I had coffee with a girlfriend yesterday and, in typical fashion, we discussed a variety of topics ranging from the sovereignty of God to how our children are faring in their various pursuits. As usual, it was enlightening, encouraging and life-giving. My appreciation for her, and all my precious friends, has always been a thing, but has grown exponentially since the passing of my middle child.
I came away from this particular meeting musing on all the fun and interesting topics we discussed, smiling as I drove away, and chewing, as it were, on the deeper truths of the Lord we touched on, though didn’t explore in-depth. One of those topics was “the will of God”. What a fathomless subject! No matter the amount of discussion on this particular subject, we will never come to an answer for all the questions this phrase brings to mind. Can the will of God be discerned? How do we know what the will of God is for us individually, and the Body of Christ corporately? How do we walk in the will of God on a daily basis?
Throughout the rest of the day, after meeting with my sweet friend, I found my mind periodically returning to the many questions this subject raised, and I sensed a niggling thought in the back of my mind that I didn’t tune in to and take the time to “hear” until later in the evening. Bedtime, in fact. A time when my mind begins to settle down and I can be more aware of the extraneous thoughts roaming around in it; it settles down, that is, until I actually try to go to sleep! But that is a conversation for another time.
I realized, after this conversation with my friend, that I have a rather relaxed feeling about knowing and walking in the will of God; a curious feeling, considering the gravity of the subject. I shared with my friend that day a theory on walking in the will of God I’d heard years before – that wherever we are in life, that is the will of God for us, because we are His children. It made sense to me. Having parented children for the past 32 years I relate everything that speaks of God as our Father (our parent) back to my own feelings and experiences as a mother. Wherever I was, my children usually were. If we are God’s children, doesn’t it make sense that wherever we are is where He put us? I know this is an extremely oversimplified viewpoint. But I like it as a starting point for discussing the complex topic of the will of God.
As I was preparing for bed the night after our informal conversation about this subject, a favorite scripture of mine popped into my head and I began to sing it. Many years ago, my husband and I went to a church that sang what we now call “7-11 songs”; the song was made up of 7 words that we sang 11 times! They might be more accurately called “choruses”. Anyway, these songs were usually scriptures. And I learned a great deal of the Bible singing these 7-11 songs. Such was the scripture I began singing that evening, and it revealed to me the cause for the relaxed, peaceful feeling I carry regarding myself being in the will of God.
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I’m singing this again as write it down, it is so inscribed in my memory. It is a part of who I am. It is one of the governing philosophies of my life.
Another translation I like puts it this way: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
When I first got saved I had an insatiable appetite for the Word of God, the Bible. I read it night and day, meditated on it and felt the Holy Spirit impressing passages, large and small, upon my heart and mind. I believed, and still believe it to be what we call it – the Word of God. It is God’s word to us – His Word to be studied, to be believed, to be lived by, to put our faith and trust in, to know God Himself by. I love and believe in His Word. I have striven to live by His Word since I was 17 years old.
This particular passage has been, as I said above, a governing truth in my life. In every circumstance, I should give thanks to God, for this is His will for me in Christ Jesus, my Lord and Savior.
The morning my middle child died was the most horrific day of my life. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swallow, I was shaking so badly I thought I would fall down on my knees and never be able to get back up, so I sat a lot of the time. Anytime I had to walk, like into the hospital that afternoon to see the body of my middle son, it was with a great deal of concentration on each step and very slowly. It was a shock-filled day.
But I remember sitting around our long oak dining table a couple of hours after getting that awful news, with my husband beside me, my parents on the other side of me, my older brother across from me, and a couple, some very dear friends of ours, a few feet from me, washing my dirty dishes in my kitchen, and I was crying. This may seem like an unmissable point to make, but there were times that day, and in the weeks and months to follow that day, that I was too grieved to cry. I longed to cry, as I knew it would bring relief to the crushing feeling in my chest, but I couldn’t.
In that moment, though, sitting around our dining room table, tears were streaming down my face, as everyone sat silently with me, grieving as well. I closed my eyes, and in all astonishment to myself, I began to pray out loud. (I’m not one who cares for praying out loud, though I will do it when it is needed.) I don’t remember all that I said, as there wasn’t much to remember; it was probably one of the shortest, most sincere prayers I’ve ever prayed, coming straight from my heart.
I thanked God for the 25 years He allowed me to have my son with me here on the earth. Then I told God, “I give him to You, even though he was never really mine. But he has always belonged to You.”
When I remember that prayer, I’m still astonished that those words to my Heavenly Father came out of my mouth in that moment of anguish. Other not so respectful or thankful words came out of my mouth as the days, weeks and months of grieving progressed. Looking back to that morning, it seems like I might have been more like Job in chapter 7:
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
Instead, I thanked my God for what He had given me, even though in the earlier hours of that morning He had taken it away.
Where did that come from – that thankfulness that longed to express itself through my brokenness?
It came, I believe, from years of singing that simple little ditty to myself.
It came from choosing to obey the Word of God and thank Him in all circumstances.
Have I been perfectly obedient in this? Absolutely not! I’ve never been perfectly obedient in anything in my life. I try. But I often fail.
His Word inscribed on my heart showed up on that most dreadful day of my life, and I am so thankful for it. I’m thankful that in this one truth – being thankful – I can be assured of walking in the will of God. I can do that. I can thank Him. I may not always feel thankful, but I can still do it.
There is always, always, always, always, always something to thank God for……or sometimes in. I did not thank God for taking my son. But I thanked Him in the situation for what I could thank Him for – the 25 years He allowed us to have our son with us here on the earth.
I thank Him now for the gift of salvation, available to all mankind, that assures me that I will not only see my son again, but will live with him again for all of eternity.
“So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain, nor toil in vain.” Philippians 3: 12-16
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.’” Job 1:20-21
“Rejoice always; (I need to work on this one!)
pray without ceasing (this one, too!)
in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18