Be Careful What You Promise

Recently, Jason and I faced a decision.  The Lord opened up a door of opportunity for us, and we inched our way through the door, praying all the while that God would either continue to open the door if it was His will for us to go through or completely close it if it wasn't His will.  We were both excited about the new opportunity and allowed ourselves to hope that it might come to pass.  Still, we prayed that God would have His perfect way and give us grace if the situation didn't turn out like we hoped.

I must be honest.  I was saying the words, and I sincerely desired to mean them, but I know how I am about my expectations.  When they're not met the way I want, I have a tendency to grow quite angry.  Still, I hoped I had matured enough spiritually to accept God's will and go on with life.  Evidently, I'm not quite there yet.

On Friday, it seemed that the door had closed, and while I was completely disappointed and deflated, I was somewhat accepting of the situation.  But then, the strangest thing happened.  It was like God swung the door wide open but just beyond the open doorway was a narrow, crumbling bridge.  The door was open, but the chances of making it across that bridge were sketchy at best.  This new turn of events left us totally bewildered.  When God initially slammed the door in our faces, it was easy enough to determine His will, but what were we to think now?  The door was opened, and it was evident God opened it, but if it truly is God's will for us to go through that door, would He have placed the crumbling bridge in our path?  Oh, the utter confusion, and that, I'm sorry to say, was the straw that broke the camel's back. . . again (my poor camel!).

I'm ashamed to admit that my confusion quickly turned to anger.  "Lord, why can't you ever make things simple?  Why must we constantly play these games?  You know that we long to do your will, so why can't you just make it known to us without all these mixed signs and signals?"  I wish I could tell you that my accusations and pity party ended there, but unfortunately, they raged on for quite a while.  So much for the grace to accept God's answer!  The biggest problem for me is that we couldn't figure out God's answer, and I hadn't prepared myself for that.  I was totally prepared (and even hopeful) for a "yes," and I believe in my heart that I was even prepared for a "no," though there would have still been some disappointment.  But an indistinguishable answer?  Nope, I wasn't ready for that.  And at that moment, I became like the Israelites in Jeremiah 42.

In this chapter, the Israelites plead with Jeremiah to intercede on their behalf.  They beg him to pray to the Lord and seek direction.  After going their way for so long, they had run into problem after problem, and it seemed they were finally ready to do things God's way.  Look at what they told Jeremiah: Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God. (vs. 6)

"Good or bad.  Whether we like the answer or not.  Whether we get our way or not.  Whether we like the instructions or not.  Whatever God says for us to do, we will do it."  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  So, did they follow through with their promise to God?  Unfortunately, no.

And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the Lord their God, for which the Lord their God had sent him to them, even all these words, Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there. . . So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah. - Jeremiah 42:1-2, 4

So much for that promise!  What they really meant was "If God tells us what we want to hear, we'll obey.  Otherwise, we're going to do what we want."  And I'm afraid that's what I meant to.  I didn't want to imply that.  I didn't intend to break my promise to God.  It seems I just didn't completely understand what I was saying, but I made a promise nonetheless.

Did you know that the Bible teaches that it's better not to make a promise at all than to make one and break it?  Yep, you can find it in the book of Ecclesiastes. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. (Ecc. 5:5)  I would have been better off not to say anything at all than to have told God that I would graciously accept His answer no matter what it was, especially since I know my nature and general attitude toward unmet expectations.

In closing, the best thing we can do is to keep the promises we make, especially those we make to God.  However, if we're not sure it's possible for us to do that, it's better to keep our promises to ourselves and instead utter a word of prayer that God will give us the grace and strength to do the right thing.  After all, we can never go wrong with prayer!

(BTW, we are still praying for the Lord's guidance in this issue as a decision has to be made soon.  I would greatly appreciate your prayers on our behalf.  Thank you!)