If part of our purpose is to live a life that brings pleasure to God, then wouldn’t it be helpful to know what specifically brings Him pleasure? Rick Warren lists out four things that we can do that give God pleasure: when we love Him above everything else, trust Him completely, obey Him wholeheartedly, and when we fulfill His purposes (and our personal, particular purpose). In looking back at the notes I have taken while studying this chapter, I noticed that I have a plethora of scribbles all over the pages concerning the trust and obey sections. I ran out of room and began more personal notes on a piece of notebook paper. This is a big red light to me that these two things are messages in which I am passionate and a message that God wants me to develop my thoughts into writing! Every time I sit down to write, I give my gift of writing and communicating back to God. I only want to write what He wants me to write. I want to learn what He wants me to learn. I take this process very seriously… which is why the “obedience” part of this lesson deeply strikes a chord with me. I don’t ever want to miss God’s lead or, even worse, hear and see His lead, then choose not to take it.
Trust has been a big thing for me since Michael died. In the physical world, I have had to discern when to trust and not to trust people on a whole new level. Some workmen have tried to take advantage of the fact that I am a woman, by assuming that this means I won’t know any better if they do their job below standard, or try to charge me more than they should. Most all times I have been able to prove otherwise by wisely asking questions that proved I knew exactly what was going on with a particular job, and, in some cases, knew more than they did! I learned to ask well chosen questions, with a well chosen vocabulary, at the beginning of a job in order for them to know up front that nothing was going to get past my watchful eyes…. the work, the materials, or the billing. It is quite the opposite in the spiritual world.
With God, I have had to completely, 100%, without a doubt, without hesitation, trust Him with every detail in my life. He is the only one who is watching my back 24/7. He is the only one who knows where my road is going to lead. He is the only one who protects me, takes pleasure in me, and provides for me. My complete trust in Him has been the foundation for survival in every moment and every breath I have taken since Michael died. I trusted in Him before, but at the same time, I trusted Michael for things in which I must now trust God. In Psalms 50:14, God says, “I want you to trust me in your times of trouble, so I can rescue you and you can give me glory.” Trust completely, even when I don’t understand it. If I trust Him, he will rescue me! (That has been a promise worth clinging to these last couple of years.)
I was at a retreat in Colorado a little over a year ago led by John and Stasi Eldredge, the authors of several bestselling books and the creators of Ransomed Heart Ministries. John said one simple statement, in regards to us trying to understand something God has asked us to do, and it stuck with me. He said, “Understanding is overrated!” We want to understand what God is doing so badly, but, most of the times, if we did understand it, it would not change our circumstances or make the task any easier. In some instances, what would we gain by God helping us understand? So why not just trust and give up always trying to understand what God in doing in your life? Does it help when you try to explain to a two year old why it is important for him to take a nap? Would it help if you said, “Now sweetheart, you need to get your rest so you won’t be cantankerous later at dinner time… and you know that if your little body gets sleep deprived, it can lower your immune system and we are going on a trip this weekend so we need everyone rested and healthy…and Mommy has a writing deadline to meet before we leave so that I can relax this weekend….” Do you think understanding will help that two year old in this situation? Of course not! We must trust God because He is so much bigger than what we can conceive and He knows the big picture…just like this mommy knew the big picture. We are not capable of grasping the big picture. Rick Warren suggests we pray, “God, I want You to be magnified in my eyes. I’ve made You too small. I’ve limited You.” He goes on to say that “it pleases God when we go out on a limb for Him and when we attempt the impossible.”
Noah was a great example of putting trust and obedience together. Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith, Noah built a ship in the middle of dry land. He was warned about something he couldn’t see, and acted on what he was told. His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world. As a result, Noah became intimate with God.” I love the way this is worded in the Message version… “his act of faith drew a sharp line between…”. His faith, his trust, set him apart from the ways of this world and placed him over on the side to accomplish God’s purposes. He trusted that God knew what He was doing when He instructed him to build a boat the size of a football field on dry land, far away from any body of water, while anticipating rain, which up to this point in history, rain had not fallen from the sky! (The earth was watered from the ground up…kind of like a sprinkler system.) This is trust without understanding! I also love that the benefit of trusting and obeying God is that we become intimate with HIm! “The Lord takes pleasure in those who honor Him and trust in His constant love.” Psalms 147:11 Noah trusted then obeyed wholeheartedly.
Wholehearted obedience is by no means the easy road. Warren says, “It will sometimes be inconvenient, unpopular, cost me, doing the exact opposite of what our natural inclinations are.” This made me think of my move to New York. I knew that this was something God told me to do. Why would I have wanted to do something this hard in my own will, especially after what I had just been through? Did it make sense? Did I understand it? Did other people understand it? Did it cause me to fall out of relationship with some people? Was it inconvenient? The answer is not just no, but #%*# no! Did it cost? (And not just monetarily) Was it the exact opposite of what I would have liked to have done in the natural? Did it force me out onto a limb? The answer to all of these questions is not just yes, but #%*# yes! But as I stated by quoting someone in a previous post, “I am safer in the middle of the most dangerous war zones in Iraq while in God’s perfect will for my life than I would be if I were living a comfortable life in America outside of His will.” It is extremely important to obey God and stay in His perfect will. Even though I did not understand nor could I even see the big picture, I was willing to sacrifice all these things in order to obey God.
I agree with John Eldredge…understanding is overrated! As my mom often says when she gets confused, does not understand the situation, or what she is supposed to do, she will say in an exasperated way, “Just point me in the right direction,” or “Just tell me what to do.” This means, “I can’t do it on my own. You understand it and it is good enough for me.” This is what God wants from us. This is what pleases God. Complete surrender. Others can look at it as foolishness or lack of wisdom if we move forward without a clear explanation or understanding. God looks at it as strength and courage and honoring Him…and it pleases Him.
We press on with our eyes straight ahead, then one day we may look back and say, “Ahhh, so that is why I had to do that!”…. but then again, we may not ever figure it out… trust and obey, forgoing understanding, and simply because “You father said so that’s why!”