My husband has been a youth pastor for almost 20 years . . . and I’ve been there, in various capacities (it’s definitely ebbed and flowed with young children), for all of those years . . . mostly as “killer of all things dangerous and fun” (Why do dangerous and fun always seem to go hand in hand? And are there any other youth pastor’s wives in the house that can relate to this???).
One of my favorite prayer requests I’ve heard from our teenagers over the years often goes something like this:
Kid: “I have a test tomorrow. Can you pray that I’ll pass?”
Me: “Sure I’ll pray for you. Have you studied?”
Kid: “Well . . . I mean . . . this teacher is really tough . . .”
Me: “Okay, so have you studied?”
Kid: “Well . . . ummm . . . maybe . . . a little . . . not really.”
Cue major side eye from me, “killer of all things dangerous and fun”, because that’s not how it works. It’s how we, not just teenagers but also adults, want it to work, but the reality is, we can’t repeatedly refuse to do the work (read: be lazy), we can’t repeatedly make unwise, sometimes risky, and often foolish decisions then expect God to be our big bail out guy in the sky. God not is not our enabler.
That’s not to say He isn’t merciful. Our Heavenly Father is beyond merciful and gracious and good, and He often does intervene when we absolutely do not deserve it. There is redemption to be found in God and deciding to do things His way. The children of Israel found forgiveness and redemption in repenting and turning back to God over and over again. And many of us have literally seen God restore the “years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25) when we absolutely do not deserve it, but you also have to make the choice to repent and make a change and do the work with the help and through the power of the Holy Spirit (and to be super clear here, I am not talking about salvation . . . the work was and is all Jesus y’all . . . but the choice is yours).
God didn’t create a bunch of robots that don’t have brains. God isn’t manipulating and moving us like the pieces on a chess board. And while He has a perfect plan for all of our lives, He also created us with free will to make decisions and choices. In the book of Psalms, Chapter 32 verse 9, it says, “Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you.” God is not about the business of controlling every move we make, and I’d venture that there is a whole lot of leeway within our choices. He gave us personalities and preferences for a reason, and a lot of our decisions don’t have a huge effect on our lives or the lives of others either way. I mean if you want to wear red shoes and orange pants together (I own both items so don’t come at me), be my guest . . . unless you’re going to a job interview . . . then don’t.
But sometimes we make choices that carry a lot more weight and will have more lasting consequences, and because we are free to make those choices for better or worse, we have to understand that we must accept the consequences of the things we choose . . . or don’t choose . . . whatever the case may be. God will not just wave His hand and make life perfect for us . . . He won’t just remove the necessity for hard work . . . because He loves us too much and wants a relationship with us, not a bunch of mindless followers. And hard work, with God’s wisdom and guidance, isn’t the enemy.
“The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.” Proverbs 13:4
“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: if anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11
“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3
So having said all that, I’ll say . . .you’ve got to study for the test . . . save the money . . . pay the bills . . . go to the gym . . . clean the house . . . make the effort with your husband/wife/kids/parents . . . set the boundaries . . . put the priorities in place in your life . . . you’ve got to pray and study the word and ask for wisdom and trust that His ways are the best ways . . .
“So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield for those who walk uprightly.” Proverbs 2:2-7
And just in case you were wondering . . . yes, I still pray for our teenagers to pass . . . I pray that they go home and focus and study and are able to learn and retain the information they need in order to pass their test. I may be the “killer of all things dangerous and fun”, but I’m not a monster.
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