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>When God’s Direction is Perplexing

May 15, 2011

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“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule
without understanding,
which must be curbed with a bit and bridle
or it will not stay near you.
Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds
the one who trusts in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord,
and rejoice O righteous, and shout for joy
all you upright in heart.”
Psalm 32:8-11
Jeneil’s post last week, For Good, has juxtaposed two texts in my heart. Romans 8: 28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” is now sitting on top of the end of Psalm 32 (above), which I have been mulling for weeks.

The circumstances which have proven to be the greatest sources of blessings in my life are things I would not have chosen. As an 18 year old, had I been given a choice, my parents would have stayed married. Had their divorce left me the choice of attending my accepted college, I would not have landed at Bethel. Had I been attending St. Olaf, I probably would not have heard of the Bethel professor who’d recently left to pastor an inner city church in Minneapolis (now my church home of 25 years; where I learned everything I know about expositing primary sources; where I met my husband).

Had it been up to my husband and me, we would not have chosen a “failed” adoption the first time. Or anxious attachment the second time. The third time, we deselected FASD and ADHD. The fourth time, we ruled out quadriplegia. And so it goes.

I would like to think that I am not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with a bit and bridle lest I stray. But it seems pretty clear: I do not understand God’s “good” for me. Every time I have come to a fork in the road, God, like a rider on my back, has reigned me in and turned my head to point my eyes down the road he wanted me to take.

Without his redirection, I would have continued down a different path. This curbing has been part of the way he has fulfilled his promise:

I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
So why the injunction,”Do not be like…”? I’m not sure. I think it might be more pleasant for me if I didn’t need redirection. The shock is painful: finding myself in a place I did not anticipate, having to radically readjust my expectations yet again.
Yet it is a bittersweet pain. The loss of a dream brings sorrow every time. But it is not the same thing as the many “sorrows of the wicked.” The steadfast love of the Lord surrounds those who go where God leads them. Unlike the wicked who sorrow far from God, my afflictions (which surely must include my not-yet sanctified tendency to panic and doubt) are momentary. When I lift my eyes up again, I find God has not forsaken me and I can,
“Be glad in the Lord,
and rejoice O righteous, and shout for joy
all you upright in heart.”
 –even in deeply perplexing circumstances. As a Christian, I would have affirmed that as an 18 year old. But I had not lived long enough yet to experientially understand it to be true.
Hope and Joy are not the only two in our family whose development, in some areas, significantly lags behind their chronological age. Spiritually, I must still be like a child who learns by doing because it has taken me all of my adult life to accumulate enough redirected-by-God experiences to understand this: where God is there is always blessing. Where God is, it is all for good.

Even if he has to curb me with the bit and bridle to make me go there.

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