July 15,17

Life is Full of Unknowns…

Yet we live meticulously planning out the finite details of each moment (perhaps not on paper but certainly in our minds) in order to prevent these unknowns from happening. We pursue consistency and stability as if our lives depended on it.

On a short term level, we plan what time we’ll wake up. What we’ll eat (or not eat) for breakfast. Our caffeine beverage of choice, if applicable. What route we’ll take to work. Our estimated time of arrival. Our attitude. Our commitment to relationships and responsibilities. Our energy quota with interacting with people. Our ambitions and goals for the day.

On a long term level, we seek jobs that will pay us a wage at, or higher than, our comfort levels so we can feel secure. We seek relationships that will never change so we don’t have to start over; or we avoid relationships to prevent getting hurt or hurting someone. We live as though we will never die so we foolishly eat, drink and are merry, not thinking of the future (ironically); or we obsess over health, convinced smoothies and salads are the ticket to eternal life. We plan our marriages, our families, our education, our communities…

…as we grow in our understanding and adoration for our Creator and turn our eyes from the things of this world, God will cultivate a love for Himself that grows more and more, and will ultimately transform OUR hearts’ desires to GOD’S desires.

Then, the unexpected thing happens; and if we’re lucky, several unexpected things at once — the very things we’ve been trying to avoid all along: The car need a major checkup and the money you saved for vacation (or, oh yeah, those bills) goes towards the mechanic. Your boss, after so many years, lets you go for one reason or another, and you must find a new job (do you remember how to perform an interview?). You meet a dashing man or lovely woman and get married (so long single life!). A family member dies and you must take off work to tie loose ends. Your delicious five-bucks coffee spills on your new shirt right before that meeting you have to facilitate. You sleep past your alarm because you set it to PM instead of AM so you are also late to that meeting you’re facilitating (even though you had time to go by your fave coffee place). You didn’t give yourself enough time to finish a project and now you have to work overtime and the wife/husband is mad at you.

If we’re honest, we don’t often respond well to these situations. We get angry, we complain, we blame people for not getting what we want. We yell and get impatient for “life not going as we planned.” We shake our fists at God, who “should have seen it coming” and “stopped it from happening.” He loves us, right? Don’t we deserve to be happy, especially after all of our hard work?

Is it possible that we simply ignore the fact that we don’t have control over our lives? And that no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot guarantee a blissful life? And that happiness isn’t found in the world? And as much as we desire it to, life cannot and will never be about us? (newsflash!)

These are some of the questions I have been meditating on the last — well — two years and eight months. Because of our move to Los Angeles, I have been forced to come to terms with the fact that my plans — while they may be good things — cannot come before worshiping God. I cannot bank my life on what I want when God’s glory is more important. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4) does NOT mean that if we love God He gives us what we want. Rather, it means that as we grow in our understanding and adoration for our Creator, and turn our eyes from the things of this world, God will cultivate a love for Himself that grows more and more, and will ultimately transform OUR hearts’ desires to GOD’s desires (e.g. spreading the word of His salvation to all the world; loving sacrificially; praying for others diligently; obeying God with a happy heart instead of begrudgingly, etc.).

All of a sudden, my wants are worthless compared to God’s wants! My life is complete misery when I fight God’s desires with my own. Why can’t we move to a more affordable city? — I’ve asked — Why can’t we just make enough money to move out of our 400 sq ft studio apartment? Why can’t I have that farm I dreamed up while I was in college? Why can’t Cobalt make more money so I can quit my job? Why are our friends in a different stage of life than us? Why can’t we live close to family?

These inquiries, albeit demands, do not represent a heart of faith in God’s provision. Rather, they accuse God for not giving me what I want. So WHAT if God doesn’t give me what I want? Is that who I think God is, a genie that grants my every wish? Paul in Philippians urges us to bring our requests before God. But he didn’t say we would get what we want. He says this…

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-8

The key word in this passage is “thanksgiving.” Truly, a heart of thankfulness shows a heart of faith. It shows that though I am grieved by my lack of wants, I am not IN WANT. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” says the Psalmist in chapter 23. Thankfulness shows that I trust God’s plan for my life and that I am willing to submit to that. It shows that I recognize that God is trustworthy and faithful. He keeps his promises!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:25-34