“Inshallah.” During my time living in Turkey I heard this word, meaning “if Allah wills,” or “as Allah wills it,” uttered casually hundreds of times by many Turks in an array of circumstances. Although it seemed to be largely a colloquial expression (think, “stuff happens” or “let’s hope so”) more than an actual faith-based assertion, it was still telling of the attitude the Turks had towards the concept of divine intervention, fate, chance or whatever one might call it. At the core it was a cognitive resignation to the events and circumstances outside the control of the individual, much like when Christians say, “if the Lord wills it” or “it was the Lord’s will.”
I have found in my own life that I am disposed to acquiescing to God’s will in a very casual, non-faith-based way. I’m of the Calvinist persuasion theologically and, therefore, have a high view of God’s sovereignty and His providential control over all things. I get it, I accept it, and I “roll” with it. It helps me to make sense of the world I live in regardless of the goodness or badness of any given situation. Yet, in spite of the far-reaching realities of what I believe and the effect such beliefs should have on me, I too often find that my attitude toward God’s sovereign will is more of resignation than of joy.
I believe there is one major contributing factor – prayerlessness. Philip Ryken said, “In prayer we surrender our will to God’s will. Prayer is not a way of getting God to do what we want him to do; rather, it is a way of submitting to God’s will in all things.” (Ryken, 2003, p. 19) If our will is not in conformity God’s, then God’s will will often be contrary to what we desire and long for. This, of course, results in joyless resignation rather than joyful agreement. We go along with God’s will, sometimes grudgingly, because we know we can’t thwart it and we might as well not “kick against the goads” and resist it. I can say from personal experience that this is not a pleasant place to live.
This type of mindset can lead to many dangerous things in a Christian’s life – legalism, ineffectiveness in evangelism because of a lack of joy, fatalism leading to spiritual and evangelical paralysis and more. However, the antithesis to this resigned submission to God’s will is to receive with joy all things because we believe and trust the promises of Romans 8:28-30. It’s certainly possible to believe “all things work together for good” as a resigned believer. I have done it for many years. However, there’s no joy in it.
Imagine Eeyore the donkey saying, “Well, I guess I just have to believe this will work out for my good since God said it would,” versus Joy, from the movie Inside Out, saying, “This is totally going to be awesome because God is in control and this is His will!” Both ways of thinking assert faith in the promises of God, both trust that God’s will is best and will ultimately lead to “good” for the Christian, but the difference is in the attitude; and, I would argue that the attitude we have toward God’s will is primarily affected by the health of our prayer life.
John Piper once said in a sermon,
One of the clearest demonstrations that the pursuit of our joy and the pursuit of God’s glory are meant to be one and the same pursuit is the teaching of Jesus on prayer in the gospel of John. The two key sayings are John 14:13 and 16:24. The one shows that prayer is the pursuit of God’s glory. The other shows that prayer is the pursuit of our joy. In John 14:13 Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” In John 16:24 he says, “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. And the chief act of man by which the unity of these two goals is preserved is prayer. Therefore, Christian Hedonists who pursue in God’s glory the fullness of their own joy will above all be people of prayer. Just like the thirsty deer buckles down to drink at the brook, so the characteristic posture of the Christian Hedonist is on his knees. (Piper, 1983)
I write this as a “resigned believer” who is in great need of a reformed and revitalized prayer life. I write this as a way or remembrance of what I believe the Lord has revealed to me today as well as a means of hopefully encouraging any other “resigned believers” out there who long for the “joy of our salvation” to be restored.
One thought on “Resignation vs. Joyful Submission”
Great point on accepting God’s will. I tend to just accept things with resignation because while I know God knows what is best for me, I often don’t see (if I ever do) why until time has past. Right now I am having to trust Him with a job, but need to be reminded that even if it’s not the job I wanted, God has a purpose in providing it.