I am an epic planner. That must be why I was attracted to solution-oriented life coaching. In coaching your process is: set a goal, visualize, plan, repeat. You repeat the “Four Powerful Planning Questions” until you find a course of action that works. But, don’t be afraid to crumple up your “working” action plan and start over.
We can be easily programmed to believe that strategizing on how to solve a problem can be just as relieving as actually solving it. This process of plan and plan again is about as useful as smoking a cigarette– it chemically produces a very real calming effect on the brain…for about 10 minutes. I was once a chain action planner. It is smoke and mirrors. It makes anxiety cyclical not solved.
When I get stressed I take it out on grid paper. No matter how out of my control the situation may seem, I can measure it all out and apportion it into perfectly drawn boxes and clean lists and feel better. This is manageable. Pinning my burdens to a piece of paper feels…transcendent.
I have journals and journals full of lists. I don’t Dear Diary— my life is documented by bullet point. Grocery lists, budgets, class schedules, reading lists, prayer requests, career paths, list upon list revealing the things that matter most to me in less than 50 words each.
My “list journals” have a full catalogue of my intentions and assertions, the ways in which I planned to apply myself. If I ever wanted to manifest it, it’s on a list. When I look back at them I find that some of the items have check marks, many don’t. Some of those goals I am still pursuing, many I am not, or they are now completely unrecognizable from the road map laid down 1, 5 or 10 years ago.
Here’s a parable for we best-laid planners:
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater ones, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
We often think of “the will” as the bull in the china cabinet of our inner being. A person who is called “strong-willed” is envisioned as ornery and selfish.
Willfulness can be much more subtle than classic stubbornness. It exists even in people generally perceived as gentle or cool. It is found in any person who is committed— unflappably committed—to anything at any time that’s outside of the thing and time God has ordained for them.
Willfulness is not the antithesis of obedience. It is the antithesis of trust.
About two years ago, I felt convicted to stop saying, “I will.”
“I will do this. I will do that. I will never. I will always.”
You will nothing. Just ask my lists.
The nature of the Will:
- The will plans for a desired future outcome.
- We “will” based on the presumption that our plans will yield the desired results. Presumption is based on false assumptions. Like say, the assumption that we know what God wants for us. After all, “this is good, godly, wise and biblical, so it must be God’s will for me to will this.”
- The will is single-mindedness guarded by indignation. It shields its rebellion behind self-righteousness and storied justifications. It is fueled by vain imaginations.
- The application of the will usually entails huge blind spots to self.
- The will feels entitled to the results of its plan.
- Willfulness blames God when its plans don’t bear fruit.
Love the Lord your God with all your strength. That is, with all your will.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Matthew 7:21-23
Cut quickly to 1 Samuel 15:23:
Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. Stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.
King Saul, when this was spoken over him, was convinced that Samuel should congratulate him for doing God’s will. Even though he had blatantly disobeyed, he had deluded himself to the point of thinking that he had obeyed the spirit of God’s instructions when really, even he confessed that his real motivator was maintaining his popularity (1 Samuel 15:1-26). He thought he did something good, but God told Saul, depart from me.
Now notice that according to Matthew 7:23, even doing good and productive things does not make you a good and faithful servant if you are willing it. In fact, such action does not just run afoul, it’s lawlessness.
As the rich man in the parable discovered, “it is appointed unto man once to die.” You either die in your sins at the end of your physical life, or you die to your sins at the beginning of your eternal life. Either way, you only die once. That’s what baptism signifies; for Christians, it is the only death we experience. Who by worrying can add a day to his life? Who by willing can please God?
Your will stores up treasures here, now, and has to have it. Your will worries, hoards and plans for a future that God is not providing for.
But who will inherit what you prepared for yourself in the flesh when your “once” comes? Will you have inherited life incorruptible by dying to self, being born again of the Spirit, and storing up treasures in God’s storehouse?
If your unsubmissive will has anything to say about it, you will die in your sin. And the will of one’s flesh always has something to say.
Get your will to be the first of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under earth, to bow its knee and confess with its tongue that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phillipians 2:10-11)
All the talk your church leaders throw around about putting Jesus on the throne of your heart? That teaching is for the benefit of your will.
Bathe your will in the sufficiency of Christ. His sufficiency takes away your fear of punishment, of imperfection. His sufficiency takes away your fear of lack. His sufficiency satisfies your hunger and thirst. His sufficiency fills up your insufficiency.
Your will can go take a nap.
~unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. in vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat– for He grants sleep to those who He loves. Psalm 127:1-2~