Thursday, May 7, 2009

Clear Your Decks

Some things have happened in my life lately that have seemed like blows or setbacks. I won’t go into details, but in the past few weeks more than one thing I was pursuing has been denied me or taken away. These were all good things, and I honestly believed that they were right for me, that God was leading me toward them. I still believe that they were good, and right, and proper goals.

Then, in some prayer time yesterday, I felt a strong sense that God was telling me to clear my decks. No, that’s not right. He was telling me that he was going to clear my decks.

Now, I’m no sailor by any stretch of the imagination. But I do know a little about that phrase. When you clear decks you put everything up, tie it down, and reduce the clutter. You get everything out of the way that can be put out of the way. You clear your decks to prepare for one of two things: for a storm, or for action. You clear decks for a storm because everything not tied down and everything out of place is a hazard to the crew. In a pitching sea with water coming across the bow and a gale blowing lines straight and stiff as a pole, anything loose is a missile looking for a target. Action can be a battle, or it can be a race, and the same reasons for clearing decks apply. In a battle or a race, seconds count, and anything out of place slows you down and endangers lives.

I think God was telling me something is coming my way, either a storm or action. Or perhaps both. There are things that need to cleaned up, put away, lashed down. I think God was telling me he was doing this for me, to prepare me for what is to come. Notice that he didn’t even tell me to prepare. He’s preparing me. He loves me so much that he does this for me.

So I didn’t get some of the things I was working toward. That felt so much like rejection. It hurt. To deny that would be to lie. But these things that have happened might just be what I need. Certainly many of the things God wants for us require pain. Remember, Jesus tells us that we follow him when we pick up a cross. He didn’t tell us to pick up a comfy pillow and a nice cup of tea.

Besides the pain I felt, I also felt confused. Let’s be honest here: I still feel both. The things that were taken away from me were really good, God-honoring things. What’s up with that?

There are a few things I have to remember when I don’t understand why things go wrong. One is that God sees so much more than I do. For that matter, other people see things I cannot see. That is why we all need others who speak into our lives.

Another is that although God is sovereign, he doesn’t put in motion everything in our lives. Some of the things that happen to us come from our own sin. God certainly doesn’t do that. We do. And some of the things that happen to us originate from the other side, from God’s enemy. No, I am not saying that those who were involved in denying my recent goals are listening to Satan instead of God. Please don’t read that into what I am saying. Satan can engineer events behind the scenes to move us toward a certain goal. We know people do this all the time, so why do we doubt that Satan can do it? The point is not that we should see Satan in the actions of Godly people. It’s that we falsely attribute many things to God that he doesn’t cause. He can use them, certainly. And he does. But we cannot assign blame to God for everything. Someone recently quoted Romans 8:28 to me:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I’m afraid we misuse that verse to say that everything that happens, God does for our good. It doesn’t say that. It says that no matter what does happen, God works for our good. Our ultimate good.

Finally, I have to remember that God doesn’t owe me an explanation. He’s God, and I’m not. In all of the 600-some-odd laws God gave to Moses, he never explains why. We have come to understand why in many cases, and not in others. But obedience is the standard, not understanding.

God doesn’t often get specific when he speaks to me, and sometimes I really wish he would. It would be great to hear God say, “Go here. Do this.” I think. Of course, Jonah heard exactly that, and he still ran from God. He got no peace until he did what God wanted, and even then he was mad about it. Maybe that’s why God speaks softly and subtly to me. He doesn’t want me to run.

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