‘God said…but it didn’t work out, so was it really God or were you hearing things because God is not a liar…’
I have heard many versions of the above phrase spewed inconsiderately and in a ‘what are you saying now?’ way to Christians, who perhaps shared that God instructed them to do something. That ‘something’ could have been anything, but it was ‘good’, it was honourable and would seemingly have brought glory to God.
What happens when that thing; albeit a relationship – from courtship to marriage, a career, a university course, anything that you believed God told you to pursue, flops?
What do you say to the people who were rooting for you? How do you deal with the overwhelming feeling of shame because your failings have satisfied those that were waiting for your downfall? How do you deal with the feeling of doubt for anything ‘God instructs you to do’? How do you deal with the lack of trust in your ability to hear from God clearly? How do you deal with the feeling of being ‘let down by God’ because He is sovereign so He knew this wouldn’t work out…?
A few points to address the matter:
1. God’s instruction is perfect and infallible (never failing, incapable of being wrong). However, He trusts His instructions with imperfect humans who are prone to failure. Therefore, we should never discredit the instruction of God because man failed to execute it. God’s word is perfect and will not return to Him void. He is not the author of confusion.
2. God said ‘do XYZ’…but how have YOU responded to His instruction? How have you in your human wisdom interpreted it? Do you think your way of doing this is better? Or have you listened to a twisted version of God’s instruction?
Jonah is a perfect example of this (see Jonah Challenge). God gave Him an instruction to go to Nineveh to send a word for the people to repent. Jonah thought that God was being too lenient and so he took matters into his own hands and disobeyed God’s instruction. Things didn’t work out for Him because his disobedience led him to be gourmet pounded yam for a whale.
Adam and Eve – They were given an instruction by God not to eat from the tree of good and evil. This instruction was twisted by the devil and Adam and Eve forsook God’s perfect instruction for a warped version.
Abraham and Sarah – God told Abraham that He will be the Father of Nations, but when God’s promise appeared to tarry, they took matters into their own hands. With the rationale of ‘helping’ God – Abraham had a child with Sarah’s maid…the consequence is evident in our time today. Yet, God still fulfilled His promise.
3. God is all knowing, yet He is not a dictator. He gave us free will to make decisions for ourselves. Our prayer should be, Lord, equip me with everything that I need; wisdom, resources, patience and a sound mind to make the right decisions.
4. Is it really God’s instruction or your own desires? Sometimes we confuse our own desires for the voice of God. For example, the desire to be married isn’t wrong, the desire to be successful in all that we do isn’t wrong, but our attitudes towards those things can be way off God’s standards. Hence we flop, because we are yet to have the character that will sustain our marriages, we are yet to have the fruit of the Spirit that will keep us in places of prominence. Other times, because our desires are so strong and the enemy knows our desires, He can send counterfeits and ‘confirmations’ to push us outside of God’s tempo.
5. God can instruct us to do things that defy all logic and because of our limited understanding we sometimes think that there is a better way.
I’ve been studying Elisha recently and in 2 Kings 5 there is an account of the mighty King Naaman who also suffered from leprosy (a contagious skin disease). On hearing about Prophet Elisha’s great power from God, Naaman went to Israel to seek healing. He stood at Elisha’s door, but Elisha simply sent a messenger with this message; “Go and wash yourself seven times in Israel’s Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.” BUT…Naaman became angry and retorted, “I thought he would come out to meet me! – I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord his God and heal me! Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.
Naaman’s officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’” So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as Elisha had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed!
Another Biblical example which is in the book of Hosea. Hosea was an upright man who God told to marry a prostitute. In this day and age, the majority of us would have criticised Hosea for marrying Gomer, the hashtag #TheseHoesAintLoyal (pardon the offensive example) would have been everywhere. We would have said that Hosea was crazy and certainly didn’t hear from God.
We don’t know what God is up to or what He has told a person. Our job is to trust God even when it doesn’t make sense and to do the things He has instructed us to do, even when it sounds silly. For those who are prone to making harsh comments on a decision someone has made based on what they say God has told them, as long as the instruction doesn’t go against His word, your job is to be quiet and pray about the things you don’t understand – pray for them!
6. Sometimes we tag God to something that we’ve already established without consulting Him. Understand that God is not obligated to bless what he did not initiate.
Encouragement for those who are feeling the pain and shame of ‘God said…but it didn’t work out’.
It may LOOK like ‘God said…but it didn’t work out’. But as long as you are still alive, even when it looks like things have gone pear-shaped, let this be your hope and anthem: ‘God has not finished with me yet and He is faithful to His promises for my life’!
The story of Joseph is a perfect example (see Joseph Challenge), He had a ‘God-dream’, but His reality in the years to come did not reflect the dream…it looked like ‘God said He would rule over his brothers…but it didn’t work out’. Despite what it may look like, be patient, trust God’s tempo, what He said will happen – WILL happen. People will mock you, people will ask where is your God? People will say that you didn’t really hear God. But just like Joseph, you will be in a position where you will feed those that once mocked you. What you go through will serve others.
One more example, I along with many other children of divorced parents are still a product of ‘God said…but it didn’t work out’. God definitely told my parents to get married…but it didn’t work out, not because His instruction was flawed – but because of the recipients. What God gives is never defective. The institution of marriage is not defective – it is the people inside that allow for dysfunction to take root. However, without my parents coming together as instructed by God in the first place, I would not exist neither would my awesome siblings, I would not be here writing this blog.
God can still bring good out of our failures. His mercy is greater than our mistakes. So yes, there are times in life where it looks like God’s promise and instruction is far from our realities. Sometimes, we move outside of His word and things don’t work out. However, I encourage you to submit yourself entirely to Him, die to your fleshly desires, don’t move in haste, and wait on Him…it may look like things have flopped, BUT God has not finished with you yet!
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. – Habbakuk 2:3 (KJV)
Reference scriptures: Numbers 23:19-20 | Habbakuk 2:3 | Psalm 37:5 | 2 Kings 5 | Psalm 42 | Romans 8:28