April 29, 2013

Firsthand Experience | Day 16

God, What Are You Doing?

Scripture to meditate on: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

The following is an excerpt from Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan and Josh Shook.

How many times have you found yourself praying that God would act? “Do something!” we cry out. “Change this! And please, Lord…do it now!”

I (Ryan) have to admit that I am always asking God to do something for me or to give something to me. Then when things don’t work out as I had hoped and prayed, I get angry and frustrated. I doubt God’s purpose for my life. I jump to conclusions like If God really loved me, He would have helped me get that job! Or kept me healthy. Or sent me money.

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve found that it’s easy to doubt God’s actions when they don’t line up with my plans. Can you relate? But that logic doesn’t hold up. No, God’s plans and ours don’t always mesh, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t know and care about what is best for us.

I guess it’s a maturity thing. As a teenager, I would get furious when my parents wouldn’t let me go out with friends on a school night or wouldn’t give me more money when I wanted to buy something. I would bitterly insist that my mom and dad didn’t really care about me. If they did, they would act differently.


But looking back, I can see how much my parents really did love me. They weren’t trying to ruin my life; they just cared enough to try to save me from bad influences or greed or some other harm. I’m so thankful they kept me from making some really dumb mistakes and instead let me get upset about what “terrible” parents they were.

In the same way, we may never fully understand or agree with God’s plan, but that doesn’t mean He is not at work for our good.

When my wife and I first moved to Los Angeles, we were confused by all the roads and highways. It would take us hours to find our way across town as we merged onto and off highways and ended up taking wrong turn after wrong turn. We’d comment to each other, “What were the city planners thinking when they decided to make this road dead-end here and start again five blocks later?”

Without a doubt you’ll experience times when it looks as if God is toying with your life. But He knows more than you do, and He loves you more than you even love yourself.

As you journey through life, there will be dead ends, U-turns, and frustrating one-way streets. Not to mention traffic jams that leave you at a standstill.

A woman named Elizabeth from Columbus, Ohio, told us she began to question God’s intentions when it came time to plan her future after graduation. She recalled, “He didn’t seem to be moving fast enough or speaking clearly enough. Did He really have a purpose for me? What if I trusted Him and His plans weren’t worth it?”

The time seemed to drag on and on, and she didn’t know where God was leading her—if He was leading her at all.

And it really got to her.

“I started clawing for control,” she said, “trying to ensure I wouldn’t fail or flop. And then it was too much for me. I became anxious, irritable, and out of control.”

She eventually found some reassurance in Scripture that she didn’t have to trust in her own understanding. She read in Jeremiah 29:11: “ ‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Obviously this didn’t clarify everything about her postgraduation future. But it taught her to trust the Plan Maker.

Like Elizabeth, you can choose to get angry, to fight what appears to be illogical and senseless planning on God’s part, to try to take control. I know I have. I am always looking for the next big thing that I want out of life. Not until I get that thing do I realize I completely missed out on the journey because I didn’t take the time to enjoy it. Over time, though, I’ve found it’s easier to keep a joyful heart when I remember my final destination and who is really in control of my life.

Our souls are eternal, and God made us to be with Him forever. If we think our final destination in the journey of life is supposed to be living in a big mansion with a gigantic TV and the most expensive car, then we will always doubt God when His plan doesn’t seem to work around our plans. But God has bigger and longer lasting things in mind for us than we can even imagine. And because God exists in the past, present, and future and He knows exactly what we need, He may not give us that thing we wanted, but He will always give us what we really need (Romans 8:28–30).

Maybe you’re sure that God has plans for you and His plans are good. But what if you’re really struggling to believe that God will come through for you? How do you deal with doubt about God’s power?