I trimmed my hair this week. It had gotten so long since its last trim that the ends had become horridly thin and rat-tailed and weird looking. I knew I needed to lose those few inches so my hair could be healthy again, even though it felt strangely short and blunt afterwards. And it made me think about how life can feel that way.
Sometimes we hang onto something too long, irrationally resisting change or challenge to our cherished dreams and plans. We don’t notice what others do…that those things are becoming outdated obsessions, that the world has moved on without us, that God is leading us in another direction while we obliviously keep treading water. Maybe it’s a relationship we still hope will happen even though our friends and authorities try to tell us it’s not God’s will. Perhaps it’s a career that we have always planned to pursue instead of asking God what He wants. Or a habit we rationalize and make excuses for when the Lord urges us to leave it behind.
Abraham went through a similar situation. In Genesis 21, his family was embroiled in a battle of conflicting interests between his wife Sarah’s son Isaac and his servant Hagar’s son Ishmael. Sarah had persuaded Abraham to marry her servant Hagar so they could have a son to carry on the family name and inherit the promises, even though God had already promised them a son of their own. Through their lack of trust in God’s will, they ended up with a half-son Ishmael, and later their biological son, Isaac, leaving them in a mess when selecting an heir. Sarah demanded that Ishmael and his mother be sent away so Isaac would be able to grow up as the only son of Abraham, as God had intended. Although this decision saddened Abraham, the Lord agreed with Sarah’s edict and reminded him that the promise was to the true heir, Isaac. Ishmael was not forsaken by God—he grew up to be a great man in his own right—but he was not the child of promise. And the time had come to give him up.
God has a perfect will for every one of us. Whether we discover and follow that will or not depends on how much we trust Him and obey His every word. Do we tell God what we want and then go after it, or do we wait on the Lord’s voice and timing to reveal the next step He has ordered for us?
Some may call this ridiculously pragmatic, but the way I see life is this: if it doesn’t happen, it wasn’t God’s will. I don’t mean for things that I should have done, like winning souls or studying for a test or such. I mean things that I had no control over. If a guy I am interested in falls for my best friend, then I reckon he isn’t God’s will for me. If I audition for my college tour group and am not chosen, that means it wasn’t God’s will for me. If a handful of friends go somewhere fun and don’t invite me, the most reasonable emotional approach would be to assume I didn’t need to be there and the Lord had something else for me to do that day.
It’s so easy to fall into a spirit of bitterness or self-pity or envy over things we can’t control. And though choosing to maintain an attitude of surrender to what the Lord gives or does not give isn’t exactly easy, it is simple. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.” We can trust the One who made us to know what He is doing!
When we experience disappointments, why don’t we try to see them not as setbacks but as accelerations over obstacles that might have stood in the way of God’s perfect will. Trimming my hair seems to be a setback–why would I cut something that I want to be long? But trimming off the old ends makes room for thicker, stronger hair. And letting God trim our lives of unwise attachments or imperfect dreams makes room for the fulfilment of a master plan much bigger and better than ours could ever be!
1 Corinthians 2:9 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”