Recently I delivered several specialty windows to a house under construction on Mercer Island. I wasn’t required to install, so I put each window beneath the correct opening. I could have left then—I had fulfilled my duty. But I had some extra time in my schedule (which was unusual) and I have a long-term happy relationship with this contractor: I volunteered to use my time between appointments to put the windows in.
There was no pin nailer on site, so I grabbed my tools from the van and we went to work shimming the first window to the correct height for the best edge reveal then carefully pressing the stops into place to hold the window permanently with a few well-placed nails. I took my time and shot nails into each stop, slowly and deliberately angling the gun before pulling the trigger every time.
One nail left to go, way up at the top of the window. It was a bit of a reach from the ground, but not too bad. I assessed my angle, depressed the safety, and pulled the trigger. Silver streaks shot like lightning through the top of the window. I had just broken the window using my own nail gun.
You’ve experienced situations like this: One moment, all is well; the next, things are changed forever. Fender benders, broken dishes, and the “send” button on an unfinished e-mail all follow this pattern. Words you spoke you wish you could take back. An image on your screen you wish you hadn’t looked at. The tricycle you didn’t see when you backed out of the driveway.
I looked at the silver lines that shot through my window and groaned inside. This wasn’t just an accident; this was an accident I had volunteered for. I didn’t have to be here. I could be somewhere else, taking a much-needed break in a very long day. I looked at those cracks in the glass and I saw dollars and wasted work and another trip to deliver another window, this time without remuneration.
You could argue that the nail did exactly what the nail was supposed to do. Granted, it might have hit a hard spot in the wood and diverted slightly, but very likely I just erred in estimating the angle on that last nail. It was at the top of the window . . . I was reaching . . . I made a mistake.
So was that “natural law” simply taking it’s course? Yes and no. Yes, because that nail did exactly as it was instructed by my hand and the nail gun. No, because there is absolutely nothing—not even my mistakes—not even my sins—not even other people’s sins against me—that is outside the purview of the purpose and plan of God.
But then, if God really was in charge—and in theory I believed He was—then I could only believe that my mistake did not constitute a mistake for God. He hadn’t blinked just as I pulled the trigger to shoot the final nail. This too was from the hand of God and He was using it to do something good in my life; He was using it to conform me to the image of His Son.
I found myself at a crossroads: I could resign to my fate and hope for the best, I could resist my fate and get angry about what I could not change, or I could reject the false idea of fate altogether and trust the sovereign God who is my loving Father.
Usually we have one of these three responses when things go wrong:
• Resignation (“Que sera sera”—what will be will be)
• Resistance (futile fighting against facts)
• Trust (Remembering that fate is a myth and that God’s providence is the great reality.)
Trusting God is an action as deliberate an action as carefully angling a nail gun when shooting stops around an expensive window because it’s calculated on the basis of truth—and it actively takes personal responsibility for what I can do. I can’t fix the problem or rewind the tape. I can’t make the problem disappear by thinking good thoughts. But I can put my hand in my Father’s hand and trust Him.
How can I trust God when everything has gone wrong? After all, He could have kept me from shooting that nail into the window. Remember, rejecting fate is deliberate action based on truth. Trust isn’t primarily an emotional response because I feel good about a situation or because I understand how God is working it all out.
Trust is calculated on reality—and it’s displayed in giving thanks. Strangely enough thanksgiving is one of the chief demonstrations of faith when things go wrong. That’s because we are resting our hope on the character of God, not on our circumstance; we’re planting our feet on the solid ground of God’s promise, not on the sand of visible things.
I could deliberately thank God. Instead of just seeing dollars when I looked at those cracks, I could see the hand of my Father working for some yet unknown purpose to do me good.
Thank You, Lord. Not just thank You that it wasn’t worse. (I didn’t break all the windows.) Not just thank You that I could work out a resolution to the problem. (There are many things in life that are much more difficult to fix than a broken window.) Just thank You. Thank You because this is part of Your good plan. Thank You that You can overrule my mistakes and even my sins and use them to shape me into the image of Your Son.
• Thanksgiving says, “I believe that what has happened was orchestrated by God.”
• Thanksgiving says, “I believe that my present circumstances are under God’s control.”
• Thanksgiving says, “I believe that the fallout from this situation is part of God’s plan.”
Resignation to fate is based on the lie that we’re victims of circumstance.
Resistance to fate is based on the lie that we’re masters of our destiny.
Wholesale rejection of fate as an operative principle brings the truth of the character of God to the ground level of my experience.
When we see who God really is, we trust Him and can give Him thanks for everything that happens to us. Thanksgiving is faith in action. It holds when resignation throws in the towel and when angry resistance sputters to its futile end. Thanksgiving is our direct-connect with the omnipotent God of the invisible world whose purposes for His children—for everything that happens to them—are all good. That’s why we’re told to give thanks in everything.
© March 2017 by Robert G. Robbins