When I mess up at work, and my boss calls me on the carpet about it, I’ll feel awful for a week and redouble my efforts to improve my work processes.
When my mistakes affect a coworker or increase their burden, I’ll feel even worse and seek to do them favors.
When my pastor point out an error in ministry, or even just provide advice upon my own prompting on how I could refine a certain area, (by the way, people, do not start walking on eggshells around me because of this post – I need and value correction), I’ll be quite humbled for a while.
And when a friend or family member expresses disappoint in me for whatever reason, an entire fortnight goes in the tank.
But when I sin and only God sees?
Well, something’s different. And not in a way that should be.
When we were young, our parents said “no” to save us. No, you can’t stay up all night watching scary movies. No, you can’t have that sucker that’s bigger than your head. No, you can’t hang out with that gang of boys reenacting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles down the street. (Wish I’d listened before I got a nunchuk to the head.)
But there’s also the sense that parents say no simply to teach us that this ain’t Burger King and you don’t always get it your way. We all know what a kid becomes when he’s given whatever he wants: a spoiled brat. As a teacher, it wasn’t hard for me to spot the kids who’d never heard a “no” in their life. It was more often the “denied” students who exhibited respect, work ethic, and people skills in the classroom; it was those who’d been given less that actually had more.
And I like what I’ve become through my singleness.
We singles often think that God calls us to singleness mostly to help us dodge bad matches. That’s part of it. But let’s be honest: God could bring us a compatible person at any time. That he does not, suggests another purpose. (Sound Biblical theology is silent on the question of “one match for everyone”. As Steven Furtick has pointed out, such theology would require one who misses their match either stay single for life or marry the wrong person and thus cause a chain-reaction dislodging of God’s will for the entire human race.)
I want to say loud and clear: I don’t necessarily believe all singles are being kept there by God. Some are single because they choose it, or because they rarely groom themselves. But it’s undeniable that God has called some to this track. And when we see his hand in such a way, we have an opportunity to uncover an uncomfortable, but powerful, truth.
Like a coastal shelf carved by waves, sometimes God says no simply to refine our character.
Yesterday, our youth group discussed faith in action.
The Scripture was from James 2. We discussed how true faith is not created by action, but will create action. If you want a job, you don’t just sit around and pray; you get proactive, take a shower, send out applications and resumes, network. If you want to help the needy, you don’t just sit around and pray; you get creative, volunteer, brainstorm, sacrifice. There’s a part that’s God’s to do, and there’s a part that’s ours; God’s will is a collusion of the two.
I was also careful (after having given a poor impression at first, like I seemingly did above) to tell my teens that prayer in itself is action. We sometimes say of a situation that “All we can do now is pray.” All we can do? That is the greatest possible action! The fact that we resort to prayer after exhausting all our own resources tells us how backwards our view of the world is. Prayer does stuff. If you’re sick, you don’t just lie on the couch and post miserable Facebook memes; you get intercession, call some believers to lay hands on you and pray for your healing, as if you believed James 5:14-15 is actually true(!). Like heat from a flame, real faith will be given away by the action it generates.
But this morning, I got to thinking.
There are times when faith means no action.
The rebellious, proud district of my heart was sounding an alarm of protest. I’d just listened to a song recommended by a close friend, and the first line was, “Thank you for the wilderness.”
But my gut reaction wasn’t to thank anyone for the wilderness. I wanted to get out of it!
Like all of us, my life has carried its share of challenges. I’ve had many arguments with God about it. I’ve had many arguments with myself over whether it’s really God causing these hardships or simply me not being wise or prayerful enough. Of course, I’ve prayed fervently for lusher ground.
And that last part is a big one. One fears that if he accepts the wilderness, God will prolong it.
As if I really had any say in the matter.
But another part of me, one which is growing louder and stronger each year, asks instead, “God, what have you accomplished in this wilderness?”