You know what I mean.
You experience some amazing sermon or mountaintop experience and come out all fired up for God’s glory. “God, take ALL of me! Finances, residence, family, occupation, my heart…I’m seeking what you want for my life!”
And then you pause and go, “Wait…what have I just done?” Your breath catches a little, as if you’ve just leaped off the edge of a fifty-foot cliff.
Because you know that’s a prayer God will answer.
And you know he isn’t going to mind your comfort zone when he does. You start looking around nervously, half expecting a team of angels to appear and start packing your stuff.
Some of us never make the leap. We stand perpetually on the edge of the cliff, turning over in our minds the idea of asking God what he wants for our lives, left breathless by how he might answer. He might have you move to Nigeria and do mission work for a year – or a half-century. He might choose not to heal your loved one of that heinous cancer. He might ask you to let go of that guy/girl you can’t stop thinking about. He might ask you to walk away from a dream – or run towards it. He might tell you to forgive, or admit you were wrong, or make other waves in a relationship.
Or he might simply tell you to stay faithful and keep doing what you’re doing – the same exact “what” that you’ve been doing for seemingly decades.
Yep. Asking God what he wants can be a terrifying thing.
But what if it doesn’t have to be that way? What if instead, the terror reveals something about us that should not be?
I read a blog post from a friend of mine (she’s my mentor-in-blogging, actually) about how her next step from God, requested in humility, turned out to be right in line with her heart. She got an opportunity to write Bible study guides for the church, something she’d taken great joy in before.
I read that and thought, Why do I always assume God’s plans will be hard? It’s the first place my expectations go to. The result of a long string of disappointments, I suppose. (I broke through those strongholds in my heart last spring, by the way, with a determined bout of Scripture-soaked spiritual warfare. It took my mindset in seeking God’s will from a cringing dread to a restful wait-and-see.)
But – sometimes God’s plans won’t be fun or in line with our heart. Sometimes he really will ask you to roll the hard six, and it won’t be one of those nice Mount Moriah fake-outs where he’s just testing your willingness. You’ll actually have to do it.
It’s a hard word. “Not this, Lord. Not again. Not on top of everything else.” Yet God will not relent. He is firm and clear. We feel stuck. We know what happens to Jonahs, but it’s hard not to lose heart.
So here’s a question I found helpful – do we really expect to find life anywhere else?
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’ “ (John 6:68)
Peter was a numbskull most of the time, but he knew enough to spot the only safe path.
Over my few years, I’ve come to understand “life” in many ways. Jesus uses the word to refer to securing eternal life, certainly. But he also means quality of life today, right now, here on earth. And failing to follow Jesus doesn’t really bring that life. Living outside of his will, ignoring his commands, mistrusting his heart – does anyone really ever feel joyful and light-hearted in those times? Sin brings conviction. Lots of sin brings an awfulness to the soul. Missing out on his plans brings regret. The consequences of sin manifest and leave you wishing you’d just listened.
None of that sounds like life to me.
Life (n): 1. Seeing how God comes through when you follow his plan; 2. Getting to witness his brilliant timing, his miraculous provision, his generous heart; 3. Joy, peace, assurance, rest of heart from knowing you picked the right path in defiance of appearances.
Right now, I’m trying to ask God what he wants for my life in certain areas. Not just to accept what he wants, but to want what he wants.
It’s forcing me to decide whether I really trust his heart. It’s appalling how far behind I am in strengthening this realm of my heart. Part of me knows his path is best, his timing is best, and his heart for me is bigger than Jupiter. Part of me knows there might still be devastation and pride-swallowing to do, at least for a night before the joy in the morning. And I just don’t want to go through that.
So I’ve got the edge-of-the-cliff feeling to deal with. Such fun. (Not really.)
But…I know I won’t find life down any other path.
Sin (n, v): 1. Disobeying God. 2. Being deceived in regards to what will bring life.
I want life. To get that, I have to ask God what he wants. He delights when we finally push through the edge-of-the-cliff feeling and, tired of thirsting for life on our own paths, come to him for life. I thought you’d never ask! he says, as he leaps to give me more than I’d bargained for.
…or perhaps “more than I could ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Asking God what he wants doesn’t have to be terrifying. He is really the only option if we want life.
It’s a stark line in the sand, to be sure.
But a true one.