This wouldn’t be the same, but I did the best I could to prepare us for the big day. We always do the color-coordination thing, and this time the colors were black and red. Robbie was excited about his new red shirt. I tried to prepare him, as well, for the sitting by telling him over and over, “Now Robbie, when the photographer tells you to smile, you have to smile real big, okay?” and I would flash a big grin to show him what I meant. I doubt if he had a clue what I was talking about, but he understood the word smile and that Mom was acting goofy, so he’d grin back and then try to hug my head.
The best laid plans, though… I had scheduled our appointment for around two o’clock because that is normally Robbie’s best time of day. He usually sleeps all morning because of all the seizure medicine he takes and then is awake in the afternoon. Wouldn’t you know it, though – Robbie stayed awake all morning and then about the time we wanted to get him ready, he fell asleep. We tried everything to perk him up and get him excited to go, but he pretty much ignored us and tried to go back to sleep. By the time we were loading him into the car I was getting worried. “This is going to be a big bust,” I fretted to Bob.
“He’ll probably perk up when we get there and he sees other people,” Bob replied hopefully.
He was right. Robbie did perk up a bit, but his smile wasn’t as quick and easy as normal, and he was having trouble sitting up in his wheelchair. It was obvious he was very tired and not too excited about being there. There were a few people ahead of us and I hoped he could hang in there until our turn arrived. At last the photographer called us over and our sitting began.
Robbie would not smile. No way, no how. In fact, he pretty much glared at the pretty young photographer, which is so unlike him. Normally, Robbie is so smiley and loves meeting new people – especially pretty young girls! He kept trying to slump in his chair and Bob and I discreetly tried to hold him up and lift his face to look at the camera. The whole thing was becoming a disaster. She took five or six photos of the three of us anyway, and I resigned myself to having to settle for picking the best of the worst for the picture that would go in the directory and be our free 8 x 10.
Finally she asked if we would like to try to get a picture of Robbie by himself. I had hoped for that, but the way it was going, a good outcome looked doubtful. Well, maybe with us standing in front of him, we thought, instead of behind him we could get him to smile. We moved behind the camera and then did everything we could think of, other than stand on our heads, to make that boy smile. Nothing worked until finally Bob got right in his face and started in with his little play routines that he does with Robbie. At last! Robbie’s face lit up and a big smile broke out. Bob jumped out of the way of the camera and success! After that, Robbie continued to smile and we got several good shots.
“Quick! While the mood lasts let’s try to get another one of the three of you!” the photographer said. We hurried back to our positions behind Robbie and we finally got a nice family portrait of the three of us. Whew! She took a few more of Bob and me as a couple and individually and at last our session ended.
Of course, there is a down side to all that. I ended up spending too much money on those nice photos, whereas if Robbie had never smiled we would have probably walked away with only our complimentary 8 x 10. I am happy, though, with how it turned out and I know we will enjoy our new portraits and the memories of that day for many years to come.
Dealing with Robbie sometimes is like dealing with a one-year-old. You can explain something until you’re blue in the face, but he’s just not going to get it. Like a toddler, he wants what he wants now, and nothing else will do. In this case, he just wanted every one to leave him alone and let him to go to sleep. I knew once he saw the pictures he would love them. One of his favorite things to do is to look at family photos, and we have several hanging near his bed and recliner so that he can look at them whenever he wants to. I catch him looking at them all the time, and smiling and nodding his head, and even “talking” to them. Yesterday, though, he just wasn’t getting it that if he just went along with what Mommy and Daddy wanted him to do, he would be so happy in the end with a new family photo to enjoy.
We’re a lot like that sometimes when the Lord is working in our life and we don’t understand what He is doing. We get upset when things don’t go the way we had planned or hoped for. We can’t see the big picture, as He does, and so we don’t know the good things that lie ahead of us if we would simply trust Him and obey. Like a little one, we fuss and complain, and maybe even throw a little temper tantrum because we can’t have it our way.
I can be pretty inflexible sometimes when I have something all planned out and someone else tries to come along and change my “perfect” plans. I have had to learn to step back and think about it and maybe even let go of some of the control that I have so tightly grasped. I egotistically wonder how anyone could have a better plan than me! Ha! I have learned that there are better ways of doing things than my way. Other people are just as smart or creative or talented or skilled as me – or more! And another shocker is that even if my way is the best way, it’s not the only way. It doesn’t hurt me to step aside and let someone else shine. It’s taken a long time for me to learn to surrender control and I have had to go through some humbling experiences at times to learn it.
It took me a long time to learn that I could trust other people with control of my little projects, but thank goodness I learned at a much younger age that I could trust God with control of my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” I can’t see the big picture, but He does and if I can trust Him enough to faithfully and obediently follow Him even when I don’t understand what He is doing, I know He will never lead me wrong and that a better future lies ahead of me than I could ever dream.
The Bible tells us, “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17) Wisdom begins with understanding, and understanding His will begins with knowing His Word. The principles of how He wants us to live our lives are all there. True wisdom also includes obedience. “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me…Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding…” (Deuteronomy 4:5, 6) If we understand but do not obey, the Bible tells us we are simply fools. “The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.” (Proverbs 10:8)
We may not understand the specifics of our Father’s will in our lives, but as trusting and obedient little ones, we need to simply take His hand and walk along side, step by step. He will lead us into a better future. Robbie was having a problem understanding and cooperating with his parents yesterday. Robbie is retarded. What’s our excuse?
They’ve found a house – they think. It’s a lovely house in a beautiful setting with a long list of everything that is right about it and only two things that are strikes against it. One is that it is smaller in square footage than they had hoped for, and the other is the price. The smaller size they think they can work with. As long as they can make it work for their family’s needs (adding two or three more children to the family when the adoption goes through, homeschooling, etc.) they have said all along that they willing to accept less than their ideal, if that is what the Lord wants for them. The price they can handle if this is the right house, but they want to be sure that when they resell in a few years that they will be able to recoup their money. They discovered when they sold their house in Shreveport that they had overpaid for it to begin with, and it almost hurt them in the end. They don’t want that to happen again.
And still, they hesitate. They are not feeling peace about this house yet. “How do I know if we are not feeling that peace because it is not God’s will for us to buy this house,” Julie pondered, “or if this house is God’s will for us, but own human desires, after all, are getting in the way because it doesn’t meet our criteria in these two basic areas?”
“I don’t know what to tell you, Julie,” I said. “You and David will have to work that out between you and the Lord.”
The next day, I was talking to her again and put the phone on “speaker-phone” when Bob joined our conversation. Out of the clear blue sky he suddenly quoted, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” He didn’t talk long, but what he had said stuck in my mind.
Later that evening when Julie and I were talking again (gotta love that unlimited long-distance calling!) she was feeling rather down, and uncertain. “Be not dismayed!” I reminded her. “The Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest!” It almost felt like a new revelation as I said the words. We started laughing and suddenly our spirits were lifted.
I decided to look up Joshua 1:9 in its context. In this passage Moses had died and the children of Israel were still in the wilderness after forty years of wandering. The Lord had chosen Joshua to be their new leader. He told him that He would lead them now into the Promised Land and encouraged him with these words, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:7-9
These words almost seem like a road map to me – guidance in knowing and following God’s will for our lives; not just in certain instances in life, but all the way through our life’s journey. Joshua’s and the children of Israel’s end of the journey was in sight. After forty years of wandering, they would soon cross over the river Jordan and into the Promised Land. Someday we, too, will cross the river Jordan, figuratively speaking, and enter our Promised Land, but in the meantime God has some words of encouragement and a map for us to follow through the journey.
There are no road signs along the way; no neon arrows pointing us in the right direction. There are basic principles, though, that will help us to ascertain God’s will for our lives and make the decisions along the way that are not so clearly laid out in Scripture. We won’t get into a lengthy discussion today on how to know God’s will for your life, but rather look at a few aspects of it that we see in this passage.
First of all, we must know God’s Word in order to know God’s Will. His Will will never be contrary to what His Word tells us. God told Joshua to meditate on the law He had given Moses. Some things are written in black and white in His Word and there can be no confusion over them. When we know what the Bible says it helps us to know the direction for our lives – and the paths not to take. The young girl, for example, who says, “Well, he’s not a Christian yet, but I know it’s God’s will for me to marry him.” is deluding herself. The Bible very clearly tells us not to be yoked together with unbelievers and God’s will can never be something that He has already said is wrong. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” His Word leads us on His path.
Knowing God’s Word does us no good however if we do not choose to obey it. The Lord told Joshua that they were not only to meditate on His law, but also to “observe to do according to all that is written therein.” We must be willing to do His will and “turn not from it to the right hand or to the left.” When we choose to obey He has promised prosperity and success—“for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success..” This is not a promise for pie-in-the-sky riches, necessarily, but rather the rewards that God has planned for our good. In the case of the children of Israel, if they obeyed they would enter the Promised Land, defeat the giants who occupied it and find a home and new life. The Lord will help us defeat the giants in our lives, as well, and live the life He that is His best for us when we seek to do His Will.
The third thing I see here is simply to place our trust in God. “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” He leads. We follow. When we do not know the way, we begin by taking that first small step of faith and trust that He will then show us the next step, and the one after that, and the one after that.. There will be times when we must stand still and wait on the Lord and that, too takes faith, but to hesitate because we are afraid of where He might lead us, or what He might ask of us, or that we may not have what it takes, shows a lack of faith on our part. He has said “withersoever,” or wherever, we go, He is with us. He guides. He provides. He led the children of Israel and took care of the obstacles in their way, and He will do the same for us. Boldly make a decision and implement it, trusting God.
Knowing God’s Word, obeying His Word and trusting Him are the keys to finding God’s will in this passage of scripture. There are other things involved in finding and understanding God’s will for our lives, as well:
Pray fervently and in faith – “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” (James 1:5,6)
Consider which option brings the most glory to God – “…let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ…” (I Peter 4:11)
Seek Christian counsel, being careful of your counselor – “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” (Proverbs 1:5)
Listen to the Holy Spirit’s voice – “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21)
Wait on the Lord – “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him…” (Psalm 37:4,5,7)
Jesus is our example of being obedient in following the will of our Heavenly Father. He said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6:38) and “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
Joshua 1:9 will always hold a special place in my heart. We were moving back to Colorado after two years of being on deputation to raise support as home missionaries. We were finally about to embark on our church-planting ministry after many years of preparation. The trip back to Colorado began roughly with a breakdown of the trailer we were pulling. After two days of delays trying to make the repairs and spending all the money we had set aside for setting up our new home on the repairs, we finally got back on the road late in the day and tried to make up a little of the lost time by driving through the night. Right around midnight the weather got very bad and we began hearing tornado warnings on the radio. They were tracking the tornado, and announcing where it was, but our problem was, we had no idea where we were in relationship to it. It was pitch black outside, pouring rain and then hailing and we couldn’t see a thing. When we finally realized the tornado was upon us, it was too late. We pulled over and tried to get out of the car to run for a ditch, but we couldn’t get the doors open. The kids were afraid and crying; we were afraid and praying out loud as we held on to one another; and the car and overloaded trailer were shaking and bouncing all over the place.
It was finally over a few minutes later and we were alive and unhurt, but by that time we were so physically and mentally drained that we couldn’t go any further. We got off at the next exit and found a motel. We walked into our room and the first thing I saw was an open Bible on the nightstand. Someone had opened it to Joshua 1 and underlined verse 9. “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” It was just the confirmation and balm to our weary souls that we needed. Though the Enemy might assail us and try to prevent us from serving the Lord, God Himself went before us and with us. That was 23 years ago and I have never forgotten the peace and exhilaration I felt that God had left that verse for us just when we needed it most. The wonder that we had walked into the exact motel, the exact room where that opened Bible awaited us. God is so good!
I have no doubt that Julie and David will figure out what the Lord’s will is in this matter before them. They are strong prayer warriors and their number one desire is to be obedient to God wherever and however He leads them. We shall see how it all works out, and may God be glorified. The best is yet to come!
It is really astounding to know that long before we were born God had our lives already planned out for us. I Timothy 1:9 has been a favorite verse of mine for thirty-five years. It says, “Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” (KJV) That plan for our lives is by His grace alone and for His purpose—and He made it before He had even created the world! Amazing, isn’t it?
Jeremiah 29:11 is another favorite verse of many, including me. It says, “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (NLT) God sees our life journey from the moment of our conception to the end of our time here on earth—the whole path from beginning to end, all at once, without the twists and turns and obstacles that obscure our view. We can rest in the knowledge that through the quicksand, the thorns, the desert and storm He walks beside us toward the bright future and hope He has in store for us.
Back in 1996 I wrote a poem about the plan for my life—how I might have planned it if I could, and how God planned it instead. I don’t remember the exact circumstances under which I wrote it, but we must have been going through a rough time. A couple years ago Julie came across it, had it framed and gave it to me for Mother’s Day. I cried when I read it. It seemed even more significant to my life now than when I’d originally written it.
If I had planned my own life
I’d never worry about bills,
We’d have the cash for fun things
And to buy those little frills.
Our house would be so lovely
And we’d drive a newer car.
I’d love to give to everyone
And travel near and far.
But I’m not the one who planned my life.
God planned it for my best.
He knew the every need we’d have
And provided every test
To walk by faith and trust in Him
For our daily needs.
You know, He’s never let us down.
He provides, protects and leads.
If I had planned my own life
I think I’d like to be a writer,
Or have some special ministry
To make this dark world brighter.
But no great work have I,
No audience to thrill;
I change diapers, cook and clean
In a corner dark and still.
But God who planned my life for me
Knew that no ministry is small
When it’s done to glorify the Lord
And in answer to His call.
Although my job is humble
And the lives I touch are few,
When done as unto Him I’m blessed
And those near me are blessed, too.
If I had planned my own life
I’d be a perfect “ten” –
Lithe and lean and lovely,
And never watch my weight again.
I’d eat anything I wanted,
I’d fit in anything I tried.
I’d grow old so very gracefully
And be lovely ‘til I died.
But God planned my life out His way.
He made my body and my mind.
He knew the strength and discipline
And self-control that I must find.
And so I count my blessings
For in ages past He planned
His very best for me,
And I’m safe within His hands.
© 1996 Cynthia S. Griffith