When God’s Sovereign Will Seems to Burn and Crush

May 18, 2016

“What do you do when God gives you something that you don’t really want? I know that He’s a loving heavenly Father, but sometimes it sure doesn’t look like it on the outside. Do you pray like Jesus did, ‘not my will, but yours be done’ and ask for what you would really want in those circumstances? Hurting but wanting to honour Him…”

I get asked questions like this from time to time. I think it happens because the people around me know that I have indeed been called to walk through circumstances I haven’t wanted.  Perhaps they see hope that makes them believe that I might have an answer. They’re right. My path to hope in the face of deep suffering wasn’t casual. It was gritty and rife with questions for God and a hunger to understand, even just a wee bit, what it was all about. But that gritty path revealed answers … answers I can live by … answers that give me hope. Here is how I answered my friend:

“This sounds serious. What do I do, you ask? Humble myself before Him and remember the truth about who He is and who I am:

  • “He is God … I am not. I can try to live on a throne but it’s futile. It’s a false kingdom, and I am an emperor with no clothes. His throne is real, and He never leaves it. Initially this seems to be a harsh reality but the truth is, it’s a reality that offers the deepest comfort. He is good and His will cannot be thwarted by anything or anyone. I don’t have to figure out how to manage my circumstances but rather I can rest in Him knowing He already has it managed before I even know there is a difficulty to manage.
  • “His ways are so much higher than my ways. If He’s doing something different from what I want, He is not the one who is wrong. It is good in these circumstances to turn my face toward Him expectantly and let Him lead me along a path that He sees very clearly, though to me it looks dark and treacherous.
  • “He is good and does good (Ps 119:68) – that means everything that touches my life can ultimately result in or contribute to his good purposes – no matter how dire the current circumstances appear to be.
  • “He knows the end from the beginning, so what seems all wrong to me might only seem so because I can’t see the end.
  • “I plead with Him to help me believe what is true and not to believe the lies that come flying at me at lightning speed.
  • “And yes, I cry out to God and pray in the manner Jesus prayed, ‘If this cup could pass from me … nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.’ I am deeply humbled when I pray this way, knowing that the circumstances I face are so slight compared to the depth of suffering my Redeemer’s heart was reluctant to experience.
  • “And I do what you are doing by sharing your burden with me: I reach out for help … for prayer and guidance. When I need to talk to someone, I do. I benefit from outside perspectives to help me discern if the circumstances are such that God wants me to work toward change or if, indeed, He is calling me to stand up under them in a way that puts His glory on greater display.

“I know that all sounds so logical, but it doesn’t always play out like that, Actually, it rarely does. My longing heart gets in the way and sometimes the longings of other hearts do too. Over the Easter season, I spent time in Psalm 22, one of the Messianic psalms. I found sweet fellowship there and insight into a path of wisdom through suffering and human longing. As he writes, the psalmist moves back and forth between focusing on his painful circumstances and the nature of God. This tells me I don’t need to be ashamed or feel like I’m failing when I look at my painful circumstances and feel deeply. God is inviting me to lay my heart bare before Him, and in that safe place, there is no condemnation. This is NOT something I need to ‘fix’. It just is.

“However, I also see that the psalmist courageously and decisively moves away from his circumstances to focus on who God is, what He is like, and how He has revealed Himself in the past. Scattered in amongst these perspectives is a humble, dependent petition for God to be near and to provide relief. This honest, Godward process changes him. He is no longer consumed by his own pain-filled circumstances, but he is looking outward with a passion to proclaim the greatness of God. This dramatic paradigm shift is so incredibly empowering! Satan’s victories are fueled by luring us into self-absorption. The true nature of Christianity is inescapably other-oriented. As the psalmist’s heart turns outward, God is able to use him for His kingdom purposes.

“These truths penetrate my soul like a balm and give me grace and courage to face what God has ordained for my life with hope—not because of who I am, but because of who He is and how He works in this world.”

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How have you sought to offer sensitive counsel to counselees who are “burned-out” with the stresses of life and who wonder, “What’s the point of it all?”

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