Jesus did not call me to live the American dream, Jesus called me to pick up my cross and follow him.
Once upon a time I would boldly pray for “God’s will to be done.” I believe part of my courage in praying these words was because I naively and arrogantly believed that my will aligned with God’s will. There is a glaring problem with this ideology. Isaiah 55:8 says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
My thinking, while in error, was filled with good intention. I had great plans for myself and my family. I knew it wasn’t guaranteed, but I certainly hoped it would come to fruition. Without putting a lot of specific thought to it, what I really desired is that we would live long lives, with little suffering, faithfully serving the Lord and sharing the gospel. That’s not bad, right?!
C.S. Lewis says in his book A Grief Observed, “God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t.”
I’ve lived a blessed life of little suffering and minuscule heart ache. So now what happens? My faith is still firm. Not because of my own strength or will power, but because it is the product of the One who merits the faith. All the things I’ve known about the Lord and experienced first hand have remained true. But my perspective has been eternally altered. I have been given a new and permanent lens of which to view the world and myself.
My desire to faithfully serve the Lord was, at it’s depth, the idea of living the American dream to the glory of God.
What I previously thought were good intentions and God honoring desires, I now see clearly. My desire to faithfully serve the Lord was, at it’s depth, the idea of living the American dream to the glory of God. The realization makes me want to vomit. I have had to repent of how I thought I could fit the Lord into my plan. Jesus did not call me to live the American dream, Jesus called me to pick up my cross and follow him.
Before I go any further, I want to assure you that I know God is not vindictive. Jane’s death was not punishment. I know this because God is just and His ultimate wrath and punishment for sin was fulfilled on the cross, at the expense of His own Son. 1 John 2:2 says “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” We live in a broken and sinful world, where the death of everyone is inevitable. I will never understand why God only ordained Jane to live exactly 890 days on this earth. But God is good and I trust Him completely. His ways are not mine.
For about two years before Jane passed away there had been many conversations in our home about how were we suffering for Christ? We prayed about downsizing again. We gave more financially. We considered moving overseas. We started the adoption process, only to be stopped a couple of times. These are not bad things and I genuinely believe they were Spirit led and God honoring. I also think that deep down, I wanted so badly to choose the way in which we sacrificed for Christ. I never had an actual list written out, but I guarantee, losing a child was not on the list of ways I was willing to suffer.
I’m thankful that God doesn’t ask my permission, but allows me to submit.
But here we are, walking a road we did not anticipate. I don’t get to choose another’s cup, this is what we have been served. I’ve been confronted with sin in my life that I wasn’t aware of before. I have had to repent and choose to trust Christ every day, every moment. I admit, it’s much harder for me to pray for God’s will to be done. I’m thankful that God doesn’t ask my permission, but allows me to submit. God has abundantly blessed us. The gospel alone is enough. We have also experienced loss and devastation. 1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us what to do in any situation, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Job 1:21b says, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” I can pray for God’s will to be done. I can be confident in His plans, even when they aren’t my own. I can give thanks in all circumstances, because Jesus alone is worthy.
Charles Spurgeon said, “I have learned to kiss the waves that throw me up against the Rock of Ages.” I’ll confess, I don’t feel ready to kiss the wave. Nonetheless I am thankful for the Rock of Ages. I am thankful for sanctification. I’m thankful that the cloak of good intentions has been stripped away. I’m thankful that the things of this earth have grown strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.