Our will—and our trust in God—are they at odds? Can they possibly co-exist?
Most of us say we want to know God’s will. But do we really? Our will and God’s will don’t always coincide. What a challenge for us to trust God’s will, especially if it differs from what we think we want for ourselves.
But we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t trust God’s will. We might think one particular thing or relationship or life path can make us happy, but wouldn’t our Creator know better? Wouldn’t an all-knowing God, able to perceive the past and the future, have a more insightful view of our lasting happiness that we do? Perhaps that one thing we so desperately want will turn out wrong for us, or just offer a temporary rather than a lasting happiness.
In the Epistle of James, 4:13-15 (NIV), we read:
Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’
The Sikh religion teaches:
Those who take pleasure in God’s Will remove doubt from within. – Shri Guru Granth Sahib, Section 5 – Siree Raag
It might do us good to think more in terms of the Arabic saying, “Inshallah,” which means “God-willing” or “If God wills it.” Used mainly by Muslims, this word has spread to many others who use it following their prayers, as if to admit, “Lord, this is what I want, but only if you think it’s okay.”
Others think they know God’s will, but become impatient when they think the Lord’s work is exceedingly slow. They decide to help Him along, as in the story of Isaac and Rebekah and their sons Esau and Jacob.
God told Rebekah that she’d bear two sons, and that the “the elder shall serve the younger.” Like many parents, unfortunately, they had their favorites. Isaac favored Esau and his virile ways. He hunted and brought back the game which Rebekah made into savory stews. Rebekah, on the other hand, doted on Jacob, the homebody, who was obedient to her and who God had indicated would be a leader. Rebekah overheard Isaac, who knew his death was near, tell Esau to go out and catch his favorite game and bring it back, cook it and serve it to him, promising that afterwards he would bestow upon his firstborn his blessing. Not trusting God to fulfill his prediction, Rebekah talked Jacob into deceiving his father in order to get for himself the blessing intended for his brother.
We’ll never know for sure how God would have worked the solution, but we can trust that he would have done so.
The Baha’i teachings contain similar stories, all of them
When a woman lamented her family’s travails, Abdu’l-Baha told her,
“You must trust in God.”
“But the more I trust the worse things become!” she sobbed.
“You have never trusted.”
“But my mother is reading the psalms all the time. She does not deserve that God should desert her so! I read the psalms myself, the ninety-first psalm and the twenty-third psalm every night before I go to bed. I pray, too.”
“To pray is not to read psalms. To pray is to trust in God and to be submissive in all things to Him. Be submissive, then things will change for you. Put your family in God’s hands. Love God’s will. Strong ships are not conquered by the sea; they ride the waves! Now be a strong ship, not a battered one.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 7, pp. 145-146.
At another time he explained:
Will is the center or focus of human understanding. We must will to know God, just as we must will to possess the life He has given us. The human will must be subdued and trained into the will of God. It is a great power to have a strong will, but a greater power to give that will to God. The will is what we do, the understanding is what we know. Will and understanding must be one in the Cause of God. Intention brings attainment. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 503.
We can all place our trust in God, and not become angry with Him, or lose faith when His will doesn’t coincide with our own. In the end, if we have faith, all things will come right. We just need patience to allow God to work in His own time. Indeed, we are assured that God: