So far in my reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, I’ve covered community, the distance of God, and the silence of God. This week, after a “short” break, I’ll be reflecting on “your will be done”.
“Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Seems like such an easy phrase to figure out: we want to do God’s will on earth as it is accomplished up in heaven. Then we start to dissect God’s Will: we buy books, we watch lectures, we listen to pastors, we have conferences all trying to discern God’s will. Suddenly, we are no longer sure what God’s will is. Is it God’s will that I go to college in Munich or Chicago? Is it in God’s will that I date Brad or Kevin? Is it in God’s will that the Cubs will ever win a World Series game again? Is it in God’s will that African children die from starvation and that so many women experience sexual assault on campus?
I know for me it’s hard to trust that God is actually working things out according to his will. I see a world wrecked with sin and death; I see a world where children are dying; I see a world where genocides still occur; I see a world where our protectors have troubled histories of racial discrimination and bias. Of course we want to see God’s will worked out in our world, but with all of this evil, how can we trust that it’s happening? Is the way that the world is moving against his will? If God’s will is not to have all of this suffering and death in the world, then what happened? Is God not powerful enough to step in and fix it?
The problem with reflecting on God’s will is that for most people, we are left with so many questions. We can’t discern the mind of the Lord in the individual details, so we feel like we are left groping around. Thankfully, the Bible does address some of these questions head on. The Bible is full of different people who struggled to understand how or why God was doing what he was doing. I have taken a lot of encouragement from their stories as they beg and wrestle with God to show them what he is up to.
Job is one of the most famous sufferers ever recorded in literature, and someone from whom I’ve taken a lot of encouragement during this Lenten season. Seemingly struck with violence for no reason, his life is reduced to a shell of it’s former grandeur and glory. It’s a story that records the deaths of children and the loss of material goods – all at the hand of God himself. Job is left to question why he, a righteous man, would be left to suffer as much as he has been. His friends are sure that he did something wrong; his sin has left God no choice but to finally punish him as the book of Deuteronomy seemingly said he would. Was it God’s will to individually punish every sinner, even the most righteous? Or had he lost control of the world, letting everyone suffer just because they happened to be alive? God’s answer from the whirlwind seems to be a non-answer, but there’s a depth in the answer that most haven’t looked at.
As God sits in the whirlwind, he starts talking about the beasts that he has tamed. He brings up Leviathan: “Lay your hands on him; remember the battle-you will not do it again!” (41:8). Leviathan is a mighty beast, for sure, but the debates on whether or not he was a real dinosaur miss one of the biggest points that the Bible makes about the creature. The Leviathan is another serpent – the twisting evil symbol for chaos and disorder. The Serpentine Leviathan was crushed when God created, when he brought order from disorder and his breath hovered over the face of chaos to bring life (Psalm 74:14). The chaotic Leviathan will be crushed when God delivers Israel to its final salvation, bringing an end to the disordered world that was made by sin (Isaiah 27:1). God makes similar points here: he and he alone can control the Leviathan, putting hooks into his nose and guiding him. God is telling Job, “Look at the mighty beast of chaos and remember that I can control him as if he were a small animal.” God has not lost control of the world because of sin, but still controls it and can briddle sin to work in his ways.
The death of Leviathan is the gospel: God will finally crush death and disorder when he brings peace to Israel. But until God crushes Leviathan completely, God is in control of the evil that the monster can bring, he never once lost control of the world he created. No, God is the God who brings salvation out of plans made for evil purposes (Genesis 50:10), he the is the God who uses every situation to make his holy saints look more like his Son (Romans 8:28-30).
When we look at the problem of evil and ask what God’s plan is in that, we have to remember that God is not some detached entity that is a stranger to our suffering. In Christ, God has entered into our suffering and tasted death. But this is where God’s wisdom is greater than ours: if the world had known true wisdom, it would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). But because they did crucify our Messiah, because God sent his only Son, what can he deny us? Nothing can separate us from his love because he is stronger than death (Song of Solomon 8:6) and we are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:31-38). His will is going to be accomplished in this world, period. Christ is working to trample death and its kingdom under his feet (I Corinthians 15) by bringing in all of the nations of the world into his kingdom, Israel (Isaiah 66).
Knowing that Christ is ultimately victorious and working to continue to implement his victory in the world, we continue to trust his will even though we don’t know the details. Because of this newfound trust and rest in the gospel, we can work on living out his will in our lives: our sanctification (I Thessalonians 4:3-5) and to rejoice always, continually praying, and giving thanks (5:16-18). We can grow in sanctification knowing that God will ultimately make us look like his Son and we can give thanks and rejoice always because we know that God is going to be ultimately victorious. His will cannot and will not be stopped.