(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 10)

At times, we seemingly forget that God’s ways are past finding out. Romans 11:33-34 tells us:

  • “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?”

God himself had his prophet convey to his people in Isaiah 55:8-9:

  • For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

What is clear from these verses is that God does not think like how we think. Whereas our wisdom and knowledge are limited, his is limitless and so he thinks in a far superior way to how we think.

This therefore means that there are times that he will rule in affairs so as to produce outcomes that surprise us, that baffle us, where we cannot understand or reason out why he operated in such a manner, no matter how hard we try.

Are we to get bitter in such situations and harbour resentment, especially in cases where we are genuinely disappointed because God has not moved to act in the way we thought or had hoped he would or where he acted in a manner that to our puny, limited mind, appears to be unjust?

I had honestly thought I’d be married by now but at the age of 43, as I see signs of my youthfulness beginning to fade, no man has come to court me as I had hoped, dreamed and even expected. I am still single, still battling with loneliness and feeling increasingly sad as the days, weeks, months and years progress. I am honestly at a point, after all of my Articles, of having not a clue as to what God is doing in this arena as it pertains to me, if he ever intends to send me a spouse and if so, when.

I must admit I am hurt at my present state of affairs, although I believe in my heart, that I am mainly responsible for it, due to past mistakes. Nonetheless, I had thought and was even convinced, that, according to God’s mercy, I’d be someone’s wife one day and that I would be married, not just to any man or any professing Christian but to the one that God handpicked for me.

Now, I wonder, did I hear wrong? When I believed I heard God tell me directly from his Word the Bible, while reading same at one point in 2013, that I would be a joyful mother of children and that me and my children would increase and increase, therefore implying that I would one day be married and have a family of my own, did I really hear him say so or was it just a figment of my own imagination, brought about by my wanting to be a wife and mother?

Honestly, I am disappointed that at this stage in my life, I am still single, among a list of other disappointments and it can be said of me, that I am displeased. I am displeased with how things have turned out in my life so far, as I had expected something far different. I had expected that I would be married, have children, a lovely home that I could decorate (which I have a passion for) and people to cook for (which I also love doing because I love to serve). I had thought that by now, my always havin been a hard worker, that I would have had a stable career and while not wealthy, would have had years of savings amassed, so as to enjoy some level of financial comfort.

My reality however, looks nothing like what I had prayed, fasted and hoped for. I have no husband, no children, no house and after many career turbulences, followed by medical issues requiring me to expend significant funds, not much savings in my account.

What do we do as Christians, when the script we had for ourselves or honestly believed that the Lord also had for us, doesn’t go as we had thought it would? How do we process the pain of the disappointment and what do we do about the fact that we are displeased? By this, I mean displeased when we expected that God would have moved in another direction or have done something else or not have taken a particular course of action or displeased when we had wanted something else and presumed that he had also wanted that or displeased when how we thought things would have played out, did not play out that way but some other way, that we had neither anticipated nor wanted.

Is it just us or were there examples of people in God’s Word, whose will were at variance with the Lord’s and who were displeased at what God did or decided?

We know that man has been in rebellion to God’s will and way for centuries, ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed him in the garden of Eden. But have there been cases of people who were serving God, in relationship with him, godly and walking closely with him, who were displeased with the decision that he took in a situation or with something that he did? Did they ever want or expect one thing and God instead, did another or were their wills always aligned?

And if they were ever displeased, how did they react? Did they stop serving him and believing in and trusting in him because they had wanted or expected a different outcome?

In answer to these questions, there are two instances in the Bible that I can think of, where godly men were displeased at outcomes that God had his hand in.

Firstly, there was DAVID.

After consulting with captains and every leader and being convinced that this was what the Lord wanted and therefore, that he would bless their efforts, he put things in place to bring back the ark of God from Kirjathjearim. He mobilized forces of which Uzza was a part and with the support of all Israel, they set about the task. However, as the ark was being transported amidst  joyous worship and celebration because it was a good thing that the ark was coming back home, something unexpected happened. The oxen that was being used stumbled and one of the men who was driving the cart, most likely meaning well and intending to steady the ark, instinctively perhaps, put forward his hand to hold the ark. This was however forbidden and God made the decision then and there, to strike him down.

The Bible states:

  • “And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us: And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we enquired not at it in the days of Saul.
  • And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjathjearim. And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjathjearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart.
  • And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
  • And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perezuzza to this day.”

This decision affected David. He was shocked to say the least, at what God had done and not at all pleased. Understandably, he probably felt for Uzza, who, meaning well, had had his life suddenly cut off, on account of God’s holiness.

In the aftermath, the Word of God states that David was afraid of God that day. I think that as close as he was to God, the incident was a wakeup call, that God, while he had a close walk and relationship with him, was still the sovereign God and in his sovereignty, could not be presumed to act in any particular way. In short, he could not predict his actions or presume that he would do or not do something. He clearly expected God to show Uzza mercy, given that he was trying to steady the ark when the oxen stumbled but God chose not to.

At the end of the day, God will not be restrained by any man or his opinions and will do as he pleases, even if we don’t understand or find an action harsh or it seems to us to be unjust.

No matter what he does, allows or decides not to do or allow though, it is important to remember that he is not unjust. In Romans 9:13-21, in considering God’s ways and actions, the question came up, when God’s ways could not be understood, if God was unjust. However, Paul was quick to dismantle this, given that God is always just, even when we do not comprehend his actions.

In considering how Jacob and Esau were both sons of Isaac but yet, God favoured Jacob and not Esau and how as human beings, we were to process this in trying to understand God, Paul stated:

  • “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
  • For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
  • Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

Paul was basically stating that, God being sovereign, it is within his entitlement to bestow mercy on whoever he desires to bestow mercy and to withhold it from whoever he desires to withhold it from. God showing us mercy, giving us favour and loving us are not entitlements but privileges. He can therefore be merciful to who he pleases and be the opposite with who he pleases.

Secondly, Paul reminds us that as mere human beings created by God, we have no right to subject the most High God to our examination, so as to analyse whether he acted rightly in a situation or not. Our purpose is to serve him and to submit to whatever his will is for our lives, given that in his sovereignty, he has the authority to create each and every single one of us for whatever purpose he desires.

In short, Paul was emphasizing that whatever God does, he is fully authorized to do as the one that created everything. This world is his and so he is free to do with it as he pleases. He does not need to stoop to our way of thinking or reasoning or to go out of his way so as to try to get us to understand why he acted in one way or another.

In my own situation, I have often looked on at other professing believers, who God has blessed to have so much, many of them with homes, husbands, children and stable, well-paying jobs and while happy for them, have felt bad for myself, given that I had none of these things. Yes I had disobeyed God in major ways, of which I had repented but there are even Christians that, seemingly, have done far worse than me, who, upon repenting, God has still opted to bless them with these very earthly blessings.

In writing this Article though and studying what Paul wrote in Romans 9, I have been reminded that God is free to show mercy to whoever he sees fit and how he sees fit. In addition to the fact that he has a different script for each of us and different purposes, he is free to grant certain earthly blessings to a Christian that has messed up in some way and repented and to withhold the same blessings from another Christian that has messed up similarly, even far less, although he or she has also repented. He is God.

Of a truth, when I consider how much I have failed God, I am not even deserving of life but yet he has spared me to this point, when other professing Christians did not receive that level of mercy. They were removed from this life’s scene.

I have no right therefore, no matter how much I hurt, to expect anything from God, other than his wrath. Whatever acts of mercy he may choose to show me, I am not deserving of it and must be thankful and if he should choose not to grant me certain things, including heart’s desires I must still be grateful. I must still continue to serve him and to love him and am free to ask him for strength to bear whatever is to be my portion, as he has willed.

Instead of harbouring resentment against God and life in general, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 states, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

In addition to David, there was also JOSEPH.

Although God was with Joseph and like David, he was a godly man, he also experienced a situation where God’s will as demonstrated through the actions of his father Jacob was not his will. He had expected, given that Manasseh was his firstborn and that typically, birth rights went to the firstborn, that his father Jacob, empowered by God to bless his sons when about to die, would place his right hand on Manasseh and not Ephraim. This apparently carried significance.

However, although Joseph wanted Manasseh, as his firstborn, to receive the greater blessing, this was not the will of God, in keeping with his already planned purposes, which were bigger and greater than Joseph and would materialize many generations later, long after he had died.

Genesis 48:1, 8-14, 17-20:

  • “And it came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, Behold, thy father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.…And Israel beheld Joseph’s sons, and said, Who are these?And Joseph said unto his father, They are my sons, whom God hath given me in this place. And he said, Bring them, I pray thee, unto me, and I will bless them. Now the eyes of Israel were dim for age, so that he could not see. And he brought them near unto him; and he kissed them, and embraced them. And Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face: and, lo, God hath shewed me also thy seed. And Joseph brought them out from between his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him. And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn…
  • And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head. And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations. And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh.”

On the whole, David and Joseph were not pleased when God willed something that was not as they had expected. Yet, they did not keep fighting against it. Them, understanding that they were mere mortals and that God was God, submitted to God’s will and plan, them being reminded that he was and will always be the sovereign God.  

As an aside, it is worth noting that, while the Bible does not state that PETER was displeased, there are instances in the Bible where it was clear that he saw things, as a mere mortal, differently from the Lord and as a result, his will was at variance with His.

For example, in Acts 10:9-16, after falling into a trance, he experienced a situation where he was commanded of the Lord to eat certain foods that were placed in front of him. However, although they were prepared, provided for and presented by God and therefore sanctified, Peter refused, given that under the Old Testament law, these types of animals were not to be eaten.

The Word of God states:

  • “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending upon him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”

Even after being told to eat three times by the Lord, Peter, mindful of the law, did not. His will in this matter was therefore at variance with the Lord’s, him not understanding then, why God was asking him to consume these meats. As things progressed, he gained greater understanding as to the meaning of what had transpired and what God was doing.

In John 13:3-9, Peter disagreed with the Lord, as the Lord wanted to wash his feet. Peter, most likely considering how great the Lord was, as the Creator of the earth and the Son of God, compared to his own sinful self, could not fathom to think that the God of the universe would humble himself so, as to wash his feet. He therefore refused.

The Bible states:

  • “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.”

Peter eventually submitted to the Lord’s will therefore and this is the mentality that we are to have in our journey here on earth.

No matter how close we are to the Lord, like Peter, David and Joseph, there can be times when we see things differently from how he sees it and want a different outcome to what he wants. In such cases, whether the Lord gives us insight into why he has made a decision or not, we must abandon our own thinking and reasoning and submit to His. For, as the all-wise and perfect Lord, he is always right and what he wills is always best, even if we never understand why he wants us to take a certain path or to do something or why he has acted in the way he has acted.

(Written on 24th and 25th February, 2024)

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