Lately I have been thinking about God’s plans and purposes.
My heart hesitates to speak of God. Not because of lack of love for Him. Not because of shame or guilt or anything like that. I simply feel inadequate. Who am I to have any vast knowledge of or insight into the grandeur of the Lord? Who am I to comment on the holiness of God or the love of Jesus or the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit? I am not a great theologian. I’m not even a mediocre theologian. Even reading the Bible is so very difficult at times. All I know is the still small voice. The one that whispers, “You are ok” when everything is falling apart. All I know is His faithfulness to hold me when everything around me is crumbling. I know nothing from an academic standpoint. But I know He loves me and He has good thoughts and intentions for me.
The past several months, God has been asking me to evaluate my attitude about my circumstances and deal with my emotions about how someone else’s choices are affecting me.
I was hopeful.
I was jubilant.
I was devastated.
I was numb.
I was numb for about 4 months while my life crumbled around me. I didn’t have the capacity to feel anything. Then I needed help and he came. He helped me for a few hours and then he left. My world was right-side-up for a few hours and then it crumbled again. I was devastated. I was broken. I was heartbroken.
It’s been four long, long years since this situation started.
I had prayed and cried out to God to reveal His plan to this other person. I cried a lot during those four years. And nothing happened. Nothing. Except that he left for two years in the middle, while I did my best to muddle through life, hoping for the best; fearing the worst; praying to be delivered from the affection and adoration I felt for him.
And still, nothing changed.
After he departed that day, I was down. It was the first time I felt anything outside of numbness about the situation for several years, and it was bad. Very, very bad. I struggled. I prayed. And in a moment of epiphany, the Lord seared on my heart the truth that the things that I have always thought of and understood as “God’s plans” aren’t plans, per se. They are purposes. They are things that He thinks and wants for us. But because of His overwhelming grace, His mercy and His love, we are given the choice if we want to participate in those purposes. (Note: I think the terminology is important here, because, a plan, when coupled with the name of God, implies inevitability. Because of God’s gracious gift of free will, the word “purpose” is a much better fit, in my opinion.)
No one is locked into a plan with Him. No one. He’s not like Verizon, where you sign on the dotted line and follow the rules until the contract runs out. He doesn’t work like your employer or your Master Promissory Note or your wedding vows. He does His thing and gives us opportunity after opportunity to participate in His purposes. But we aren’t locked in. We get to choose.
I was given an opportunity to reevaluate how I feel about Him. And how I feel about…. him. Am I going to reject God because I can’t (necessarily) have what I want? Am I going to be angry and bitter with the man in question because he won’t get his crap in a pile already?
Of course, my other choice was to internalize the grief and heartbreak and enter an even deeper depression. But that’s no fun either.
So many choices….
Several years ago, during a time of deep darkness in my life, God branded into my heart the truth that people are terrible representations of Him. Nothing people do changes who He is — nor does their behavior (very often) represent who He is. And because people are imperfect, I neither have the choice to be angry with Him, nor do I have the choice to be angry with…. him. He is already perfect, while he is in the process of…. becoming. You can’t kick people to the curb because they’re not quite like God yet.
I internalized the grief. I got depressed. I asked God for a reason to live.
Wasted. (At least from my perspective, at this moment in time.)
I don’t know what to do with any of it. I’ll be the first to say that I have no idea how to help myself. I don’t know where to begin, except by going to the faithful arms of the One who is incapable of setting me down and incapable of losing His love for me. That is the only thing I can do. And as I cry out the pain and frustration and sadness of loss, I begin with these words:
If You’re going to start somewhere,
Why not here?
If You’re going to start sometime,
Why not now?
(City on Our Knees, Toby Mac)
I have no words. No thoughts. Nothing but pain and sadness and an eternal hope in His purposes that are always, always good – even when I don’t understand them and even when they don’t feel good.
I am reminded of this:
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
Do not forsake the work of your hands.
I know not how to pray. Nothing I can say helps. Nothing changes anything. I don’t know what to ask for. And so, I pray, “Lord, fulfill Your purposes toward me.” That is all I can do.
And He will do it, because His steadfast love endures forever. He will never, ever forsake me, the work of His hands.