Most of us a familiar with the “five stages of grief,” as outlined by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. One step is ‘bargaining’–an understandable though illogical attempt to control the situation by cutting a last-minute deal, usually with God.
Peter Jones, over at Kuyperian Commentary, explores the way our prayer and other devotional acts at all times, not just at a time of grief, are intertwined with God’s blessings. Is there actually a cause and effect? If so, can we manipulate God by our actions?
No. Of course not. But it is easy to slip into thinking something like that, even if we don’t really put it in so many words. Here’s what he says:
Usually for us blessing means I get what I want when I want it. In the Scriptures there are blessings in this life that come with obedience. The man who avoids sinners and meditates on God’s Word will be blessed (Psalm 1). But those blessings are not defined by us. We don’t get to say, “Lord, I will trade you a good prayer life for a new wife.” “Lord I will read my Bible every day and you will make sure my job doesn’t fall through.” (Remember these trades are usually unspoken.) You could read God’s Word and meditate on God’s Word and get fired for obeying it. Even in Psalm 1 the ultimate blessing is in the end when we stand with God’s people after the wicked have been driven away (verses 4-5). The problem with a bartering mindset is that we set the rules. We say, “I will trade you this for that.” That is not the same thing as saying, “I know God blesses obedience, so I am going to obey him and he will bless when and how he sees fit.” The first views God as if we are a consumer. The second views God as if we are his sons and heir. [emphasis mine–GBL]
–Peter Jones, from “Bartering and Blessing”
As I and my extended family and friends have been praying, for the past ten days, over a grievous situation, I have had to wrestle with knowing that “Thy will be done” means that God gets to decide. If I believe that “all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purposes”–then I must accept that God’s will is good, whether it looks like what I think I want, or not.
Which reminded me today of a Rich Mullins song which he wrote not too long before he died. He never made a full studio recording of it, only a demo. Here it is: