This week is my birthday, and like most years, I find myself approaching this year with no small amount of reflection. I think about not only the single year behind me, but the particular stage of life I happen to find myself with our family in right now.
Here is one of the things that’s surprised me about this particular year. We’ve done the home buying-and-selling thing more than once. Our kids are knocking on the door of middle school, so we’ve been at this parenting thing for a while, too. We will have been married 15 years this summer, so I guess we would be considered in the “veteran” category there as well. What’s surprising to me is that still, even at this stage, that I have more questions about life than answers. I would have expected to have ironed out what it means to rightly, fairly, and redemptively discipline my kids. I would have thought I knew how to joyfully serve and be served inside my marriage and our church. I would have assumed that life would have, on the whole, been much more certain than it is now.
But it’s not. Far from it.
Sure, there are some things I’m a little better at now – I can, for example, at long last put together a household budget reasonably well and know how to read a mortgage statement, but on the really important parts of life, I still have more questions than answers. Most of the time when I pray through these questions, I find myself at the end of the day thinking, “I sure hope that was the right decision.”
I sure hope that was the right conversation to have.
I sure hope that was the right life transition to make.
I sure hope I didn’t add to many counseling bills to my kids’ future right there.
Those times I think I’m expressing a sentiment that is pretty common in the life of the Christian. At the core of all those “I hope’s” is another “I hope”: I hope God was with me in that decision.
Now I know what you’re thinking, because it’s the same thing I’m thinking as I write this – God was, of course, with me, because the presence of God doesn’t ebb and flow like the tide. He has sealed Himself to me (and to you, if you’re a believer in Jesus) with the promise of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So of course God is with us. But in these particular circumstances, “with” isn’t so much a question of presence as it is support. What I’m really hoping is that God is in favor of the decision that I’ve made and will bless it.
I read this week a little passage in 2 Chronicles that made me think perhaps I’m asking the wrong question.
In the days of King Asa of Judah, there had been relative peace and prosperity in the land for 10 years. But then a challenge from an enemy came as Zerah the Cushite marhced against the army of Judah with 300 chariots. Asa called our to God, asking for His divine assistance, and the Lord went to battle before His people. He struck down the Chshites and the men of Judah carried off a tremendous amount of plunder and returned to Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 14).
That’s when the Spirit of the Lord came upon Azariah and he went to meet King Asa with these words:
“Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you with you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you… (2 Chronicles 15:1-3).
The question for Asa on the heels of this victory was not, “Is God with us?” The questions moving forward was, “Are you with God?” Because when you are with Him, He will be with you. It’s not unlike the experience Joshua had the night before he was to confront the mighty walled city of Jericho:
“When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua approached Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies? ”
“Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the LORD’s army” (Joshua 5:13-14).
Are you with us, God? Wrong question, Joshua. God is not on a changing agenda. He’s never had a mid-course correction. He’s never had the moment when He had to reevaluate His priorities and devote more energy to one place than another. He has, from the beginning of beginnings been doing the same thing. With the same goals. With the same end in mind. Of these things, that God has, is, and always will be for, there is no question. He has given them to us in His Word, and they’re not rocket science.
God is FOR the sake of His own name being made great among the earth.
God is FOR the salvation of people from all the earth.
God is FOR the building up of His church.
God is FOR the transformation of His adopted into the likeness of of His only begotten Son.
God is FOR marriages reflecting the greatness of the gospel.
God is FOR parents raising their children to know, love, and fear Him.
We know these things. Given that we know these things, then the question for me is not so much God is with me in all my individual pursuits, decisions, and endeavors; it’s whether or not I am with Him. Because He’s not going to change.
It’s certainly a more sobering way to measure the rightness or wrongness of a decision, but one I think would profit me greatly. That maybe today, in all the decisions I will have to make, I won’t simply say, “I hope God is with me;” maybe I’ll instead ask myself, “Am I with Him on this?”