What I had been feeling all those years was that my spirit person and my soul person were running on parallel tracks. I knew many of the relevant Truths of the Bible. But what I came to learn about God and Jesus and grace and forgiveness and hope just would not travel the eighteen inches from my head to my heart. I so badly wanted to experience them for myself.
It was almost as though something was blocking the way for Jesus to move from my head (knowing about Jesus and his love) to my heart (knowing Jesus personally and intimately). I literally felt myself becoming lopsided. Top heavy. Almost like a tall building with too small of a foundation. Or a huge corporation with a poorly developed infrastructure. Growing in my knowledge and understanding of the Christian way, but stagnant in my heart, unable to implement what I was learning at a level any deeper than mere “behavior modification.” I had become a pretender. A counterfeit Christian. Who I really was and who people perceived me to be just didn’t line up. And I knew it.
In my counseling practice today, I have at least one client every single day tell me they are facing this same dilemma. “Why can I not experience all that I know God has for me? What am I missing? What am I doing wrong?”
I thank God frequently for not only walking with me through the pain of my past, but also for giving me the opportunity to know more of His love for me in the midst of each experience. Author Troy Dobbs in his book, The Blessed Life That No One Really Wants, illuminates what I’m saying in his unpacking of the story of Joseph (son of Jacob) in the Old Testament:
“Through a series of providentially painful events – false accusations, unjust imprisonment, and being forgotten to name a few – God eventually positioned Joseph (for the ultimate purpose He had created for Joseph).”
Providentially Painful Events
I searched in the Bible dictionary on the reputable website Biblestudy.com to learn the definition of “providential.” Here is what I found: “Having foresight to make provision beforehand.” Hmm… so God knew in advance that Joseph needed to go through each and every one of the difficult aspects of his personal life journey in order to be fully equipped for the greater purpose God had planned for him. Through numerous unexpected, undesirable events in Joseph’s life, God “positioned” Joseph, so that – at exactly the right time – he would be prepared to participate in the ultimate purpose for which he was created – to share unconditional love with people who least expected it and feel they least deserved it. If this was true for Joseph, it’s also just as true for you and for me. God wants to turn our tests into our testimony. Turn our messes into our message. Turn our brokenness into wholeness!
The Path Defined
I’ve found that many Christians have been taught (or assumed) that God’s will is a straight line, and the closer they can adhere to it through being good, making good choices, being with only good people, having a good marriage, raising good kids who make good choices, being good in their career, and having good plans for their retirement, the more they’ve lived in “God’s will.”
Unfortunately, this was the path the Pharisees took, believing that if they learned, memorized, and perfectly lived by the 613 laws of the Jewish Torah, they would stand righteous (be good) before God. But Jesus saw it very differently.
“And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, ‘This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me.” (Matthew 15:7)
God’s will is not as complicated or as elusive as we seem to make it. In a 2018 sermon, my pastor and mentor Kyle Idleman, shared this perspective on God’s will:
“As people, we tend to focus on the direction, as if we’re at an intersection and we’re not sure what to do. We could go left or right or we could go straight. So, “God, what’s your will? Just tell me what to do.” The emphasis God puts on His will is not whether you turn left or right or you continue straight. As long as each of these paths are honoring to God, He wants us to choose. His will has more to do with who you are on the path than which path you take. As long as the path is honoring to God, what He is paying attention to is who you are on the path. That you are someone who avoids sexual immorality, rejoices always, prays continually, and gives thanks in all circumstances.”
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