I recently read a book written by a popular pastor about getting your life back on the right path and making choices that lead you to where you want to be.
The book had a lot of good points about making choices and facing the consequences of our decisions.
- If I sit around on my couch all day and eat junk food, I can’t expect to be fit and healthy.
- If I spend all my time working, I shouldn’t expect to have strong relationships with my family and friends.
- If I spend all my money on new clothes and shoes, I can’t expect to have enough money to pay my bills and live in financial stability.
But there is one idea, a very important and central idea, that I was disappointed the book didn’t cover thoroughly: Sometimes what we want isn’t in God’s will for our lives.
Nowhere in the Bible are we promised to get everything we want. I could make all the right decisions and all the good choices in the world and still not get what I want.
In 2 Corinthians 11:24–27, Paul describes all the hardships and sufferings he endured while sharing the gospel. He was whipped, beaten, stoned and shipwrecked, among others. Do you think his dream was to be tortured and imprisoned? No. Was this torture and imprisonment the consequences of his bad decisions or lack of faith? Also no. It was because God was working mighty things through Paul’s missionary journey. Paul’s life played out just the way God ordained.
And the same is true in my life and your life.
Just because I wasn’t hired by Disney as an editorial assistant when I applied several years ago, doesn’t mean I didn’t make the right choices leading up to it. It just means that it wasn’t God’s will for me to work at Disney.
Just because my offer on the first house I wanted wasn’t accepted, doesn’t mean I was suffering the consequences of any bad decisions. It just means that house wasn’t a part of God’s will for my life.
It is important to remember that our choices have consequences and can lead us down a path of destruction. It is equally important to remember that our God is sovereign over all, and not getting what you want doesn’t always mean you made bad decisions or did the wrong thing — sometimes it just means it wasn’t God’s will.
I hope to remain financially stable throughout my life, but I will likely never be wealthy (though I would love to be). Does not having a huge house with a vacation home on a lake mean I made bad decisions? No. (Though maybe from a worldly perspective it seems so.) It means God’s will for my life was to work in a career that would never make me millions, but would bring glory to His kingdom.
Did teachers make bad decisions that led them to a career with an infamously low salary? No. They are teachers because God has called them to shepherd and encourage the next generation.
And if I am unable to remain financially stable because of job loss or an emergency of some kind, does that mean I made the wrong choices? Not necessarily. God just has something greater in mind for me.
There is a common misconception throughout Christianity today that being a Christian and following God will lead to health, wealth and happiness. (This is called the Prosperity Gospel.)
A verse often cited about God giving Christians what they desire is Psalm 37:4:
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
People often focus on the second part of verse 4: “He will give you the desires of your heart.” But the first part of the verse is most important.
If we delight in the Lord — meaning if we love God and pursue a deeper knowledge of Him — He will work in our hearts to make our desires match His.
It doesn’t mean that if we attend church and read our Bibles, God will give us a husband, two kids and a big house.
As we grow in our love for and relationship to God, He shapes our hearts to look more like His. We begin to want what He wants for us. We want His will for our life, not whatever earthly short-sighted plan we concocted for ourselves.
So instead of living life as if all your dreams will come true as long as you make the right and good decisions, turn those dreams over to God. Release yourself from the pressure of feeling like you have to have enough faith and do enough good things to manifest the life you think you want.
Trust in God and His sovereignty. He has a glorious plan for your life — and no, it may not include a spouse, kids, your dream career and a mansion (or whatever your specific dreams are) — but it will be an epic journey in which you get to bask in the glory and power of our Almighty God and share that hope with others.
If you want to learn more about the Prosperity Gospel and God’s sovereign will, I recommend “American Gospel,” a documentary that hit Netflix in recent weeks.