This is a prayer I’m learning from missionary and author Elisabeth Elliot. This prayer intrigues, exhilarates, and terrifies. Let me explain.
Some time ago I apparently lit a fuse in someone that exploded into hot words and acidic accusations. With the stunning swiftness of a cobra strike, a seemingly affable conversation on an unrelated topic turned venomous. Bitter words poured over me like battery acid as each caustic claim burned holes in my heart. The tsunami suddenness of the attack caught me off guard, took my breath away.
“Where in the world did this come from?” I thought, blinking back tears. While I had no clue as to what I may have said or done to light the Mount Saint Helen-esque eruption, one thing was certain: the lava had been smoldering for quite some time.
Reflecting on this situation and the prayer above, I later wondered: Was it “God’s will” for me to be hurt? Was it God’s design for me to be maligned, misunderstood and falsely accused by someone I trusted? Not quite. But in a fallen world peopled with sinners we suffer (and cause) many a wrong. Yes, God heals, comforts, and forgives. But I also have a choice to make in an instance like this. If God’s will governs, then aren’t the people, events, circumstances or words that touch me all “Father-filtered”? If His will governs all, then can I choose to say with Joseph that “It was not you who sent me here but God” (Gen. 45:8, 50:20), and “You who meant to do me harm, but God meant to bring good out of it”?
You and I have choice. Free will. We can work with God or against Him. He waits for us to choose Him, to embrace obedience. Trust is a choice. As Elliot notes, “A sovereign God… works through flawed human instruments to whom he has given the power of choice. Sometimes the choices are mistaken. Divine sovereignty permits those mistakes.
Jeremiah 29:11 puts it this way:“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future..” Part of that “future” is conformity to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:28,29), which means a death to self.
Which brings me back to the “Roman candle words” that recently exploded in my face. If God’s will governs all and His will is for me to become more like Christ, can I choose to see this “candle” as the catalyst I may need to learn forgiveness, longsuffering, graciousness, gentleness, meekness, self-control and more of the fruit of the Spirit?
Could this offense not ultimately result in an increase of love between me and the one who hurt me? May it not be the occasion I need to cling more tightly to the Anchor of my soul, to drench my heart in the One whose compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22, 23)? Can I lift my meager cup to the Lord Jesus Christ and let He who knows best fill it with His choice for me? I’m learning these “teach me” lessons very slowly and very imperfectly, over a very long time.
How ‘bout you? What has God allowed or brought into your life today to teach you?