I had the dream again last night. I’m walking down the aisle of my church, but there’s no wedding march playing (sigh), just the off-tune ramblings of the church organist struggling through another verse of “Just As I Am.” A preacher is there waiting for me, and so is my mother, sister and third-grade teacher, Mrs. Boulter. (Remember, this is a dream.) It’s at the end of a revival service. The preacher asks those who want to “commit themselves wholeheartedly to God’s purposes for their lives” to come to the front of the church. In my dream, I tell the preacher I am ready to do whatever God wants me to do. Everyone is so happy. Mrs. Boulter is happy. I’m happy. The organist is happy.
The next scene, however, is something altogether different. It’s nighttime. And I’m stumbling around inside this primitive hut with a mosquito net wrapped around my head and body, blindly swiping at insects with a gigantic King James Bible. I try to scream, but it’s useless. A small town girl from Ohio has turned into an unwitting missionary. In the middle of Africa. And I’m miserable. I wake up the same way every time—drenched in sweat, with the sheets twisted around my head, clutching the phonebook.
I know it’s only a dream. Still, I’ve heard the stories. If you “give it all up to God,” something terrible will happen to you to test your faith and see if you’re really a good Christian. It would be just my luck to have to quit my job and leave my family so God can ship me off to Africa to be a missionary. And I’ve never even been outside Ohio.
I’m a Christian. I want to be totally, unapologetically obedient to God. But if I give God my entire life, I’m afraid he’ll do something extreme to prove a point. He might take away my boyfriend to see which one I love more—”him or Him”? Worse yet, what if something happens to my family because I said God could “have it all”? My mom will get cancer. Or my best friend will be killed in a car wreck. (You know, those things you never say around the donut table in Sunday school, but they’re legitimate fears.)
I love God. And sometimes I’m this close to giving him everything. But in order to prove my love for God, I feel like I have to do something drastic. And I’m not ready for that yet.
Let’s be honest—most of us are afraid of God. And we should be. He’s the all-powerful King of the universe. In comparison, we are helplessly powerless. But because we fear him, we hold back from him a few things we feel we can’t live without, afraid that he’ll strip them from us. A relationship. A job. A standard of living. Health. Dreams. It’s scary to know that God wants what’s best for us—because it may come at a price.
Anyone who’s familiar with the story of Abraham and Isaac knows that sometimes God asks us to give him what we’re clutching protectively to our chests. What if God asked you to give up what’s most dear to you? What would you do? How would you react? The danger is camping out in that line of thinking. If you continually live in fear of God and what he will do if you surrender your life to him, you likely won’t surrender. The Bible teaches, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
God’s will is always tied to who he is. (Read that again.) The rumor that God is a sadist in the sky, waiting for some unsuspecting woman to give her life to him just so he can toy with her, is a twisted myth. That’s not how the Bible describes God. It’s not his nature.
Instead of fearing him, if we believe he is a loving God, we will be convinced all his plans for us will be full of love and for our good. If we trust the Father, we will trust his plans for us … even if they take us through difficult times, down roads we wouldn’t otherwise choose or even to the “Africas” we fear the most. Life with God may not always be “safe,” as we’d define it; but he will always, always be good to us. Our lives are in good hands.
“The real issue in life is not the search for God’s will; it is the search for God. The issue in faith is not knowing what God is doing, rather it is knowing that God knows what he is doing. The issue of faith is seeking God’s presence, not God’s plan for my life, because there is no plan outside of my knowing him.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”