WE OFTEN THINK of God’s will as a narrow path down which we must dutifully tread. And if we choose a wrong fork in the road, we consign ourselves irreparably to the hazards of a life other than the one that God intended for us. In this way of understanding God’s will, we easily elevate any troubles or difficulties we encounter in life — not to mention experiences like war, natural disaster, or injurious accidents — and attribute them to some false move we made or to a seemingly unforgivable sin we committed that took us off God’s intended but hidden path. One wrong choice away from God’s will, we can thus believe, is the source of our troubles.
The result, from this point of view, is often that we scour our past to figure out exactly where and in what way we went wrong. Confusion and even spiritual harm then prevail when we attribute one aspect of God’s will to all situations in our lives. This viewpoint means we generally think God’s will is chiefly and naturally God’s intention. But we also believe God loves us. So how can God both love us and intend for bad things to happen to us, especially when we have tried to be good people and to follow God’s will? I heard this confusion in the voice of a widow at her husband’s funeral who explained to me that she must accept the fact that he had been “taken” from her, clearly implying that God did the taking through death. Even though these words came out of her mouth, her face and spirit cried out, “If God loves me, why would God take my husband away from me?” I saw the same confusion in a friend and devoted church member who, when his daughter committed suicide, seemed to gain strange comfort by telling visitors attending the funeral, “God must have needed another soprano in the heavenly choir.”
What kind of God would take away a parent’s beloved and talented daughter by causing a teenager to take her own life simply to fill in the four-part harmony of a choir singing God’s prasies? This would not be a God worthy of worship, and these examples show false perceptions of God’s intentional will.
– John R. Wimmer
From pages 51-52 of Blessed Endurance: Moving Beyond Despair to Hope by John R. Wimmer. Copyrigth © 2017 by John R. Wimmer. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Upper Room Books. http://bookstore.upperroom.org/ Learn more about or purchase this book.
What are other ways that our assumptions about God’s intentions can be harmful? Share your thoughts.
So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”
Hebrews 5:5, NRSV
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This week we remember: Patrick of Ireland (March 17).
(Courtesy of Vanderbilt Divinity Library)
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