In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
There is an old joke that says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” It’s a simple jest at our plans and desires vs. God’s divine plan for our lives. And though it is meant to be humorous, it holds within it a very important misunderstood lesson. Repeatedly, throughout the Holy Scriptures and from the writings of our Church Father’s we are taught to trust God and pray for His Divine will in our lives. The first prayer many of us learn as children, is the Lord’s Prayer, where we boldly state, “your will be done on heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1 RSV). This however, poses 2 questions – 1) What is the will of God? and 2) what about our own free will?
Often times we may argue that God’s will is impossible to know or it’s not practical. What about my free will and my ability to choose and plan a life how I see fit? I want us to think about our parents. What did our parents want from us? And for those who are parents, what do you want from you children? Nothing! Parent’s do not want anything from their children, rather, they want something for them. Parents want their children to succeed; Parents want their children to set goals and achieve those goals with little to no pain or failure; Parents want their children to grow up in love, with joy, and to mature as understanding and hope-filled individuals no matter where they go, what they do or when they get there. Yet, the reality is, that no matter how much we may love our children, that does not mean our children will listen to us, or understand that we want what is best for them, nor does it guarantee they will return the love; Life is full of failures, and sickness, and brokenness. However, we as parents, each of our parents, as best as they could, continued to love us, tend and care for us and want what is best for us in hopes that one day we, their children, would understand. Our parent’s will was and is not something from us but for us. How much more is this true for the Divine will of our Heavenly Father?
Knowing God’s will is not about knowing what God wants from us but instead, to know the will of God is to understand what it is that He wants for us. What God wants for us is the same and more as what our earthly parent’s want – for us to succeed, to grow, to mature, to learn, to plan and achieve. To have a life full of love, hope, faith – free of failure, sickness and pain; To have a life in communion with Him. However, because we live in this sinful world, because we choose to turn our back on God’s love by ignoring or never even learning His commandments and teachings – we fail, we fall into despair, we get sick, we misunderstand what God’s will is and ultimately, we break communion with Him. The reason this is so important to understand is because it ultimately also answers the question of our own free will.
We are free to choose to accept God’s love and we are free to plan out our life. God isn’t going to decide whether or not we should be a lawyer, priest, writer or actor. We are free to plan our life, to set goals and to work towards them. What we often make the mistake of thinking or doing is cheapening our Christian faith by limiting God’s will to daily tasks – how does God want me to vote? who does God want me to be when I grow up? How does God want me to dress? Does God want me to be a vegetarian? Why doesn’t God help me pass this math test? Why isn’t God helping me get into college or get the promotion I want? Why doesn’t God feed the beggars in the streets? Etc. When we think these are what defines God’s will, we miss the grand picture, the purpose of what our faith is. God gives us each day but we decide what to do with the moments in those days!
My dears, just like in our physical life, it is the same with our spiritual life, we are free to choose. We are free to choose the life we live and recognizing God’s will is in how we live that life as His children. Meaning do we understand what God wants for us? Do we understand that whether we fail in this life or succeed, God’s love remains the same for us? Do we recognize that our worth is not in what we achieve but in how much we love each other in return? It is not that God doesn’t care about our success but it is up to us to work for it. It is not that God doesn’t care about the beggar in the street, but it is up to us to care also. That is why today’s Gospel reading has 2 parts. One is about a man who gathers up all his crops and stores them and builds bigger containers to store more. However, God comes to him and tells him, “‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.’”
And the second part continues as Christ instructs us not to worry about our lives because God will take care of us, “And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” In other words, all those things we think that give value to our life, all those titles, and earthly successes, only serve us here and they hold no eternal value. It’s not that we shouldn’t work hard to achieve our goals here in this life, but rather, what are we choosing to truly value? Our we valuing our lives only or do we value everyone’s life? Is our diploma valuable or the education and experience we get along the way? Is our house valuable, or the place we feel safe, where we gather with friends and family and build memories? Is our Church building valuable, or the home where we come together to learn about the Word of God? Is our age valuable, or the life we have lived in the time we have had? Is our money valuable, or the ability to help others in need? Is the soil we stand on valuable, or are the history, the song, the food, and the people?
My dears, the old joke about making God laugh truly is a misunderstanding because it misses the fact that God is always joyful when we are with Him. He is joyful not because He get something from us, but because He sees us acknowledging and recognizing His love and will for us. And when we recognize it we begin living it by loving and caring for what is truly valuable. Therefore, yes, let us tell God our plans, tell Him all we want to achieve and how grateful we are for His love and guidance in this life. Because when we are telling God our plans, we are in communion with Him, we are speaking with Him, which means we are praying to Him.
Therefore, as St. Paul teaches, let us pray unceasingly (1Thess. 5:17) and our loving Heavenly Father, like a loving parent will smile and embrace us in His love. In the beautiful words of St. Gregory of Narek, Lord “You are the potter, and I, the clay, show me the sweetness of Your will. Amen!”