The Disingenuous Doctrine Of God’s Perfect Will – Why Your Failure Doesn’t Ruin His Reputation

Just a few years ago, I had no idea what Gods perfect will for my life was. Like most Christians, I prayed about it a lot. I listened to sermons on it in church, and read books about how to find out what it was. One thing I do know, actually trying to do Gods will is really confusing.

It’s the whole waiting on God thing that does my head in. You know what you’d like to do, all indicators point to you needing to do this thing, but everyone says oh, just wait on God. Which is a Christian way of saying don’t rush it. Because you might fail, and then God will get a bad reputation.

Because failing at something is the worst thing a Christian can do.

Hm. I happen to think there’s two kinds of failure. There’s the failure you get when what you tried to do doesn’t work. And then there’s the failure you get when you don’t try in the first place.

I know why Christians say its way better to wait and see what God might do supernaturally than it is to just do something about it themselves. Its because we’ve believed if we rush in to take control, and things go wrong, someone will have to be held responsible for the failure. And God must never be blamed when things go wrong, because God is the God of rightness, perfection and success. Things must always turn out well, because Success = God was in it,  Failure = God wasn’t. And getting what you want, albeit by whatever spiritual-passive aggressive methods you prefer, definitely indicates that God was involved in the whole thing from woe to go. Failure means you must have done whatever it was via this weird thing called in your own strength.

I don’t know what that phrase even means anymore. Christians use it a lot, but it’s so ambiguous that it can mean anything from finding your own parking space to deciding whether or not to have chemotherapy. Oh, don’t even try to fight cancer/have a baby/enter into ministry/publish your book/find a partner/get a new job/change your abusive husband/give up your addiction in your own strength, just let God do it. Hmmm.

Funny thing is, I have seen God do all these things. And in every instance, He used other people using their own strength helping the first person with the problem when He did them. Sometimes He actually had to, because the person with the problem refused to do anything about it themselves. They were too afraid of being accused of doing it in their own strength.

Is doing something in our own strength really something bad? Is using our own intelligence, physical resources or capacity really the opposite to God using His? What if our intelligence, physical resources and capacity, and Gods, are actually the same thing?


What it all boils down to is the fact that many Christians believe the worst thing that can happen to them is failure. What is failure? Anything you said God told you to do that didn’t happen. It’s better to wait on God to do it supernaturally, and for nothing to ever happen at all, than to try and make something happen only to have it fall apart. Then, if nothing happens, we can attribute that to Gods will, and say He didn’t want it to happen in the first place. It’s not our fault. And we can’t be accused of failing. Phew.

Small print – because we never actually tried.

Look, I’m all for the supernatural, and I believe in miracles. Point in case – a few years ago, my husbands business failed and we were $20,000 in debt. We both prayed that God would help us, and that was a lot of praying, right there. We worked for a year to satisfy the creditors, in our own strength, and managed to repay half the debt. Then one day, God gave us the other $10,000. Gave it to us. Well, when I say He gave it to us, I had to do something to go get it. Here’s what happened.

One morning I got up and had an urge to take the dog for a walk on the beach. It was raining. Go, said God. OK, I said. I put the dog’s leash on and started walking. Not that way, said God, go the other way. But it’s further. Just go, said God. OK, I said. I got the to beach, in the rain, and started walking in the direction I usually did. Not that way, said God, go the other way. You must be joking, I said. Just do it, said God. As I walked up the beach in the opposite direction to the way I usually went, I looked down and saw something unusual. Unusual, but strangely familiar. Pick that up, said God, pick that up, and take it home. That right there is exactly what you think it is.

What was it? A huge lump of ambergris. It took me a couple of months, but eventually I sold it to the highest bidder – for $10,000.

Hilarious, don’t you think, that God helped us, not by having someone forgive our debt, or write us an anonymous cheque – but by giving us a piece of dried up old vomit? Did we fail, well, yeah. Did He help us? He sure did. Did we wait around sulking until then? Heck no. We paid off $10,000 at $200 a week, which was 20% of our combined income. And we were committed to paying the lot back that way. Did God decide to cut us a break because we were willing to do whatever it took? I have no idea. I do know that when I told the man I sold the ambergris to, that I considered my finding it was a miracle from God, he just kept right on counting out my cash and answered drily, “Yeah, I hear that a lot.”

God lets us do things in our own strength, and He doesn’t get mad when we do. After all, what on earth does He have to lose? Doing things in our own strength makes us strong. God also lets us make mistakes, and doesn’t mind when we fail, because it makes us wise. God also lets us do things that may or may not be His will, because that makes us interesting. God wants us to be strong, wise and interesting, because when you think about it, that would mean we are just like Him. And God knows – literally – how much we’re always rabbiting on about that.

When it comes to choices, decisions and consequences, don’t worry so much about this weird, passive-aggressive idea of Gods will. A very wise person once said to me that Gods will isn’t like a cattle chute a cow is forced to shuttle down – it’s like the huge, green paddock that she grazes in. Great advice. Loosen up. Have a go. Two things – just listen, He’s speaking. And stay alive – you’re not much good to anyone dead. Otherwise, go for it. What do you have to lose?

I know what God’s will for my life is now. It’s to be alive. To be alive means to sometimes fail, sometimes be hurt and sometimes fall down. Staying safe and getting things right, trying to keep to narrow idea of existential perfection isn’t being alive – it’s something else. Maybe madness. Maybe even death. My advice? Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, to fail, to try things out, because more than he wants you to be safe, perfect or right, God wants you to be strong, smart and infinitely interesting, because funnily enough, that would make you exactly like Him.

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