To The Twenty-Something, Single, and Sick of It

If you’re over twenty and single, you probably have more in common with Gollum than you think.

No, I’m not saying you live in a cave. And with body wash freely available in any grocery store, I hope you don’t smell like fish. But, there is probably a part of you that winces any time you see a ring.

Seeing friends and family get engaged and married is awesome, but isn’t there part of us that screams “WE HATES IT?” every time we scroll through Facebook and see couples realize the ultimate goal of romantic bliss while we’re awaiting our turn? Isn’t there a little bit of bitterness behind our “So happy for you!” and heart emojis? Don’t we wonder why some people’s prayers for romantic happiness get answered while it seems like our calls to God go straight to voicemail?

If those things are true for you, here are three things to consider as you walk through the single struggle:

Don’t idolize relationships.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship. God wired us with a desire for intimacy, and He instituted marriage to be a pretty awesome symbol of His love for the church.

But, here’s the thing. Relationships are hard, and marriage is even harder. If you want a “fairy tale romance,” here are a few that are closer to reality: Cinderella and Charming not talking for six hours because of one stupid thing he said. Aladdin caring for Jasmine while she’s puking her guts out at 3:00 AM. Ariel and Prince TooLazyToGoogle struggling to find any time alone with two children running around destroying their house.  Relationships and marriage rock; but, when two sinners are joined together, the difficulty level magnifies intensely. If you’re not trusting in Jesus now, good luck when showing patience, grace, and mercy becomes ten times more difficult.

Another important reminder: As a Christian, your identity is found in being saved by Jesus Christ, not in your relationship status. If you’re trusting in any other human to make you whole, relieve your insecurities, or fill some void in your life, you will place an unbearable burden on that person and be ultimately disappointed yourself.

Although this won’t always feel true, it’s far better to be single than to be in a bad relationship. Don’t lower the Bible’s standards. Don’t compromise your worth. Know that His grace is sufficient in your singleness.

Don’t treat your friends as consolation prizes.

 “God has given you enough food to survive the desert and not die!”

“Yeah, but this food sucks! And it’s the same thing every day!”

So went the conversation as Israel ate manna while wandering. And so goes the conversation today.

We’re really good at downplaying God’s blessings in our lives. Instead of rejoicing in being employed, we grumble about how many hours we have or an annoying coworker. Instead of rejoicing in having a car, we complain when it starts making funny noises that we have to ignore (I mean, fix). And, instead of being glad that God has given us friends, we get bitter that we can’t date any of them.

If there are people in your life who love you, laugh with you, cry with you, and push you closer to Jesus, don’t view them as mere placeholders until you find romance. Cherish them. Value them. Let them know how much they mean to you. Don’t take the blessing of their friendship for granted. Because they won’t be there forever.

Don’t feel bad for feeling lonely.

I don’t know who wrote the rule that Christians aren’t allowed to struggle with feeling loneliness or abandonment, but it’s obvious to me that person never read Psalms. If King David said any of this in the pulpit today, we’d be sending him concerned tweets and signing his sympathy card:

 

“Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.”- Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

 

 

“Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.”- Psalm 142:4 (ESV)

 

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”- Psalm 13:1-2 (ESV)

 

Sure, David was going through a little bit more than wanting a girlfriend. But the point is, people of God aren’t immune from feeling alone.

There are moments when being single absolutely sucks. There are times when you’ll long for the physical and emotional intimacy of a relationship. You may even wonder what’s so wrong with you that no one seems willing to even give you a date.

But Christian, know this: You have a High Priest who can sympathize with your weakness, and He felt loneliness to the highest imaginable degree as He died for your sins. As the Father turned away because He couldn’t look upon the weight of sin that His Son now bore, Jesus cried out “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

In moments of loneliness and despair, cry out to Jesus. He is there. He hears you. He knows what you need before you ask.

You are not defined by your singleness. You are not alone. You are not forgotten.

Love Does Not Envy: The War of Wanting More

“You’ll probably be fine without our product. Sure, the guys in this ad have it, but their lives are just as plain as yours. You keep living life without us, kiddo. Love ya.”

Remember that commercial from this year’s Super Bowl? No? Well, that’s because advertisers know that we love comparing ourselves with others. Even without realizing it, we’ll look at what everyone around us has and wonder how we can possibly keep breathing oxygen without new stuff.

Most times, when we’re envious of someone, we decide that they don’t deserve the good thing that they’ve gotten (and that we deserve better). Right after Eden, we see this play out with Cain and Abel. Both men offer sacrifices to God, but only Abel’s is accepted. God gives Abel this warning:

“And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’”- Genesis 4:4-7 (ESV)

Sadly, what follows isn’t a lesson in Cain learning humility. Instead, we see Scripture’s first murder unfold, as Cain slays Abel out of jealousy.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a relationship, a promotion, a house, etc. But when the longing for new things causes you to become bitter toward anyone who already possesses them, your desire has become a deity. And the god of lustful desire is not easily pleased. Why? Because there will always be someone who has a better job, a more romantic relationship, or a bigger house.

Ultimately, the root of envy is that we look to something other than Christ to give us identity and satisfaction. We think “Jesus is nice, but that other person has Jesus and a six-figure salary. That guy has Jesus and a pretty girlfriend. That guy’s so rich, he’s got a swimming pool in his swimming pool (sorry, had to get one SpongeBob reference in). “

But consider how much it means to have the approval of God through Jesus. The same Creator of the Universe who would have been fully justified in sending you to Hell doesn’t just tolerate you; He doesn’t just forgive you; He doesn’t just ignore your sin. No, He goes above and beyond by giving you the righteousness of Jesus. If you’ve trusted Christ, when God looks at you, He sees His Son’s perfection. If you grasp that, how could you possibly be bitter at anyone for having an earthly possession that you lack?

We’ve all read Philippians 4:13 (Heck, I wear it on a wristband almost daily), but the context behind that famous verse gives us great insight into staving off envy:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”- Philippians 4:10-13 (ESV)

Whether you run a Fortune 500 company or bag groceries; whether you’re single, married or somewhere in between; whether you drive a Cadillac or take the bus; if you’re in Christ, you have everything you need to be content and fulfilled. Don’t let envy stop you from rejoicing with those who rejoice.

Love Is Kind (Even When Others Aren’t)

Wear pants to your job interview. Don’t ask a girl about her weight.  Wikipedia is not a valid academic source.

These statements all seem obvious, right?  I very nearly lumped “Love is kind” into that same category and skipped ahead to envy; I mean, if I love someone, I’m not gonna deliberately be a massive jerkface to them.

So why is this reminder necessary? I believe Jesus provides a clear answer in Luke 6:

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32-36 (ESV)

“Whoa there,” you might say. “I can love Christians or my romantic partner, but what’s all this talk about enemies?”

Jesus knows how easy it is to be kind to those you already love, but He doesn’t allow those whose lives He’s changed to stop there. No, when He gives you a new heart, He calls you to show compassion and gentleness to the ones that you deem least deserving.

If this is difficult for you to grasp, guess what? You were God’s enemy, and He loved you. Lest you think this is some exaggeration, consider Paul’s words in Colossians:

“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”- Colossians 1:21-23 (ESV)

To be “hostile” towards something doesn’t just mean a mild dislike or annoyance. It means an active, burning hatred. Before God changed your heart, that was your attitude towards Him. Even if you grew up in church, memorized Scripture, and went on mission trips, your refusal to trust in Christ was an act of war against His sacrifice for you.

Kindness doesn’t just extend to those who agree with us on every theological point. Kindness doesn’t just extend to those who share our political views. And, most importantly, kindness doesn’t just extend to fellow Christians. If the world is going to be changed, it will be through those who grasp the grace that God has shown to them and show gentleness and compassion to everyone around them. Scriptural standards on sin must never be compromised, but these standards must be shared graciously and considerately.

I close with Paul’s words in 2 Timothy:

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”- 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (ESV)

Love Is Patient: Long Fuses, Long Waits

We are not a patient culture.

We used to wait around for movies to become available at Blockbuster (RIP). Now, if something takes more than ten seconds to stream on Netflix, we’ve got pitchforks, tar, and feathers ready. Couples used to wait days or weeks for a love letter from their darling; now they’re ready to break up if a text message isn’t returned within fifteen minutes. And if the wrong emoji is used? We need to get the National Guard ready.

Those are obviously exaggerations (I hope), but God knew what He was doing when He inspired Paul to list patience at the top of his list of love’s attributes. If patience was a struggle in Corinth, it’s definitely difficult to master in 2015 America.

While I don’t want this series to overemphasize the romantic aspect of love, I won’t pretend it’s not relevant to people; especially around Valentine’s Day. In addition to discussing patience with one another, I’ll close this post by addressing singles who may be sick of waiting around for “God’s timing” or “a knight in shining armor.” Anyone know where I can get a functional suit of armor, by the way?

Remember: God was (and is) patient with you.

One barometer to test your patience is to attempt to teach someone how to perform a task. Once my mom got an iPod for the first time (thus breaking the Hilling family’s anti-Apple covenant), I learned that I was not patient. I’d have to walk her through the same processes multiple times, and have to convert the same Blake Shelton and Jimmy Buffett albums (this blog is a judgment-free zone) to MP3 twice or three times.

If small frustrations like that cause my head to spin, imagine how easy it would be for God to look at us with disdain after He watches us commit the same sin over and over again; the Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel doing just that.

Yet in 2 Peter, we read:

“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”- 2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV)

We don’t like thinking about this, but God would have been fully justified in saying “Forget it” once Adam sinned in Eden. Instead, He not only forgave Adam and Eve, but He later sent Jesus to die for a people that would continue sinning against Him.

If God can be that slow to wrath, why does it take so little to set us off? Why do we magnify the faults of others instead of walking through trials with them? Once we grasp God’s patience with us, we’re free to love those who seem unable to stop making the same mistake over and over. While rebuke and correction may be necessary, even challenging words should be spoken in an attitude of grace with the understanding that spiritual growth is a long process. Don’t expect full sanctification overnight; it didn’t happen for you, and it won’t happen for those around you.

Single and sick of it: Why should I wait?

Behind the “forever alone” memes and jokes about animals being someone’s valentine, February 14 often brings feelings of loneliness and despair for singles. As everyone else is holding hands and eating spaghetti Lady And The Tramp style (which seems unsanitary, just sayin’), you’re wondering if you’ll ever be in a relationship with anyone other than Netflix.

The Bible is filled with stories of people who compromised. These were great men and women of God that accomplished great things through Him, but their sins still had consequences. Abram and Sarai get tired of waiting on God’s promise, banish a servant, and birth a child that grows up hostile toward everyone (Genesis 15-16). David lusts after a woman, gets her pregnant, and has her husband killed (2 Samuel 11).

There are other examples of compromise leading to consequences, but I’d like to end on an Old Testament story that captures patience better than any I can think of. Jacob meets Rachel, and instantly falls for her. Problem is, he has to work for Laban for seven years before he can marry her. That doesn’t seem long in “Bible time,” where periods of 200 years are discussed in a paragraph, but if Jacob met Rachel at a Sweet Sixteen party, he couldn’t have married her until he graduated college. That’s a long time!

Yet, we read this:

“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”- Genesis 29:20 (ESV)

I’m not guaranteeing you a relationship. I’m not saying that serving God means He has to give you a husband/wife, three kids, and a dog.

What I will say, however, is that if you learn to be content in Christ and patiently grow friendships with those around you, God is capable of putting everything else into place. If you wind up remaining single for the rest of your life, He will be enough for you if you trust Him. But don’t compromise. Don’t lower your standards and impulsively take the first chance that looks good. Wait for someone who will follow Christ with you and grow in Him with you.

Once you trust in Jesus, no wait will feel too long.

If I Have Not Love: 1 Corinthians 13 In Today’s World

In ‘Anchorman,’ it meant lamps. In Cleveland, it means Kevin. In tennis, it means nothing.

“Love” conjures many images these days. While most of these images feature candy hearts, couples holding hands, and other romantic imagery, it’s easy to forget that we’re also called to love our neighbors (and I ain’t getting anyone next door to me a teddy bear). Plus, the love we cultivate for God and one another while we’re single will shape the way we love our partner/spouse in the future.

This post marks the beginning of a series examining the Bible’s most famous “love chapter:” 1 Corinthians 13. How does the Biblical standard of love differ from the world’s definition? How can we see the love of Jesus and the Father for us in these areas?

Let’s get started:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Time for everyone’s favorite part of a Christianity blog: a theological debate about speaking in tongues!

Just kidding. That would be a most unloving way to begin a series on love.

Paul brings up tongues here because the members of the church at Corinth had a huge problem with using a spiritual gift to bring attention to themselves instead of glorifying God.  The gift wasn’t the problem; the Corinthians’ desire to use it to further their own name was the problem.

Do you use your gifts to bring honor to Christ and glorify Him, or do you secretly hope that everyone will know how awesome you are? Love isn’t measured by what happens in the spotlights when everyone is watching; it’s measured by what happens in the shadows when God might be the only one who gives you credit. Instead of serving, preaching, encouraging, or using any other gift to promote your own name, point those around you to the one who loved the church enough to die for her: Jesus.

“And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”

If you need to be convinced that knowing lots of facts about something or someone doesn’t equate to love, watch Jeopardy. I don’t know how random people know so much about penguins, 18th Century British history, or various other topics, but they sure do spend great quantities of time researching information that will never impact their lives.

Theology is critical to the life of a Christian. You can’t love or have a relationship with someone you don’t know, so it’s necessary to read the Word and gain knowledge of God and His character. But when we begin to use the Bible as a weapon against anyone who disagrees with us on minor issues or attempt to shame anyone who knows less than us, we’ve completely missed the point. Besides, Scripture is clear that Patrick Star would be just as great a theologian as us if not for God’s grace in giving us wisdom.

Side note: Someone get started on a SpongeBob Study Bible. Now. Please.

 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

This verse delivers the clearest statement of all: Without love for God and others, the biggest act of charity in the world doesn’t mean a thing. Every mission trip, every hour volunteered, every sno-cone served at VBS; without a real, vibrant, affection for Jesus Christ, there’s truly no benefit or point.

Jesus summarizes this point best in Matthew 6. I’ll close with His words:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”- Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)

Hope Without Hostility: Defending The Faith In The Keyboard Age

The internet has given us access to many wonderful things. Duets of ‘Frozen’ songs, cats doing silly things, the ability to shop while cramming Doritos into our faces, and more!

Unfortunately, it’s also wrecked our ability to have peaceful conversations with those who disagree with us. Psychology’s proven that we’ll be harsher with people when we can’t see them, and it’s hard to understand the impact our words have when all we can visualize are letters on a screen.

Yet, Scripture commands Christians to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within them. How can we do that without compromising the Gospel or becoming angry and contentious? Here are a few guiding principles for Gospel discussions with non-believers, both in person and online.

  • Be gentle and respectful, not abrasive and aggressive.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary,bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing…Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” – 1 Peter 3:8-9, 13-17 (ESV) 

 “With gentleness and respect.”

 That part tends to go out the window in even the smallest of online debates. I once saw the YouTube comments on a video about dogs turn into a profanity-laced debate on Obama’s presidency. Anger is easy to foster when you think you’re only arguing with words on a screen.

 But, Christians should never be quick to lose their heads and start spewing off insults at the other person. Why? Because, as Peter mentions in the above passage, the world should at least see our gentleness and compassion, even if they disagree with our message.  They can’t see that if we let anger flow through us and lash out at them instead of lovingly discussing the truth with them.

 Besides, winning an argument isn’t our ultimate goal.

  • Their repentance, not your intellectual victory, is what you should long for.

The emphasis on apologetics has been great for the church. It’s forced Christians to ask themselves why they believe the things they do and provided them with a strong foundation against secular worldviews.

 However, a negative side effect of this emphasis is that many Christians have come to view discussions with non-believers as a chance to emphasize their intellectual superiority and say “I’ll show them!” The more head knowledge we have, the easier it is to become more interested in winning debates than seeing souls saved.

 Here’s what Paul told Timothy about this:

 “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.”- 2 Timothy 2:22-26 (ESV) 

 There will be times when we need to correct erroneous teaching. There will be times when we have to stand for truth against the lies of the world. But we should never do these things with a smug attitude of wanting to put lost people in their place. We should contend for truth with a desire to love the lost and see them come to Jesus for salvation.

  • Have compassion for the lost, even in rebuke.

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”- Luke 19:41-42 (ESV) 

 Without looking, do you know where that falls in the timeline of Luke’s Gospel? After Jesus has wept over Jerusalem for their refusal to see Him as Lord, what will He do next?

 Here’s your answer:

And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer,” but you have made it a den of robbers.'”- Luke 19:45-46 (ESV) 

Many see the temple cleansing as loving, kind, Bruce Banner Jesus turning into angry, wrathful, Incredible Hulk Jesus, but that’s not a good way of looking at this event. Christ’s attributes were never separated or compartmentalized from one another, meaning that even his most stark moments of correction were motivated by a love for His father and for people. The same Jesus that rebuked the Pharisees and purged the temple of those that would corrupt His house shed tears over a city that refused to come to Him for salvation.

Matthew records another moment of Jesus’ compassion for the lost:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'”- Matthew 9:36-38 (ESV) 

If all of your interactions with non-believers cause you to be angry with them instead of compassionate for them, it might be time to back away and ask what’s fueling you. Is it a love for Christ and people, or a desire to shame and humiliate people into submission?

  • Remember: Salvation is God’s work.

Being angry at non-believers for refusing to see the good news of the Gospel is like going to a cemetery and yelling at corpses for not springing themselves back to life.

Here’s how the Apostle Paul puts it:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”- Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV) 

Without Christ, you’re not just sick. You’re not just sorta banged up. ‘Tis not just a flesh wound. Nope. You’re dead. And dead things don’t just decide to be alive on their own.

That’s why this next part of Ephesians is such good news:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”- Ephesians 2:4-10 (ESV) 

Should we know the Bible well enough to defend accusations against it? Yes. Should we be willing to stand against false teaching and lies of the world? Yes. Should we preach the Gospel to all nations and our neighbors? Yes. But ultimately, no matter how eloquent our words are or how strong our theology is, we can’t raise a spiritually dead man back to life. Only the Holy Spirit can regenerate the heart. Nobody can be argued into Heaven.

Study the Word. Preach the Word. Discuss the Word with non-believers. But be gentle, respectful, and pray for their repentance.

Decisions, Decisions: What Is God’s Will?

Oh, summer. That time of graduations, marriages, new opportunities, and questions about how you can know God’s will for your life. While I can’t answer that question for you, I can try giving you some guidance about what “God’s will” actually means.

1) View “God’s Will” as a journey, not a destination.

If you really want to find out someone’s character, get them lost in a part of town that they’ve never been to before (or a completely new town altogether). I’ve been there, and once I discovered that nothing I saw looked familiar, I freaked out and started praying that God would guide me (since my GPS wasn’t offering much guidance at the time).

We often treat God’s will as one set, rigid path that we have to follow at all times, and since we can’t know His mind, we freak out at every moment of decision, paranoid that we’re gonna make a mistake and wind up in the wrong spot of life. However, despite the good intentions of some who teach/believe in this view, Scripture doesn’t seem to teach that God is ready to shake His head at us if we pick the wrong college or choose the wrong career path.

Let me be clear: God knows us intimately. He knows our future. He prepared good works for us before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 2:10). However, while God is sovereign and in control of our futures, He doesn’t expect us to live in constant anxiety of what lies ahead of us; in fact, Jesus commands us not to:

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”- Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) 

At the end of the day, God’s will is that we become more like Jesus. Anything else- work, dating, college, marriage- is just a secondary plot point.

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”- Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

 2) Don’t wait on guidance that Scripture never promises.

Boy meets girl. Boy thinks girl is awesome. Boy never asks girl out because boy is waiting to feel some kind of peace from God about asking girl out on date. The end.

That would be the shortest romantic movie script ever, but it sadly describes many Christian dating scenarios. Whether it’s romance, a job opportunity, or a chance to share the Gospel, too many of us wait on some kind of squishy, blissful feeling before we decide to do anything. Problem is, God never really promises that.

Here’s what He does promise:

  • He will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • He has sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. (John 14:15-17)
  • He hears our prayers, even when we don’t know how to pray them. (Romans 8:26-27)
  • He has given us His completely inspired Word. (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • He has shown us the value of Christian counsel/friendships. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

That’s all the guidance you need. While Philippians 4:5-7 does talk about a “peace that passes all understanding,” that passage discusses a peace in knowing that God is sovereignly at work in your life, not some kind of squishy feeling that will make having hard conversations or making hard decisions easier. Paul endured beatings, shipwrecks, insults, and false accusations to spread the Gospel (2 Corinthians 11:23-30); you think he waited around for God to make him feel blissfully happy and at ease? God doesn’t promise that we’ll never face opposition or difficulty, but He does promise that He’ll never leave us through it, and that He’s at work through it to bring about our good and His glory.

To further this point: a funny photo from Christian Memes:

Talktome

 3) Don’t spiritualize a lack of action.

“And David spake unto his countrymen, saying, ‘That giant looketh terrifying and art huge. I shall sitteth this one out for now and prayeth for God’s will. May the force be with thee.’”- stuff I’m glad isn’t in the Bible

It’s SO easy to come up with spiritual-sounding excuses for not doing anything. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, we rarely want to show initiative and go for it. Instead, we feel the need to “pray about it” for so long that the job goes to someone else, the girl (or guy) is dating another person, or people are already on a plane to the country you wanted to minister to.

Is there value in prayer? Absolutely. Is it necessary to make sure the decision we’re making lines up with Scripture? Yes. Is it possible to use these two things as an excuse not to act because we’re actually scared to risk our comfort, cool image, reputation, or whatever? Yep!

I’m not advocating reckless, impulsive decisions. Please don’t read this, run out of your house, and quit your job or tell the person you’re interested in that God told you you’d wind up together (and don’t ask me about restraining orders or lawyers if you choose this course of action). But instead of letting opportunities pass you by, make a decision and trust in God’s sovereign, loving care in your life!