Tuesday, June 02, 2015

When God Makes You Wait—Huh???

Last week, I read When God Makes You Wait, a blog post about the waiting periods of life. It seems like a rather innocuous article and I'm sure the author had good intentions—some really feel-good thoughts—when writing it, but it's articles like this that keep me up at night.*

"But Sara," you say, "What do you mean by 'articles like this?'"

I mean articles that misrepresent God. Let's go through some of the examples when the Lord, as the author says, makes people wait:
  • "God could have spoken to Moses in the desert about sending him to help free His people from slavery 40 days after he ran away from Egypt. Instead, He made him wait for 40 long years."
  • "God could have gotten Joseph out of prison one year after he was sentenced there. Instead, he was stuck in that dungeon for 10 years before he was finally set free."
  • "He makes us wait to fulfill His call in our lives after He puts the desire and passion in our hearts to serve Him in a certain way."
  • "He makes us wait to give us the desires of our hearts, whether it's a baby, a spouse, or a new job."
  • "He could answer that same prayer that you've been praying for years every night in a millisecond."
But, she says, he doesn't do those things that he could do because he wants to build our faith. He wants to give us blessings that we can't even imagine for ourselves. He wants us to learn some kind of lesson.

I'll tell you what lesson he wants us to learn from these examples: He wants us to learn that everyone has agency. He wants us to learn that Pharaoh—even Pharaoh and his false priests—had the right to exercise agency. Potiphar's conniving wife had agency, too. As do we and the people in our lives. Here's a personal example: The person I loved and expected to marry had agency and chose to end our relationship.** That wasn't God's choice—that was his.

"But that's because God has a better path for you, Sara," people say. I disagree, and I won't put that kind of blame on God because in the end, here's what I think would happen. I'd say, "God, why did you cause so-and-so to break up with me?" And he'd say, "I didn't. He exercised his own free will."

Here's the thing: The greatest principle in this life is that we are all given agency—the freedom to choose. Because of other people's unrighteous exercise of agency—and even righteous exercise of agency—and because of physical laws, our agency is sometimes squashed. People make decisions that negatively affect others' lives. And it's not just "bad" people who negatively affect others' lives; we all do it. And sometimes our positive choices have negative impacts on others, too. Life, to me, is about agency, and it's about the results and consequences of exercising that agency.

Could God have done those things? Could he have freed the Israelites earlier? Could he have saved Joseph even one year in prison? Could he give me a husband or my friend a job? Could he answer the prayer that perhaps is only answerable by the actions of another human being? My answer is no. No, he couldn't. Sure, in theory, he could. But in practice, he could not because he would not. Doing so would violate the precious gift of agency that we all have. That we are all promised.***

Do I believe God works miracles? Yes. How does that fit in with agency? I'm not sure. But I am sure that he doesn't make us wait nearly as much as this author assumes. It's not fair to think so, either. God can't be responsible for everything in this world. He shouldn't have to shoulder the blame that we so often give him. We make decisions, and we affect the outcome of our lives and the lives around us. Rather than say, "What can I learn while I'm waiting on the Lord?" say "What can I choose while I'm living life?"

*They truly do. It's midnight on a school night, and I am blogging about this topic because I feel so strongly about it.
**Don't feel sorry for me; I don't. It's just a good example, so I use it when I can.
***Besides, saying that God could do lots of things but doesn't makes him seem cruel, and I don't think God is cruel.

Thing I'm thankful for: Karla and Fern.


Blogger Michelle said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:39 AM  
Blogger S said...


I had a really great car trip conversation this weekend about this concept, or at least something similar. It started from someones facebook post about how even though they got a C on their (less than stellar) art/design project, it was still beautiful and good because it was "Gods will" that it was created. It was a parody so they were being facetious and maybe a little irreverent, but it made me think how silly and dangerous that way of thinking can be.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

How do you feel about things that aren't directly influenced by our agency? What about the child who is born prematurely, struggles to stay alive, but in spite of all the talented doctors and nurses (and their choices), doesn't make it past day 3? Or the couple who make all the right choices and still aren't able to have children? How does Abraham's struggle with Isaac fit into this paradigm?

7:31 PM  

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