Different than you could ask or imagine
I’ve been reading the Bible since before I could read…basically. The words and concepts in scripture are very familiar to me, so much so I could probably make a case for never reading the Bible again… expect for the fact that every time I read the Bible, something different sticks out so amazingly it’s like I’ve never read it before.
I specifically remember the moment when I first became aware of Ephesians 3:20. It was 10 years ago, I know who’s living room I was sitting in, I remember who was there. While I had certainly read the chapter and verse before, for some reason it never struck me as significant. But there, in that moment, it was like I had been introduced to the concept for the very first time. The verse says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”
I don’t care who you are… that’s a great verse.
Not only do I love how that translation states God’s power and desire toward us, but I love the terms chosen by other translations. Things like, “infinitely more than…” and “far more abundantly…” and maybe my favorite, “exceeding abundantly more…”
It’s like the author (and subsequently the translators) couldn’t come up with a way of describing just how much God wants to do on our behalf. That’s pretty cool.
I also love what God is able to do above and beyond over… The verse says he has the power and desire to go above and beyond the things that we ask for and even what we could think to ask for or imagine. Now that blows my mind. I ask for a lot of things, and I have a really good imagination… but his is better and he’s capable of even more.
I love this concept in its theoretical state. God wants to give me more than I ask for and has ideas that go beyond even mine. (Hallelujah!) But, in its application, this can start to get a little sticky. This means that God has a plan that’s different than mine. Bigger. Yes. Better. Absolutely. But by nature of those very things, very, very different.
Different can be good. But it can also seem bad when the direction I’m heading is away from what I thought was good, what I imagined was best or what I had asked for so fervently. In that moment, I’m not as big a fan of different.
But I still love this verse, so I’ve had to come to some conclusions that will help me reconcile the good that I know this verse promises and the different that’s taking me away from how I had envisioned my life.
The first question I had to ask is, do I trust God?
This is another one of those sticky thoughts because, in theory, of course I know I’m supposed to trust God. But, when it comes right down to it, when it actually matters, when it makes a difference in whether I continue to pursue my direction or follow his… do I really trust God? Do I trust him enough to follow when it doesn’t make sense? How about following when it seems illogical? How about when it hurts? Do I trust God now?
I’ll let you sit on that one…
The second question I had to ask is, assuming that I trust God, and assuming that he is who he says he is (capable and willing to do more than I could ask for and beyond what I can even think up), am I willing to lay aside what I’m asking for and put down what I had imagined my future would look like in order to walk in his? Do I want what’s better if its also different?
I’ve not come to this decision lightly, but I’m at the place where I’m done wrestling with God. I know that there’s a time for perseverance in prayer and pushing through. I know that some good things are also very hard and require a great deal of sacrifice and sometimes even pain. But I also know that sometimes God asks us to simple accept with joy the path he asks us to walk on, to stop striving for what we want and be open to the blessings (different though they may be) that he has in mind. A time when we say, “God, I don’t know what you’re doing, but you have earned my trust, so lead on.”
I’ve seen a lot of people (myself very much included) get very stuck on the one thing they don’t, and seemingly can’t have. It becomes the “one thing” that will right their world. In its absence, life is dark and depressing. Everything is a reminder of what they don’t have.
The problem is that this “one thing” has replaced the real “one thing” that we should be seeking and desiring, God. And there we find ourselves on very dangerous ground.
I’ve been there and totally done that. I’m not passing any judgment your way if that’s where you find yourself right now. All I have to offer is the peace that I’ve found in simply accepting where God has me right now rather than longing for where I would rather be.
I love the promise in Isaiah 30:15, “…in quietness and in trust is your strength…” At the end of our striving and conspiring to get what we want, there is a place of quietness and trust. In this place we find the strength to give God’s different a try. We’re open to something beyond what we could ask or imagine. Who knows, different might end up being want you always wanted!