Each month we ask two writers to reflect on a quote by Dr. Stanley. For September, C. Lawrence and John VandenOever comment on an excerpt from Dr. Stanley’s sermon “Acquiring Wisdom”:
One of the wisest things you can do before you ever get out of bed every morning is ask God to give you wisdom. You don’t know what the day holds. You can plan your calendar hour by hour, day by day—[but] none of us know what tomorrow holds. We all need God’s viewpoint about our actions and about our plans and how we live our life, because we don’t know what’s going to happen.
by C. Lawrence
We never quite outgrow the question, What do You want me to do, Lord? Life is hard, to put it mildly, and there’s far too much of it with no script, no playbook for how we should respond. It’s a sobering thought, considering how often we call out to God as if shouting upstairs, only for no voice to thunder—or even whisper—down. In reply, all we receive are the creaks and pops of an old building adjusting to the weather. Except for one thing: That’s not how the relationship works at all.
There’s no “up there”—God's kingdom is among us. The Lord is not somewhere yonder over the clouds, attending to more pleasant tasks and holier people: He’s here with us while we’re raking leaves, lying on our backs watching fireworks, changing diapers, grilling sausages, going through the divorce, speaking kindness to strangers, confessing our pain to the therapist, going for an evening walk, serving the poor, toweling off after a swim, and so much more. He’s with us everywhere and in everything we do, closer to us than our own hearts. So why is discerning the Lord's will such a mystery?
God’s plans are not like our own, and His wisdom isn’t simply a divine version of what we share with one another from our life experiences. God’s wisdom is wholly other and operates in the manner of the kingdom, not according to the laws and rules of men (Isa. 55:8-9). Consider how Jesus taught through parables—multidimensional lessons that often left His listeners confused. Consider how the people of Israel, though well versed in the ancient prophecies, failed to recognize the Messiah when He was in their midst. Think of how, going from town to town, His disciples were constantly surprised by what they saw Him do.
Seeking God’s guidance, even in the simplest of ways, can even be an expression of faith and trust. But we have to remember the real reason why we do so—not simply to chart a better way forward, but to become increasingly united with Him.
Seeking God’s guidance, even in the simplest of ways, can even be an expression of faith and trust. But we have to remember the real reason why we do so—not simply to chart a better way forward, but to become increasingly united with Him. For our connection with God to deepen until we no longer fear what might happen to us. Isn’t that what so much of our handwringing is about anyway? About getting "it" wrong? Suffering the consequences of a poor choice or missed opportunity?
To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is ultimately to give up our life, not protect or even orchestrate it according to higher wisdom. What we have before us now is the opportunity to walk so closely with God that we can perceive the subtlest of His movements, following Him with the nearness of a beloved friend just as the disciples did, trusting Him to lead us to paradise.
God’s will is not a mystery. It's laid out in the Scriptures—a calling all believers share, regardless of our individual paths and particularities: His will is that we seek and prefer Him above all things, even life itself (Matt. 22:36-38). That we give up our lives so that we may truly find them. By all means, let’s ask Him how to do that in every moment, every step of the way, always remembering why we do so.
by John VandenOever
The financial challenge of sending one child to college was quite enough. That is, until the time came to send our second child two years later. I saw little hope of meeting the cost of tuition, room, and board, and the weight of this began to overwhelm me.
As I brought these concerns to God, I was reminded again of my weakness—not only in this moment of crisis, but at all times, and in every way. Each day I wrestle through challenges; some seem small, others insurmountable, yet all are tinged with uncertainty.
To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is ultimately to give up our life, not protect or even orchestrate it according to higher wisdom.
The way forward is to seek God as my loving, wise Father who wants me to experience the goodness, care, and wisdom He brings. Psalm 143:10 puts it this way: “Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Change comes through Him, not through my insight or abilities.
In trying moments, it’s particularly comforting to know that God exists outside of time. He knows the future. Psalm 139:4-5 bring this truth to light: “Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, Lord, You know it all. You have encircled me behind and in front, and placed Your hand upon me.”
As I spoke with Him about our needs, I could laugh and say, You already know what’s on the other side of this. You know what You’re going to do; I just need to wait and respond. And sure enough, He carried us through. I can’t often pinpoint how God cares for me, but care He does.