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Past Disappointed: When people don’t act like you think they should

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.” 2 John 1:4

These words—written by the apostle John either to a specific woman or to one of the churches with which he was affiliated—grabbed my heart this morning and nearly brought me to tears.  I think the word some is what did it.  Only some of this woman’s children or church’s members were walking in the truth, but John was able to experience great joy anyway.  

John didn’t need everyone to be walking in the truth to be able to rejoice in what God was doing in some lives.  What faith to be able to let go of what isn’t and rejoice instead in what is! 

Of course, John chose to focus on God, not people, and that makes things a little easier.

GOD IS SOVEREIGN.  In Isaiah, God tells us, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please…What I have said, that will I bring about: what I have planned, that will I do” (46:10-11).

The Enemy would love for us to forget this fact, so he continually shows us what isn’t (at least not yet)—especially in people—to stir fear, worry, doubt, anger, bitterness, self-pity, and arrogance in our hearts and create distance between us and the people we are called to love.

Honestly? I wish the Enemy wasn’t so smart.  He’s been pretty successful lately. 

Even so, God is working out all things—the effects of both our obedience and our disobedience—into conformity with the purpose of His will, which is His glory (Eph 1:11).  Lost people might stay lost longer than we hoped they would, and saved people might mistakenly serve the Enemy’s purposes from time to time because they, like the rest of us, are limited in their understanding and continue to wrestle against the law of sin at work in their bodies (Rom 7: 21-25), but God is bigger than anyone’s resistance or failings. 

No matter what, God has promised that He will be glorified, so if our deepest desire lines up with His, we can rest easy knowing it will happen whether or not it happens the way we wish it would.  We don’t have to get mired down in fear, worry, doubt, anger, bitterness, self-pity, or arrogance.  We are free, instead, to walk in the peace that comes from knowing God is in control and that He never fails.  We, like John, can spend our time and energy looking for, celebrating, and heralding evidence of God’s amazing grace at work around us and so encourage our brothers and sisters whose hearts have been discouraged. We can proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ with confidence, knowing our words, attitudes, and behavior are not actively calling its validity into question.

If, however, our deepest desires do not line up with God’s and we are more concerned with people being “good,” treating us “right,” or making us proud than we are with their walking in truth for the sole purpose of God’s ultimate glory, then we are in trouble, mainly because we are all still learning to walk in the truth ourselves and tend to superimpose our imperfect understanding of what walking in the truth means and/or looks like over God’s perfect definition and vision.  Volunteer slaves to our own self-righteousness, we lose sight of God’s ultimate goal and what He is doing in the world around us, appoint ourselves strategists and judges, and weigh ourselves down with burdens we were never meant to carry.  We let the Enemy chain us up and then blame and lash out at others for our error.  We become the very stumbling blocks that keep people from walking in the truth like we wish they would.  

So, so sad!  So, so common.

Lord, don’t let that be us!  Forgive us for our lack of faith.  You are sovereign.  You don’t need our help, but you do require our obedience, so please show us how to walk in your truth and use us as instruments of your grace.  We leave the rest in your very capable hands.  Thank you for the some and please grant others the grace of repentance.  Be glorified, Father, and we will rejoice, even when we don’t see or understand what you are doing.  Amen.   

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