. My values, beliefs, and life goals aren’t perfect and will sometimes fall outside God’s will, and I continually need to check myself for alignment with God and His Word.
2. I have Power
God has gifted me an immense amount of power. The most basic power is that of decision and action. I am free to make decisions and free to act as I choose. With those decisions and actions, I can change my life. Behavioral research shows that our actions produce some predictable results, and there are very foundational behaviors that we know will have positive results in our lives. One foundational behavior is simply paying attention to what our mind focuses on and redirecting our mind to dwell on positive things and truth. That one simple act (simple but really challenging to execute) will have profound effects in our lives. So, I believe that because God has given me power and agency, and I should use it (although with great discretion and ethical responsibility).
On a slight side note- This understanding of our agency is in direct conflict with what I see in some people, where they remain stuck in their life because they don’t believe they have power OR because they always are waiting for the Lord to act on their behalf. That is like a baby that refuses to walk and just always waits for the parent to carry them or rescue them. If the baby has the capacity to walk, then walk!! The parent, then, will guide the baby as the baby walks, but the baby has the natural desire, ability, and responsibility to walk.
3. Being patient and still with God
Being patient and still with God is critical. This third truth is where the magic happens for me and brings the first two truths together. My natural inclination to act and “git er done” is brought to God in prayer, and I try to remain open to hearing from God whether I should refrain from acting. This is where I wish I had a nice flow chart to reliably follow but rather it requires a strong relationship with God so I can actually hear and discern him.
But how do you know what God is actually saying to you? I get this question a lot (and I ask this question myself). My best response is: How do you know when your child or your best friend is talking to you in a crowded room? Because you have spent enough time around them to clearly recognize their voice. The most reliable way you can hear God is simply by strengthening your relationship with Him- learning more about who He is, His character (via Bible), His promises to us, and spending time in silence and prayer so you can talk with Him personally and leave space for Him to respond to you. Over time, your confidence in hearing Him through your own mind or the perspectives of others will improve. I am certain of this.
So if you struggle between wanting to plow ahead with an idea but aren’t always sure that plowing ahead is the best thing, I hope my thoughts and reflections inspire you to dig in to your God relationship and hold space for the tension between doing and being patiently still for God to work in your life.