I didn’t get a chance to post the last few days, but I like the idea of reflecting each week on what I’m learning through this process. Especially since I feel like I had a bit of a breakthrough. I will explain. 🙂
I shared last Saturday about my struggle to believe truth that leads to joy, and my tendency to chase after idols as my source of joy instead of seeking it in Christ alone. Well, in his mercy, God saw fit to expand on these using my wonderful husband.
Choosing to be joyful has continued to be a struggle. It’s frustrating to be reading all the “right” things and see so little tangible change day-to-day. And it’s not just my attitude, it seeps into everything – prompting naps instead of work, work instead of play, and lots and lots of snapping. I find myself feeling mopey at the reality of the tasks before me. It’s not that they seem daunting or overwhelming – on the contrary, they seem boring. I mean, sitting on the floor and playing with children or doing Thanksgiving crafts is not exactly rocket science. And I have gifts, you know? And a college degree! There are purposeful things I could be doing with my time. Look at all those other people and the ways they get to use their gifts! Or look at all those other moms who wake up in the morning energized and excited to hang out with their kids! And then there’s me: bored (according to me) and boring (according to my children).
As I processed all of this with Jordan, he offered that there is a very specific lie I am believing, and it is this: God’s will is no good. Somehow, over the course of who-knows-how-long, I have come to believe that where God has placed me and the life He calls me to live is lame, and I have allowed that belief to taint my attitude and willingness to obey. So I’ve become convinced I am above motherhood, that there is something more purposeful I ought to be doing, that there is a better way to use my gifts and to build up the Church, and my children are unfortunate obstacles to truly serving. And I have neglected to see my sin as destructive and prefer instead to wallow in it.
(I’m not proud, okay?)
What’s particularly sweet about the way Jesus works is that I’ve been reading Knowing God by J.I. Packer, and I have been stuck in this chapter on the Wisdom of God. Stuck as in I can’t get past it. I’ve read it 4 or 5 times. I was so struck by its content, not totally sure how it applies but certain that I ought not move on until I figure it out.
In it, Packer looks at the character of God, where “boundless wisdom and endless power are united,” concluding that “this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust” (91). He explains further:
“God’s almighty wisdom is always active, and never fails. All his works of creation and providence and grace display it, and until we can see it in them we just are not seeing them straight. But we cannot recognize God’s wisdom unless we know the end for which he is working. Here many go wrong. Misunderstanding what the Bible means when it says that God is love, they think that God intends a troublefree life for all, irrespective of their moral and spiritual state, and hence they conclude that anything painful and upsetting indicates either that God’s wisdom, or power, or both, have broken down, or that God, after all, does not exist.”
But God has other ends in mind, rather than simply making it easy for everyone:
“When he made us, his purpose was that we should love and honor him, praising him for the wonderfully ordered complexity and variety of his world, using it according to his will, and so enjoying both it and him. And though we have fallen, God has not abandoned his first purpose.”
When we think of God’s will, we often think in terms of accepting this job or that, moving here or there, etc. But God’s will is this: our sanctification (1 Thes 4:3). That we would rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes 5:16-18). Regardless of whether we have this job or that, or live here or there. God in his wisdom “[orders] the events of a human life for a double purpose: the individual’s own personal sanctification, and the fulfilling of his appointed ministry and service in the life of the people of God” (97).
Packer walks through Biblical biography and looks at the way God orchestrates the events required to teach his people what they must learn to be able to accomplish the purposes He has in mind for them. And so often they are the exact opposite of what we might expect. In another book I am reading (The Lamb of God by Nancy Guthrie), she writes of Moses, the beautiful baby and pampered prince who ends up a detestable shepherd in the wilderness. “Forty years of humiliation and loneliness and isolation and shepherding foolish sheep has rendered Moses meek and prepared him to be the shepherd of Israel whom God will use to bring his people out of bondage.”
In theory, I know all this, right? I started this series with 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. But practically, I don’t live as though I believe it. I think because I don’t think there is this magical path we must find in order to be “in God’s will,” I’ve neglected to see my circumstances as just as purposeful as the call to rejoice in them. If I believed that God was working, that in his infinite power and wisdom he has purposely placed me where I am in this season, surrounded by these (little) people, than I could rejoice always. And I would have to pray without ceasing, because so often His purposes are hidden and we must simply trust and obey. But I could be thankful in all circumstances, because I know that God’s will is good, and therefore I can be content and strive to obey right where I am.
Packer writes, “We should not, therefore, be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly” (97).
I have always thought of this as painful trials which come along and tempt us to doubt God’s goodness, but in fact it is just as applicable to the trials of the daily mundane. God is working – and in his wisdom he means to make something of us which we have not yet attained. We are never stuck. And I think that is a reason to be joyful.