by Valerie Westmoreland
Growing up in church, I often heard the phrase, “God’s perfect will”. It was most often used in discussing topics dealing with separation, urging young people not to destroy God’s “Plan A” for their life. A great emphasis was put on doing right, making good choices, not running with the wrong crowd, etc… I constantly felt that if I failed to measure up to all these standards, I might find myself outside of God’s perfect will.
This idea would usually be followed up with another common church expression: “We serve a God of second chances.” It was presented as an assurance that there would be a “Plan B” or “Plan C”, etc… if I were to fail at the original plan. The problem for me was this: I am a perfectionist. I was not interested in second best. I wanted God’s perfect will. So, I lived my life in an effort to measure up to those standards, and yet, I constantly felt overwhelmed and discouraged. But why? After all, Christ promised in Matthew 11:30, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” It didn’t make any sense? Even though I was His child, I felt like I was carrying the weight of the whole world.
Please, don’t misunderstand. I do see the need for these warnings. As a Sunday school teacher myself, I have also urged young people to live for Christ; after all, every action DOES have an equal & opposite reaction. You are the one who will live with the consequences of your own choices. I believe God wants His children to be people of good morals with good character; I believe that it is His desire for others to see His love and grace through our lives. I believe that it is imperative for Christians to walk with God and maintain a close relationship with Him. However, even if we are doing all of these things, we are going to make mistakes. We are human. While it is true that one poor decision can forever alter the course of our lives, I do not believe it is possible for our choices to ever completely destroy God’s perfect will. I know. I know. I can already see the eye rolls… but please, bear with me for a minute.
Romans 8:28 states: “And we know all things work together for good to them that love God…” This verse has been quoted to me at some of the worst moments of my life. Sometimes my situation was due to a poor decision I’d made. Other times, it was some other person’s choice that impacted my life; occasionally, it was a loss that shook me to my very core. How could any of those things possibly ever be defined as good? If you will read that verse carefully, God never said those things would BE good; but rather, that they would work together FOR good. Think about the report cards you got in school. If you made three A’s and one F, you likely ended up with either a B or C average, which is a good grade. Does that mean the F was a good grade? Absolutely not! However, it did work together with the A‘s for a good overall grade. That is precisely what the Lord means in this Scripture. He does not mean that your darkest moments are great, but He promises that He is working all parts of your life together for good.
Now, I know you think I’ve gotten off track… “What does this have to do with God’s will?” you might ask. Everything! You see, since God promised to work all parts of my life for good, then that means He knew all the trials I would face BEFORE He even started drawing up His original plan. He knew all the times I would fall flat on my face and all the times my heart would be so broken that I would question His design. Did I make the choice? Certainly! Yet because He is God, He is omniscient. He already knew precisely which choices I would make, and He incorporated not only all of my strengths into His design, but also my quirks, my insecurities, and even my failures. He had already given me the gift of His grace before He drew out that original draft. To say that God needs a Plan B, implies that He can be surprised by my decisions or that He is capable of making mistakes. Do you truly believe He needed 3, 15, or 47 extra plans- just in case?
So much pressure was taken off my shoulders when I realized that I cannot ruin God’s perfect will. While my choices could affect my testimony, my relationships, my job, and my ministry; they could not alter the plan God had laid out for me. Christ knew all along what I would choose, and had already made the necessary provisions for my poor choices. I no longer felt it was my life’s goal to make sure my life fit into God’s plan. Christ had tailored His will specifically for me, and all I had to do was simply abide in Him.
John 15:4, “…the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” I had been trying my entire life to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit by keeping up appearances: dressing right, talking right, walking right, etc… What I had not been doing, was abiding in Christ. I had not been trusting in His grace. The grace He had already freely given to me. I had trusted Christ with my eternity; yet I felt like I had to earn His will. I was exhausting myself, working tirelessly to obtain something I already had!
No matter where you find yourself in life, if you are still breathing, God is working His plan for you; and it’s not some second rate, back-up plan. It’s a plan covered in His blood and His grace, perfectly designed for YOU!
I’m 63 yrs. old and the only place I have ever heard this taught is in the fundamentalist baptist church in which I grew up. It messed me up for years, until I found a church that taught grace. I have come to realize that He uses us where we are in our walk with Him IF we are willing to be used.
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BTW, Valerie….Loved your post about this. It was spot on for what I have learned over the years. Thank you for saying it.
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Thank you. It was a long, hard journey for me to retrain my thought processes on this subject. My hope was that this would encourage those who are where I was or who have been there before to continue living for Christ. I am so glad that we serve a God of forgiveness, grace, and love!
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