What if I pursue the wrong job or go to the wrong college? What if I move when I was supposed to stay? What if I join the wrong church or marry the wrong person?
What if I accidentally alter God’s whole plan for my life?
I think many of us imagine the Christian life to be something like a tightrope walk. We are in danger of falling from God’s will at any given moment. Any sudden move or wrong turn could send us plummeting.
Even worse, we might fear that God has serious consequences tucked behind certain doors if we should choose to open them. We grow paralyzed by fear that the Lord might punish us for making the wrong choice.
All of this stems from a desire to live our lives from God’s perspective rather than our own finite human perspective. We want to know His entire blueprint for our lives from cradle to grave. We want to peruse the pages of His book where every day of our lives is recorded in precise detail before even one of them comes to be (Psalm 139:16).
In short, we want to be omniscient–which, of course, we aren’t, and we can’t be. The good news is that God has given us finite minds and limited knowledge about our future to allow room for us to experience his mercy and his grace. Because the Christian life is not a tightrope. Life is a…I almost said highway, but I’m not gonna do it. Life is a very wide, forgiving…way.
In modern English, we say something is forgiving if it allows for hiccups, errors, or mistakes. You might refer to a bicycle seat as forgiving if it prevents you from feeling every bump in the road. Ladies say black is a forgiving color because of the way it masks physical blemishes.
God’s will is forgiving in much the same way. David writes, “You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip” (2 Samuel 22:37). He has not set us on a tightrope. He has given us a wide place to walk, a place where we take steps with confidence and our ankles are not in constant danger of buckling under us.
We exercise our freedom in Christ in the wideness of his mercy. We live in Christian wisdom under the watchful gaze of his grace. What keeps us on track is not our ability to read God’s mind, but his ability to shepherd us despite our feeble attempts. Our sins cannot and will not derail his plans. Our poor decisions cannot alter our destination. In those moments, he has ordained his forgiveness to keep us on the path.
Now, we all like sheep have gone astray, and sheep tend to wander if they are not careful. The mercy and grace of the Lord are not a license to sin or to pursue our own selfish desires. No, as the flock of God, we walk through the wide place following the Shepherd.
It’s amazing to me how many of the Christians who fret about God’s will for their life are the same ones who fail to read their Bibles and fail to participate meaningfully in a local church. Of course they feel afraid. They are not hearing the voice of the Shepherd from His Word. They are not gathering with the flock.
As we walk the wide way, the Shepherd continues to summon us to follow him as we read the Bible. As we seek to glorify God in our daily decisions, brothers and sisters in our churches help to keep us from going astray.
Do not fear, little sheep. There is no decision you could make that could snatch you out of Jesus’s hand. Heed his voice in His word. Rub against the fleece of fellow brothers and sisters as their wisdom and counsel help you to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. Paul encourages us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:16).
(photo credit: melfoody)