Following God’s will is a wonderful, rewarding, fulfilling process. It has unlimited benefits. It solves a good deal of our problems for us. It truly is the best way to do life. But sometimes, even in light of all of that, it’s still really, really hard.
Because even after we’ve done everything we’ve talked about in this series, at the end of the day, we’re still human. We’re still imperfect. Our minds and our wills are still affected by the brokenness of the world, which means that there will be times when we find that what we want is in distinct conflict with God’s will. It happens to all of us, and when it does, it’s not fun.
This can happen several different ways. One of the most common ways is regarding doctrine. We have some belief that comes from our upbringing or our culture or our own logic that doesn’t line up with what God reveals about who he is and what he wants through his word. It might even be something that we were taught as a Christian principle that actually goes against the Bible and sound theology! When we truly devote ourselves to studying and trying to understand Christian teaching, we find a lot of shortcomings in our belief system. These stem from the fact that, as we already know, we’re only human.
There are also the day-to-day instances of not wanting to follow God’s will. As we go about our lives, the Holy Spirit is constantly communicating with us, giving us opportunities to show kindness and grace to others. (Some people call this their conscience.) Sometimes these actions require us to get out of our comfort zones or to sacrifice our time and resources in ways we normally wouldn’t. Whether it’s smiling to a stranger on the street, giving a panhandler a dollar, or stopping to have a conversation with someone who’s clearly hurting, God’s will involves a lot of small, daily choices that we wouldn’t make on our own, and sometimes, we push back against them.
But this issue is most apparent and most urgent when it comes to big life decisions like where to live, what career moves to make, and who to surround ourselves with. We like to talk about seeking God’s will on these decisions, but often, we do so without really expecting a response. What we actually want is for God to give his stamp of approval on our idea of how things should go. And sometimes, he does. But other times, God is clearly calling us to follow a plan different from our own. To do something we don’t want to do. Maybe even to do something that seems counterproductive to our plans. What do we do in situations like these?
Fortunately, we have an excellent example of what to do when we find ourselves here. The best example, really. We have Jesus, the perfect human being, the son of God and God himself, as our example to follow when we disagree with God. As Jesus was preparing to be arrested, sentenced to death, and crucified, he prayed this simple prayer: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22.42).
Like us, Jesus was a human being. He had a human will, and in at least this case, his human will was in conflict with God’s divine will for his life. He didn’t want to suffer and die the way he did. Would you? He dreaded it. I’m sure the idea of it made him sick. He was nervous, anxious, maybe even scared of the physical and mental torture that lay ahead of him. But he knew that for some reason, it was a part of God’s plan.
And so, he did it. He chose to put his own feelings aside and put God’s will first. He chose to endure the pain, the suffering, and the embarrassment for the sake of bringing his heavenly father’s purposes to fruition. And because he did, the world was changed forever. I’m so thankful that Jesus was obedient.
So where does that leave us? I think there are a few important things that we can learn from Jesus’ example. First of all, we don’t have to feel bad for having desires that differ from God’s. Because it happens to everyone. It even happened to Jesus. Feelings of guilt and shame for disagreeing with God might be natural, but if we dwell on them, they can hold us back from living out his plan for our lives, so it’s best that we check them at the door. It’s not wrong to disagree with God.
But it is wrong to disobey God. The second thing we learn from Jesus’ example is that in these moments, obedience is always the best path forward. God would never ask us to do something if he didn’t have a good reason for it. While we’re focused on the here and now, he sees the big picture, and he knows what is best for us and for the world. And that’s why we have to make the commitment now that when we do find our desires in conflict with God’s, we’ll choose to follow his will every time.
Because at the end of the day, it’s not about what we want. And that’s the final lesson Jesus teaches us with his prayer. He didn’t just choose to obey. He didn’t begrudgingly follow God’s path, complaining and looking for a way out the entire time. Instead, he chose to want what God wanted. We’re going to dive more deeply into this next week, but that’s the ultimate goal of following God’s will: to fully align our deepest desires with his.
There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with God. It’s an inevitable part of life. It’s even acceptable (and maybe even healthy) to express that disagreement to him. But at the end of the day, we’re called to follow God’s will no matter what because it is always what’s best for us. So when we disagree with God, we recognize how we feel, and then we do what he says anyway. Because he knows what’s best for us, and he’s leading us somewhere wonderful. More on that next week when we finish up this series on following God’s will. I’ll see you then!