On Giving God Advice

“And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Genesis 17:18

When God told Abraham his wife would have a biological son, Abraham laughed. It sounded great, of course, but it was impossible. They had been down this road before with nothing to show for it. Nothing except Ishmael of course, who, although he wasn’t Sarah’s son, seemed to be a good enough substitute. Abraham was too tired to start hoping again, so he decided to make a logical suggestion to God that would be easier on everyone. “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Like Abraham, I have the very bad habit of giving God advice.

Almost always, it has to do with a man that, for whatever reason, it just isn’t working out with.

And I catch myself praying like this:

“Lord, I love his heart for you. I’ve prayed for a godly man for so long; can’t you see what a great team we’d be for your kingdom?”

“Lord, I know you can change hearts [insert 1 to 3 verses to support my argument], so will you change his heart toward me? We’d be so great together [insert dissertation on our compatibility].”

But behind the flowery words and the Scripture citations isn’t a heart submitted to God or His word, but a heart scrambling in fear, fear that unless I present a carefully crafted argument for my heart’s desires, He’s going to forget about me.

And although I’m saying “Lord,” I’m stripping Him of the title and claiming it as my own.

What I’m really saying when I pray those prayers is this:

“Lord, I know better than you, why can’t you get with the program?”

“Lord, if only my plan might live under your blessing.”

I love God’s response to Abraham, a patient response that extended over years of his inability to trust that God would do what he said. Abraham and Sarah had taken things into their own hands with the Ishmael incident some years before (Genesis 16), yet God appeared to Abraham again, reassuring him that His promise was as good as ever. Abraham, though, was still stuck on fitting Ishmael into a mold God clearly had not created him for.

It’s pretty audacious to give advice to the Creator of the universe and the Creator of our own hearts, yet He continues to gently, patiently lead us when we can’t escape the confines of our own logic.

So this is a reminder to myself that the next time I start giving God advice, I step back and reflect on just how much higher His thoughts are than mine (Isaiah 55:9), remembering the miraculous birth of Isaac that expanded into a story so much bigger than Abraham and Sarah.

I’ll end with this powerful quote from Susie Larson:

“If the devil can get you to doubt God’s provision, you’ll grab for yourself and miss the wonder of God’s goodness….If the devil can get you to doubt God’s timing, you’ll rush ahead and miss the wisdom of His ways.”

So let’s trust in His provision, refuse to grab for ourselves, and wait in confidence for the revelation of God’s goodness that ministers to the intimate places of our heart, yet extends far beyond our small story.

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Genesis 17: 15-18 (New International Version) 

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

 

Ten Years Ago, I Fell in Love

A few days ago, while sorting through some old papers in my room, I found this:

ImageIn case it’s too small to read, this is a piece in the Bangor Daily News from 2003 that details an upcoming trip to Russia that a local magician and his 12 year old daughter were going to make…

I was filled with joy and thankfulness when I found this little article, in awe of how God used one step into the unknown ten years ago to radically change the course of my life. As I slowly read the news article, I was transported back to the mind of a twelve year old girl who was scared to death to travel to a country that she had heard was scary, dark, and cold. I honestly don’t remember the moment I decided to go to Russia, which is funny because I tend to remember obscure things like what I wore on the first day of fourth grade. My Dad tells me though, that I went up to him and told him that I felt the Lord wanted me to go to Russia. That was a good enough reason for him, and I’m so glad it was.

I stepped onto a plane ten years ago, scared, unsure, yet having an undeniable sense that God wanted me to be there. And I fell in love that summer. I fell in love with Russians, with their warmth and vibrancy and depth. I fell in love with Russia, with its color and nature and kaleidoscope of culture. I fell in love, and ten years later, that God-inspired love continues to grow in joy and passion and purpose.

The Israelites used to put up stones as a memorial of God’s great works among them, tangible, solid markers that reminded them of God’s faithfulness, power and love in their lives (Genesis 35:14, Exodus 28:12, for starters). And to me, finding this little article from ten years ago was like unearthing a precious memorial stone. As I step forward into this next stage of life, if I am tempted to doubt my calling or doubt myself, may I come back to these tangible evidences of a calling and love that is so much bigger than me, and trust in the God who never fails to love and lead his children.