“This is God’s will.”
The words carry such weight, such strength, such power. Sometimes they are spoken from the desire to comfort, sometimes from the urge to afflict. Sometimes they soothe the spirit, ease the aching heart. Sometimes they provoke contrition, submission and acceptance. Sometimes they provoke anger, hurt or resentment.
When we contemplate good and pleasant circumstances it is easy to believe that God has smiled upon us. Never mind that a few million other people in the same general area of the world were not so smiled upon; we were, God is good and this is just fine with us. Turn the circumstances around so that we become the Left Out or the Unchosen and the smiles are a mite harder to come by for a while.
I once heard a man “testify” in church in Kansas, praising God because his vacation home garage on the Texas coast had been spared by a hurricane. He didn’t say one word about the several hundred Mexicans who were killed by the same hurricane a couple hundred miles farther south on the same coast. His garage was still standing, God is good and this was just fine with him.
I know and believe that nothing happens in this world that God does not allow to happen. So, I guess in some sense, we can say that everything that happens is his will. Factor in human choice and circumstance, though, and the whole blame and credit thing changes rather dramatically. Jesus himself said that some things happen by chance. Carefully re-read his telling of the Story of the Good Samaritan; you’ll see.
I believe in God’s intimate familiarity with every detail of my life but I don’t believe that he’s such a busybody that he has to choose what pair of socks I’m going to wear today. It’s okay with me if that’s what you believe but I suspect that if that’s the case, you might occasionally be inclined to use God as your scapegoat, too. Pretty easy to blame our bad choices on his divine providence. Pretty easy to excuse ourselves from any sense of responsibility or compassion once we realize that poverty and sickness are God’s will… for other people.
I believe in submission even though I struggle with it. I know that God’s ways are not my ways and that his wisdom is far beyond mine. I know that I can neither comprehend nor explain him. I know that life is not fair and I give thanks for that every day. If it was, I would have been dead and reserved for hell long ago.
I will accept his will but I will not use it as a dodge for my bad choices. I will teach that we should all submit to his will and I will pray devoutly for wisdom to determine what his will is for my life. And along the way, I will try to pattern my choosings after the teachings of his Son. I am quite convinced that my imperfect attempts to imitate his perfection will be far more pleasant and productive than would be the alternatives.