” Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain’; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that'” (James 4:13-15).
This passage from James the Apostle can almost seem silly. Should we really preface every statement of intent with “God willing?” I used to ask myself this question. That changed in the summer of 2002.
I was a new mom, struggling to adjust to sleepless nights and no time to myself, when it became clear that I would have to return to work. Never in my life had I considered being a working mother. In fact, I’d had many discussions in which I had said, “There is absolutely no way I would work when I had small kids.” But circumstances were against me.
Eating my words
Going back to work was perhaps the most difficult thing I have ever done.
As I read Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, I had to face the fact that God’s will–at least His permissive will–could be different from mine on such a major issue. I had to let go of my will. When I did, I found a measure of peace.
From that day to this, I have added “God willing” to my words about the future, in both large and small matters. The phrase is not an empty cliché. It is the result of a hard-fought battle between myself and God. (God won.) I say these words to remind myself Who is really in control, to prepare my heart for any future divergence in our plans, God’s and mine.
More recent struggles to accept God’s will
So, last school year, when I was struggling to survive educating kids at three different levels and caring for an infant, I didn’t have to eat my words when I considered putting the older boys in school. When friends and family had asked me if I were going to homeschool through grade twelve, I had always said, “God willing.” I had acknowledged publicly and in my heart that it was up to Him. I was not ultimately in control.
I fought through to the end of the school year. I thought seriously about the changes I could make to our school day. Should I buy a boxed curriculum, instead of creating my own? Could I make it through another year? Ultimately, I chose to continue homeschooling. The largest change I made–along with always having one child care for or play with J while I taught the others–was to be more flexible with my agenda for the day. It was the same lesson (pun intended) applied on a smaller scale. What was God’s will for the present? Was it different from mine?
It’s hard to fight against God’s will. Just ask St. Paul. You will always lose. You can let go of your will and be at peace with God, or you can hold on to it and put your soul in danger.
God willing, I will remember this lesson for the rest of my life.
Share with us: When has it been hardest for you to give up your will? How did you manage it?