The Most Solemn Responsibility
Lately I’ve been worrying a lot about the future (moreso than usual, at least). I have a melancholic temperament; as such I’m always on edge when things are unclear or not ideal. I take comfort in the cut-and-dry because it allows me to at least manage my expectations. Furthermore, I’m a creature of habit. I thrive on predictability and routine. While I appreciate the occasional adventure, I’m greatly uncomfortable when things change too fast, too often, in rapid succession.
In light of recent changes in my life, my schedule has been left up in the air, and I really don’t know what to expect. No matter what I plan or how I plan, I can’t feel comfortable about this.
I reached critical mass last night, almost breaking down completely as my girlfriend and I talked about it.
While we were able to iron things out somewhat, the Lord spoke to me clearly through my reading of Acts 12 this morning, which for some reason I didn’t pay much attention to in the previous days. (Which is why my previous entry is on Acts 13)
Early on in Acts 12, King Herod has the apostle James (the brother of John) captured and executed. Seeing how the Jews approved of this, he goes ahead and goes after Peter as well, pretty much seeking to neutralize the fledgling Church in Jerusalem. Peter is arrested and detained for a public trial under heavy guard.
The night before Peter’s trial, he’s set free by an angel, and manages to escape, and gets to safety. Later in the chapter, Herod, in the midst of a fit of hubris, is smote by the Lord and dies of a mysterious rotting disease.
This begs many questions: Why did James die and why did Peter live? Why didn’t they both get away safely? Why didn’t God smite Herod earlier. Why does God allow persecution? Why can’t we just all get along? Why do we have to stay on Earth? Can’t we just go to heaven right after accepting? Can’t earth be heaven instead? It goes on. What’s the answer to these questions?
I don’t know.
I can give platitudes that say “God knows best,” and that “God is good,” or even that “God has a purpose for it,”; while those ideas are all VERY biblical, they do not necessarily give the exact reasoning and purpose hidden behind the curtains of those ideas.
What I can say is this, and this may seem seditious and heretical in an age where people worship themselves and think they know better than everyone else, including God: We’re better off not knowing why, and as such, it’s not our place to worry about these things. To think we know better than God in His sovereignty is to rob him of, to borrow the words of Ravi Zacharias, “a very solemn responsibility.”
We think we have the outlook and wisdom to think that a certain way is right. We think it is our moral right to be the architects of our own fragile little worlds. Perhaps we ought to stop and be thankful that God doesn’t smite us in our hubris like He did Herod.
I think that this reason–that God intends to take personal responsibility for our destinies–is greatly liberating, and is the reasoning behind Jesus’s exhortation not to worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25-34), because he gives a both sobering and refreshing thought: Worrying will not fix anything anyway. Well and good that we take the appropriate precautions, but past this, what can additional worrying and speculation accomplish? Nothing, except give us unnecessary stress.
Take this illustration: A father tells his son: “We’re going to the zoo today.” (Granted that the child actually wants to go to the zoo; Not wanting to go to the zoo is another issue altogether), it is the father’s responsibility to choose the method of transportation they’re going to take to go to the zoo, and what time, and to which zoo. Let’s say the father has his own car, and that gas prices are not unspeakably high as they are now, so he can afford to bring his son to Manila Zoo, at the other end of town.
All the kid has to do is sit in the car. He can keep asking his dad “are we there yet?” but it won’t help them get there any faster. The child can shout directions at his father, but his father is the one holding the steering wheel—yet, that’s assuming the child even knows the proper directions. The child can beg and wheedle and even throw a tantrum about why they aren’t passing by <insert unhealthy fast food drive through here> to have a snack, or why he isn’t allowed to buy one of those string-pull helicopter toys that street vendors sell. The father could answer “But I thought you wanted to go to the zoo?”; in a tantrum, how many of us have answered “I DON’T WANT TO GO TO THE ZOO ANYMORE I WANT <junk food>!!!” (I’ve done that myself; I remember throwing a tantrum at my dad because I wanted pizza, and a particular kind of pizza across town; when we got there, I realized what my dad was offering me was better and didn’t need a trip across town, and barely wanted to touch what we had just bought. I also remember the perplexed looks on the face of the girl at the counter.)
Perhaps the child can even ask his dad if he could drive, that his legs are too short to reach the pedals notwithstanding. He can probably reach the steering wheel, but he might not have the strength to turn the wheel. What the dad can do, however, is to sit his child on his lap, let him touch the steering wheel, turn it as his father does, and be close to his son, forge a strong relationship with him, and be a good example in his road discipline so that when the time comes, the son will be a responsible driver as well. All this on the way to the zoo.
If the child really could wrest the responsibility of driving from his father, then he is robbing his father of a very serious responsibility. He has no real power or wisdom to make such decisions, yet because he thinks he can, he whines and begs and cries.
In John 21, after Peter is reinstated by the Lord, Jesus tells him that someday, he’s going to be crucified. Perplexed and disturbed, Peter asks, “Lord, what about [John]?” (John 21:21)
Jesus’s answer is again both sobering and liberating:
“If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” –John 21:22
We have no control over what’s going to happen. If we’re close enough to our Father and he lets us make some major decisions (like taking graduate studies, getting into a relationship, or changing jobs, or getting married), we can help turn the steering wheel. Our legs, however, don’t reach far enough to the pedals; we can’t make things happen faster, slow down, or shift gears. No amount of whining and crying is going to change where we’re going, assuming we even know where we’re going and what streets to take, and what side-streets and alternate routes to take if the main route is bad.
We’re just left with one responsibility, as Jesus said: we must follow Him.
At the very least, let’s be thankful that our Father doesn’t step out of the car altogether and let us drive on our own. That way leads to disaster.
~ by J. R. R. Flores on June 10, 2011.