If you’re ambitious, you have tendencies others don’t have. If you’re driven, even positively so, you’re already aware of the risk I’m about to describe. What does a devoted Christian do when things don’t look much like Proverbs 3:5-6? I’m talking about
We grow up hearing we can do anything we dream. If we can imagine it, we can do it. To an extent that’s true, sometimes even our dreams pale in comparison to the actual results. Sometimes.
We hear at professional workshops and seminars that one of the keys to success is the ability to picture what success will look like so we can move in that direction. You’ve heard this too, haven’t you? Now that you know what it looks like, break that dream into yearly, quarterly and daily steps so you can arrive, “Voila!” safe, secure and unruffled on the shores of success.
We know it’s not good to brag or boast about what we’re going to do; James was clear on that: All such boasting is evil. What you OUGHT to say is ‘if it is the Lord’s will we will live and do this or that.” His exact words are in James 4.13-17. So we try to comply. We dream (some of us just can’t help ourselves). We structure. We plan, thinking and praying “God is this what you want? It is, isn’t it? Please say ‘yes’.”
Some of us actually take the time to stop and ask, ponder and consider before setting any of our plans in place. We want to know for certain we’ve sought the mind of Christ in these things. Then, confident that it’s so, we set out on the journey we believe He brought to mind. Our goals and plans were set with our ears atuned to His whispered guidance, we’re quietly confident we’re going to see these things come to reality.
The trouble is, they don’t always. And we —or at least I— don’t know quite what to do when that happens. We doubt ourselves. We question God. We second-guess His leading. We wonder where we missed His guidance. We try not to throw things at people who opposed our initiatives, God’s actually, and voted against the motion in the church business meeting. We can’t imagine what’s gotten into that close friend who just refuses to see it. Net result: Unrealized goals. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve experienced this. And I have to be honest with you. I’m still not used to it.
I say in all earnestness, “God I’m going to bring you glory. I’m going to live all-out and spend it all in your name. I want you to receive all the credit for what’s accomplished here” — and then whatever it is falls short. Way short. It’s like the arrow I aimed at the moon turns to play-doh, melts and falls out of the sky.
Is this sounding familiar at all? If you’re a type-A it is, if you’re driven or highly-motivated, it is. So what do we do when this happens? And happens again? And just doesn’t quit happening?
I found a ring of keys to this dilemma in Psalm 37. Each verb is a key that unlocks one of the prison doors of unfulfillment. Together they give me the ability to accept His “not yet” or His “no”, especially when the dream I thought was of God gets delayed, derailed or destroyed.
Here’s Psalm 37:1-9 with the verbs bolded to help you see the idea. Start here, then open your Bible to Psalm 37 so you can mark the verbs you’re responsible for when there’s trouble. Mark the page somehow or write in the front fly-leaf “When things go wrong here’s how to respond: Ps. 37”
1 Fret not yourself because of evildoers;be not envious of wrongdoers!
2 For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4 Delight yourself in the Lord,and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. (ESV)
That’s not an easy assignment! But it’s what He wants and needs for me to do. “Fret not yourself” three times?! Hmmm – He must know me.
There are a few verses later in the Psalm that give me the ability to sigh “Well, OK-then” and accept His directives; here they are:
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,when he delights in his way; 24 though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,for the Lord upholds his hand. 25 I have been young, and now am old,yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread. 26 He is ever lending generously,and his children become a blessing. 27 Turn away from evil and do good;so shall you dwell forever. 28 For the Lord loves justice;he will not forsake his saints.They are preserved forever,but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. 29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever. 30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,and his tongue speaks justice. 31 The law of his God is in his heart;his steps do not slip. (ESV)
Okay, off to Psalm 37 now, see what the Lord shows you. Let Him encourage you with confidence in His outlook and perspective. Even if some of those goals have empty places next to them where there’s supposed to be a completion date already written in – like some of mine.